the life of language

As an official twenty-something for over six months now, I have had plenty of people who I have been close to walk out on my life for any number of reasons, and have been guilty of the same affair myself. This is inevitable for us still deciding who the real diamonds in our life should be and who the knock-off rocks are we choose to discard. When a relationship begins to turn sour, I try to reminisce on better times where the status of our friendship seemed like it could never get to a breaking point. How did we talk to each other and at what frequency? At what level of comfort in language did we experience with each other? Perhaps we naturally grew apart and developed dissimilar interests, or had an incident that caused the friendship to implode. In the sphere of personal relationships, I believe language is a key often overlooked in determining our triumphs and failures.

The power of language to dictate the course of a relationship has been something I have always thought about, more so than my behavior. It’s what we say that determines how we want ourselves to be viewed to others. We can use it destroy enemies, praise our best friends, establish our passion for a lover. The receiver’s response and interpretation judge our character in return. Sometimes we claim that what we say or write would not have the power it eventually did (“I didn’t know what I said had hurt you”). Naturally, and sometimes deliberately, our words inflect a tone and a mood, both in speech and print, that establishes meaning and purpose for others.

As such, individuals who act as masters of the craft of language are able to use the effect of the words they use to carry out their desires, whatever those may entail. When I tell my friend that a guy I just met “has a way with words,” she can imply that he’s really good at telling people what they want to hear. Similarly if I’m able to convey how I feel over a text message by the way in which I structure my words to the recipient, they might consider me to have a likable personality and proceed to spend more time with me.

Language usage in personal relationships is a tricky network to navigate. It’s not just the language being used that matters but at what time and frequency and for whom. My main vendetta with this connection is when others abuse language to create elaborate lies or cover up their mistakes. That can be the most powerful form of language abuse, but even on a smaller scale, we often lie to each other all the time about our own personal states.

One of the most simple things you can ask somebody is, “what’s on your mind?” It’s so simple yet so intimidating, as the words suggest the person really wants to know what you’re thinking about at the very moment. Naturally responding to this question might not be an option if what you’re thinking about is deemed inappropriate, or something that the person wouldn’t want to hear. I sometimes create alternative ways to satisfy the question trying to seem genuine while really covering up thoughts that I reserve for me.

Even though I don’t always truly answer the question, at least I know my lie was not deliberate. Once again, I revert back to the language’s power to alter the course of our personal relationships. The words we choose create the world we see. We need to always keep this idea in the back of our mind as we navigate our lives and language’s role within them.

Gabriella Ring

Gabriella is a junior majoring in International Studies. She has traveled abroad extensively and hopes to work in the cruise industry after graduation.

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