Words

Let’s start with what a word is. A word is a glossal utterance consisting of particular sounds in the acoustics of human oral communication. So there is a consensus somehow between speakers about how to refer to certain materials, abstract concepts or categories. Alright but have you ever thrown a flying thought about how we actually came around to this? I mean why is an apple called an apple particularly with those exact sounds a-p-p-l-e? Well, apparently Ferdinand de Saussure did some casting about that in the late 19th century and came up with the correlation that it is totally random and there is no natural reason between the reference (the signifier) and the concept (the signified). This phenomenon is called the arbitrariness of the linguistic sign. What about the human names though? Okay the sound system is the label of concepts without any semantic relation but isn’t there any relation between the name and its holder? If it is totally arbitrary why do we like some names and why do we dislike some others? Imagine a blonde, homesexual, agnostic, alcoholic, Taylor Swift fan guy named Abdulmuttalib ibn Akbar who is a chief executive officer of a sex toy company. Doesn’t sound very likely, does it? Well actually that’s maybe a little bit racist but just for the sake of argument though, does it? Think of a group of people you know who share a mutual name. Don’t they have any mutualities in social sense? Matter of fact, we do that don’t we? We maintain a name database in our mind and update it every single time we meet a person and it gets shaped constantly with all the features we observe with every new input. It is obvious that cultural, religious, traditional, political, and etymological factors play an active role in naming people so it is not that prejudgemental to conclude some pre-analysis when we get to meet somebody.

Alright. Now let’s raise the stakes a little bit to go ahead and say that people are intrinsically captives in their names. All the associations, roles, background knowledge of the names stick on us for a lifetime whether we like it or not. That’s why being named, being labeled like a product is totalitarian. Some cases may look exceptional but when ransacked, the social consensus can still be noticed. Of course I’m not saying that we should not have names or anything, otherwise it would be horrendous like in those science fiction movies –would it?- but simply stating a fact. Besides, it’s not only names. We monopolize emotions too with our words. Words bring a standardization, a regularity to the world of emotions. We control emotions with them although we cannot control silence and as you might have noticed by now our species have a big problem with all the things they cannot control. We control everything and we get scared shitless when we can’t. We control what the kids should think, the society, environment, the past and the future, the dead, the living, population growth, what to believe, what to dream, what to worship, how to behave, how not to behave, how to be cool, how to socialize, how to fuck, what to say in certain situations, how to love, how to hate, what is right and what is wrong and we couldn’t do any of those without words. We cannot control silence though. All the endless possibilities laying behind it give us creeps. The words make us blind. The strong urge to fit all our emotions and senses in words blocks the comprehension we were supposed to reach with our senses. In that way, senses remain only as the side dish of words. Artificial categories, abstract nonsense that we’ve made up have taken place of the senses, of our experiences. Concepts that are even more intense then all our senses summed up together are in the hands of words. Take the words “I love you” for instance, this phrase has gained more importance than an eye contact, touch, smell, all the other natural voices that involve love. Instead of sharing love with the mutual experiences of our senses, we try to degrade it into words. Given the fact that all loves are different (different smell, different motivations, different psychological roles) the words that are shared should be different too right? Nope.

No ending.

Image: Gary Waters from Getty Images

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Can Yalçınkaya
University of Pannonia - Multilingualism PhD