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James Lougheed

James Lougheed
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“You're talking about words again...”

Published by jloug099@uottawa.ca on 2012-03-10

Words. They are everywhere. All over this website. At school, at work, almost everywhere you go. I am sure that if you look around you, there are probably words to your left or words to your right. And if you are on this website, chances are that you have some sort of connection to them.


Me, I love words. I love the whole concept of them. Since the first utterances of human speech eons ago, words have formed arguably the easiest form of expressing and conveying thoughts and ideas among ourselves. They follow a certain set of rules, but they can also do some pretty random stuff. We can use them to show feelings and to affect others. They can be strong, weak, meaningful or meaningless. We can do so much with just a few movements of the mouth. And the best part of all: no one uses words exactly the same way. This is what led me to study languages and translation.


Whether you study language, work in the field, or take mere interest in it, I am positive you share some fascination with the way that words can put themselves together to form chains of thought. But would you ever say that it sometimes goes a little too far? If so, you are not alone!


If I haven’t emphasized it enough already, I love words! And after spending four years in a university translation program and other translation work environments here and there, I realize I have spent a lot of time speaking about words – even in my spare time. I could not help but laugh when a couple weeks ago, a friend and I were told to “stop talking about words.” Both products of the University of Ottawa translation program and language enthusiasts, my friend and I regularly discuss a variety of little language topics, whether it be etymology, grammar, translation errors, or just clever (or not-so-clever) puns. But in the company of others who are not as word-crazy as we are, we often forget that these do not make for the most thrilling of conversations. 


One day, while the two of us were having a night of playing cards with two other close friends (who are not word-crazy), we started up a word conversation without even thinking. After being told what we were doing, we led our chat back to more appropriate topics. Not long after, it happened again, and again. Needless to say, the night was sprinkled with reminders of “you're talking about words again...”


All taken in good fun, these reminders proved to be a further testament to the magic that words can hold. For us, it is evidently a profound interest that apparently knows no bounds (at least not within social situations). And I am sure that we are not the only ones in the language world to think so. Have you been told that you speak too much about words or languages from those that don't share this interest?

Words are wonderful. They have, in my opinion, become one of the most influential ways to communicate in our society. Furthermore, they offer so many options for getting our ideas across. Through language, we have invented the corresponding concepts of register, word choice, plain language and prose, among others. On top of that, there is the fact that we can do it using a variety of languages that use a variety of sounds and intonations. The fact that we all train ourselves to communicate in such an intricate way is nothing short of amazing!


1 comment

I love words too! You're right, you're among friends on this site. My problem with my love of words and language is when I can't get past another person's lack of respect for language. Even the fact that I name it a "lack of respect" shows the judgmental aspect of it. Someone who couldn't give a rat's bum about spelling words right or using correct grammar probably doesn't do it out of disrespect, but I take it as an insult! And then I get told "You're correcting my grammar again..."

I have had to quit correcting errors in FaceBook statuses for fear of being unfriended. (I like that neologism!)