30 Things This Blog is About (#10: Linguistics and Definitions)

I love words. Perhaps more accurately, I love communication and words are the simplest form of it. The English language is incredibly malleable, and yet we still have concepts for which there are no words. A few examples, from a link I love:


Language and words shape thought; when there isn’t a word for something, people have a hard time talking about it. This is important, because it becomes difficult to communicate concepts like this one, from Japanese:

I'm not sure that branch could hold them, honestly.

Anjana Iyer – Found in Translation


With great enough need, we fill these gaps with new words, but until the words exist, the concepts are difficult to communicate. So many problems are a result of miscommunication, often because the right words don’t exist to properly communicate. Furthermore, as the internet’s reach gets wider and wider, entire concepts that previously weren’t well-defined are being introduced to one another.

In the meantime, we create new words constantly, sometimes generating new concepts simply because now a word exists to define it. With newly-minted words like “hangry” or “smad”, we gain a better understanding of ourselves– how our hunger affects our emotional state, or how we become angry at the state of affairs that creates events that make us sad. Following this linguistic flow and tracing the underlying roots can help us become better at communicating effectively.

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