Fun With Words

Words kill, words give life;
    they’re either poison or fruit—you choose                                                                                                              Proverbs 18:21 (The Message)

As a bit of a follow up to my discussion about masks and their effect on communication, I was reminded of a bit from an old TV show. So, let’s get into the “Wayback Machine” and travel back to the 1950’s.

Some of you of a certain age will remember the Dobie Gillis Show. It was about a young man named Dobie Gillis, and it featured his friends, notably his best pal and hippie forerunner Maynard G. Krebs. Back then, they were called “Beatniks”, but I digress.

Dobie was always at odds with his father, often over money. Dobie had no money, and his father had little himself. One time, Dobie was explaining to Maynard (yes, it was Bob Denver, aka “Gilligan” from you know what show) the absurdity of an idea that Maynard had about Dobie  borrowing money from his father. Dobie broke it down like this:

“Me borrow money from my father?” stated Dobie. “None of that makes any sense Maynard. Think about that sentence. Emphasize each word and you will see how impossible that is.”                           ME borrow money from my father?  (Maybe someone else, not me); Me BORROW money from my father? (Maybe steal it, but he would never lend it to me); Me borrow MONEY from my dad? (maybe something else, but never money); Me borrow money from MY dad? (maybe I could borrow money from your dad, but not mine); Me borrow money from my DAD? (maybe mom, but never dad).

The meaning and nuance of the sentence changes with every emphasis on a different word. A fun lesson in how we determine meaning from even the emphasis on a syllable or word.

So, communication is dependent upon a lot of things, including where we put our emphasis.  Words are important, and even the emphasis we place on that word. In this day of lots of words, and attributions of meaning of every nuance of the word, we need to be careful about our words. They give life, and they can diminish it. Let’s make sure our words are used to build up, not tear down.

Prayer: Lord, help us guard our words, their meaning, and their intent, Amen.

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