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What’s Making Me Happy This Week: The Beauty of Language

September 27, 2013

This is “What’s Making Me Happy This Week,” a weekly feature inspired by the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week is the beauty of language. We live in a time when written and spoken word is exploding in popularity. I am not going to do an analysis of why it seems that everyone wants their voice to be heard, whether it be through blogging, or twitter, or a podcast, or any other form of self-publishing. There are many theories to explain this, and I’m sure that the answer is that different reasons appeal to different people. (For example, I think I know my primary motivation for writing this blog, and I don’t think it’s necessarily what drives most people who also blog.) What matters – for the purpose of this post,  because it’s what’s making me happy – is that with so many words out there and so many new ways in which to digest them, there has never been a better time in the history of civilization to be a consumer of language. As one blogger eloquently wrote: “Never in the history of man’s six thousand year existence on earth has there been so many people with the time and the access to say so much to so many.”

A few days ago I took a free introductory writing course offered by the Gotham Writers’ Workshop. With over 30 free classes offered over a two-day period, it’s clear how very interested people are in writing right now. The teacher noted something that may seem obvious after the fact, but I found illuminating: “There are no new subjects to write about. Only new points-of-view.” That statement certainly wasn’t true 20 years ago, let alone a century ago. And while that might seem restrictive on a writer, I believe that it greatly enriches us as readers. Writers have to think more, try and express themselves in a way that makes them stand out. Competition usually generates better products for consumers, and I believe it does so in writing too.

Along those same lines I am currently reading a book about language, “The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature” by Harvard Professor of Psychology Steven Pinker. There is a sentence in the book that Pinker uses to illustrate how verbs are the “chassis of the sentence.” This sentence is, in certain ways, one of the most amazing that I have ever read, and was the catalyst for this post.

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

Now that is the beauty of language.

And That’s What’s Making Me Happy This Week.

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