From Words to Word Choices

As words are the building blocks of any messaging in our communication, our blog has highlighted the fun, the serious and the just plain interesting about words for the past several weeks.

We learned where words come from and how new words are born. We learned the single word that captured the spirit of the last year, the last decade, the last century and the last millennium. In that order, they were Occupy, Google, Jazz and She (with science as a close runner up to She).

Nadia Comăneci at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal

Take the last century for instance. What is all the meaning packed into that one word, jazz? The century started with people earning on average $13 a week and ended with them earning $13 an hour.  In those hundred years, we met Georgia O’Keefe, Andy Warhol, and Martha Graham. We fought World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait and watched other battles like Kosovo, Darfur and the Rwandan Genocide rage. We celebrated Babe Ruth and Jesse Owens and Nadia’s perfect 10. We found respect in the suffrage movement and we thank the one woman who forty years later didn’t sit in the back bus to help us realize Civil Rights were still to come. Some of us found love over Moon River and some found it at Woodstock. Later in the century, some of us found love in a web that connected us to a new, virtual world. We survived the dust bowl, the Great Depression, and fads like cabbage patch dolls and pet rocks. We learned how to drive cars and use ATMs. We listened to everything from Cole Porter to Billie Holiday to punk rock to the sane voice of Walter Cronkite as he tried to calm a nation that mourned a President. We went out to the moon and we went deep inside the cell structure to cure polio.

Jazz.

That’s how much meaning can be packed into a single word.

Louis Armstrong
(Credit: Library of Congress)

We learned about our words in transit in this ever shrinking world and how to not lose their meaning in translation. We saw how words solve crimes and keep us endlessly entertained in friendly competition whether it be with Scrabble or our smart phone’s Words with Friends.

The blog was anchored by wonderful guest interviewees who brought valuable insight to these subjects. We would like to thank them all for their time and their generosity to share their ideas. They are:

Peter Sokolowski, Editor-At-Large for Merriam Webster.

Grant Barrett, a lexicographer specializing in slang and new words, and who co-hosts the public radio program “A Way with Words,” which is heard by a quarter-million people each week.

Dave Wilton, who runs a website, called WordOrigins.org

Hiram Soto, an online multicultural marketing expert and content strategist at Captura Group.

Alan Perlman, Ph.D., a forensic linguist.

John Chew, the co-president of the North American Scrabble Players Association.

In addition to our interviewees, we want to also credit Dr. Robert Leonard, a forensic linguist we also mentioned in our commentaries.

We gained much from their thoughtful responses to our questions.

But we haven’t had the last word with words just yet. Now, we move from word to word choices.

The world is moving fast and in this rush, words are evolving fast. You may find yourself knowing a word one day only to find out its been recast with a new meaning the next. We’re playing catch up every day with the new meanings attributed to words we thought we knew.

For example, do you know the difference between weather and climate, smart and intelligent, clean and green? How about the difference between organic, natural and real? Over the coming weeks, we will hear from experts in the fields offering those terms and ultimately changing how we go about everything from conversing with – rather than on – our phones to selecting which cereal to buy to deciding whether 78 degrees and sunny is something to know more about.

USDA Organic Print Ad
(Credit: United States Department of Agriculture)

So, stay tuned and let us know if there’s some word combinations you’d like us to highlight while we get busy with the sets of words that caught our attention recently. Keep reading and thank you in advance for your comments. We welcome them.

Catherine Smith, President
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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