It’s only words…? image

It’s only words…?

I love words. In primary school, I would eagerly look forward to spelling tests. As a child, I re-wrote fairy tales, created my own poems and decided aged 10 I wanted to be a journalist and write for a living. As an adult and a media professional, my obsession with words has not abated. I spend most of my working day looking at words – whether my own or other people’s. Whether I’m starting with a blank page and filling it with words, or re-arranging someone else’s as an editor, I’m constantly working with them. I love them. I love the fact that the way in which you arrange series of letters alongside each other can bring joy to the reader or convey bad news, tell a story or invoke symbolism.

My favourite word is ‘brouhaha’, since you’re asking, but I’m rarely given the opportunity to slip it into conversation. I also have a peculiar habit of constantly counting the numbers of letters in words in my head. It has meant I’ve developed the utterly useless skill of being able to almost instantly tell you the letter-count of most words extremely quickly.
My love affair with words may be a tad strange, but judging by the number of tweets, Facebook statuses, blogs and articles whizzing round the ether at any one time, we are all using more words than at any time in history. The words we send out into cyberspace are transient. They may be flippant, perhaps controversial, doting or contemplative. They may be sycophantic or critical, self-deprecating or boastful, informative or completely useless.
In March, Twitter celebrated its fifth birthday and revealed there are now a billion tweets sent each week.
A billion.
There are around 200 million Twitter accounts and 140 million tweets sent every day, according to the stats. So many words. But, as Ecclesiastes 6:11 says: “The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?”
Recently I’ve been struck by the power of the written or the spoken word and the ability that words have to elevate statuses or destroy people. Increasingly, media storms are stirred up when someone in the public eye has chosen the wrong word. It goes something like this: said high-profile person for some reason or other chooses the wrong words in the wrong place at the wrong time. This gets out into the media. The media report this through more words in print, cyber-ink or speech, and cue a barrage of articles discussing the wrongs or rights of the high-profile person’s choice of words, inevitably leading to calls for him or her to produce more words in the form of a resignation or an apology.
Politicians are most likely to find themselves having to eat their words. Recently, there were widespread calls for justice secretary Kenneth Clarke to resign after during a radio interview he said that some rapes were more severe than others. Following the furore at his sentiments, he apologised two days later and admitted he had chosen his words “very, very badly”.
A few weeks earlier his boss, the prime minister, got himself into trouble when he chose to use the somewhat patronising words “calm down, dear” when talking to Labour MP Angela Eagle in the Commons. And who can forget the ill-chosen words “bigoted woman”, spoken by his predecessor Gordon Brown in one of the most cringe-inducing moments of the last General Election campaign?
It’s not just politicians that land themselves in hot water because of the words they choose. Last week, Danish film director Lars von Trier was banned from the Cannes Film Festival after joking about being a Nazi during a press conference. And remember ‘Sachsgate’, which led Russell Brand to resign from his BBC Radio 2 show and saw Jonathan Ross suspended for three months from his popular Friday Night show?
The examples are endless. Countless celebrities will feel they have been trapped by what they said, ensnared by the words of their mouth (Proverbs 6:2), thanks to the beady eyes of the media scrutinising their every utterance.
Taking a look at what the Bible says about words, it’s evident that man’s words with a small ‘w’ – no matter how beautiful (brouhaha!) or well-constructed - cannot compare to the Word, o logos. Time and again the Bible reminds us of the dangers of our words, of the ability they have to trap us, how they can be wicked and deceitful. Our words are often not our friends.
But God’s words are “flawless” (Proverbs 30:5). His words are “like silver purified in a crucible like gold refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6).
His words are perfect.
His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.
His Word was in the beginning, with God, and was God.

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