Words matter, I tell ya

Words matter, but a writer doesn’t have total control over the reader’s reaction to those words. As a reader, my interpretation comes from my own frame of reference, seen through the lens of my own collection of experiences. My experiences are different than your experiences. Some of them have been painful, some joyful, some embarrassing, some even frightening. All of them together allow me to interpret what I see, hear, and read. And those interpretations can be vastly different than yours. Sometimes I think it is a miracle we ever communicate at all.

Today while driving to a customer appointment, I passed a church marquee that read: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land.”

Have you ever had one of those moments where the written word just grabs you by the ankles, turns you upside down, and then shakes everything loose? And you hang there a little dizzy, wondering what in the world you are staring at because it makes no sense?

Yep. That was my reaction to the marquee.

I thought, “Land? What land? Where is the land? How much land? Who’s land?”

“Possess? Occupy, hold, control, seize or take?”

Yikes.

Now I don’t want to get into a flame-fest about bible translations. And I certainly don’t want to offend anybody who uses the translation which is quoted here. But I am trying to make a point. This translation doesn’t do it for me. My frame of reference is different.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” That is the version I use.

Here is where my head is with this one:

Inherit: Heir. Passed down. Something given. Something received. From Father to son.

Earth: The whole thing. Not just some strip of land. A kingdom. Christ’s kingdom. A place of celestial promise. I get a totally different feeling for the meaning of it with those two words changed.

Try this one for size. It is the same verse, but a different translation:

“God makes happy those who quietly trust him and do not try to get their own way. The world will belong to them.” (Worldwide English Version)

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon, as we are sometimes called. And the “world” reference there is a huge turnoff for me. I don’t want the “world”. My fellow Saints will understand exactly what I mean. And it is because they have a similar frame of reference.

So what do you think? Do words matter? When you write, do you choose your words very carefully?

When I am not being lazy, let me tell you: I DO. I care a great deal about the words I use. Because words matter.

*Photo courtesy of http://stephaniehaven.blogspot.com/

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Words matter, I tell ya — 1 Comment

  1. I will sometimes agonize over a word. It is exactly for the reasons you listed here. One word can convey a wealth of meaning or a severe dearth of it.
    Great post, especially on the perspective of scripture.

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