Posted on 29. August 2014
Words are the greatest weapon that humankind has ever made. Some may find it controversial to compare them with rifles, bazooka’s or missiles, but if you think about it, every conflict in human history started with words, and then they were used to justify the use of violence. As Edgar Allan Poe once said; “Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality”. Since the rise of alphabetic writing more than 4900 years ago, people have expressed their feelings and visions in words and have continuously enriched this database so that we could conceptualize our emotional or physical experiences even better.
If we think of words that are common and have a universal meaning corresponding with a certain value or principle – words like solidarity, empathy or prosperity – we should be aware that at some time in history, those words didn’t exist yet. By introducing these words in our universal human vocabulary, we not only enriched and expanded our language, but also changed our relations to one another and the way we see the world. More than that, their meaning is the leading force behind some of the greatest texts ever written. The Bible, the Koran, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration of Independence and the Millennium Development Goals; all documents and books that changed the world irrevocably.
Therefore, I wonder what kind of words my generation will create or has created that will have a lasting, global impact. I consider the Oxford English Dictionary as the most relevant database of the English language, which is one of the most widespread languages in the world, so I checked to see what kind of weapon was built in recent history, i.e. which words were added in the last couple of years. The most popular words in the last 10 years are selfie, omnishambles, squeezed middle, big society, refudiate, unfriend, hypermiling, simples, credit crunch, carbon footprint, locavore, carbon-neutral, podcast, sudoku bowered and chav.
Considering that they are the construct of the messages that people in modern times share, one could argue that I could use these words to empower people and inspire communities. But looking at the aforementioned list of words, you can imagine how hard that might be. For example, words like selfie, twerk and unfriend can hardly be used to inspire greatness. `Let`s twerk the world!’, or `Make a selfie for a better tomorrow for all’ doesn’t make a lot of sense, right? Additionally, many messages today are shared via multimedia tools just because it’s much easier to spread an idea or raise awareness with a picture or a video, which is another sign that we lack words to express our emotions, conditions and needs.
However, I believe that these words do exist and should be a part of our cultural and linguistic heritage. So, I have decided to look for those words on my own. For that purpose, I will use this opportunity to ask you, dear reader, to leave as a comment on this blog a word that will crash our linguistic boundaries and broaden our horizon. For example, there is a Spanish wordduende that refers to the mysterious power of art to make a deep impact on a person’s emotions and experience. I’ve always wanted to have a proper word to express the feeling that I have when I’m in a museum and feel an exceptional connection with some piece of art. Now I can use #duende on Instagram and share something that has made an emotional impact on me, maybe even find an artistic soulmate. So, join me on this journey to create the language of the generation known for its intelligent, innovative and empowering approach to modern challenges and a new way of life.