The Power of Words
Source: Unsplash
Hot Musings

The Power of Words

"Words carry meaning, substance and emotion beyond all else and yet the power of language beguiles us into the very destruction of the thing we find so beautiful." - Taazima Kala-Essack

By Taazima Kala-Essack


The spoken word, whether uttered with love or vehemence, has birthed wars, conquered empires, and set forth amongst the greatest of love stories. The written word has transported us aboard the Pequod, to the arms of ill fated lovers in Verona, on adventures to Mordor and hiding from the likes of Boo Radley. Words carry meaning, substance and emotion beyond all else and yet the power of language beguiles us into the very destruction of the thing we find so beautiful.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently addressed the abhorrent language hurled at her and about her by Representative Yoho that rang true to so many men and women the world over when it comes to predominantly male incivility. New Yorker editor-in-chief David Remnick wrote a column suggesting that Ocasio-Cortez possesses the “rhetorical dynamism” that strikes a chord for so many today in refusing to shadow the challenges that female members of Congress, or simply members of society, routinely have to face. Despite the abuse verbally given to her, in public no less and with flagrant disregard for manners, protocol or decorum, Ocasio-Cortez celebrated the positivity and power that words can and will have on a listener, turning on its head the very language used against her.

Words matter, we know. We are often told that where you cannot speak kindly, do not speak at all. We know that certain words or actions only carry positivity or negativity because of the respective “other” they create - a reaffirmed existence and potency because they highlight they opposite so well. And yet, in the vitriol that spills into our homes, workplaces and societies each and every day, that precarious balance between the power of words for good and/or for evil appears to be faltering. Freedom of expression, a celebrated right and one that stands for progress in every way, becomes increasingly used as a weapon to get ones way, to wreak havoc and to cause hurt. Disruption, rightfully a tool of advancement, causing tarnish instead.

"Words matter, we know."
"Words matter, we know."Source: Unsplash

Have we lost respect for the what beauty and power words can hold that we choose to debase people with “only,” “just, “weak,” “disgusting,” “dishonest,” “bitch” and “bossy”? These are just a handful of examples in a veritable field to choose from. Unwarranted and/or unprovoked, they have the power to hurt, damage and scar. Used calculatedly and when relevant or needed, they may bring the desired impact, and yet the fact remains that they breed negativity unbound. As communications people, we tend to focus in our professional efforts in wordsmithing to perfection every paragraph, every opening line in a speech or power quote in a statement; those in the copywriting space agonise over the single word that will bring true emotional bandwidth to a line of advert copy, punctuation used in our artillery just so. Every word matters; every intonation or lack thereof speaking volumes.

Why then is it so easy, outside of pen to paper on client request, to be so callous with our words? To take so lightly the impact or reputational impact they may have, or damage they could leave behind? Every professional environment is cut-throat, and no sector is arguably fairly compared to another when it comes to the smorgasbord of personalities and profanities.

Are we using our verbosal powers for good or for bad? And are we destroying the beauty of language in the process?

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