Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure.

Edward Thorndike


Just like some people like walking around with coins in their pocket so they can reach in and make them jingle, I like walking around with words in my pocket. This matters because unless you can draw pictures out of thin air, you will be stuck using words to explain something, get what you want or get someone to ‘see’ something. Take a moment and think about what I just said because that is the rationale for treating words with respect and to value the beauty of a well-placed word. I am not a godly man, but if you ever doubt that a higher being exists wouldn’t words be proof of some existence?

“God wove a web of loveliness, of clouds and stars and birds, but made not anything at all so beautiful as words.”

Anna Hempstead Branch

I have written about the power of words, the proper use of words as well as the waste of good words a zillion times. Nothing tears me out of my frame more than seeing and hearing someone abuse words.

That said. I cannot tell everyone how often I am reminded that how you say something is possibly more important than what you say <at minimum I would suggest it is a symbiotic relationship in which the life of ‘what you say’ is in the hands of how you say it>. And ‘how you say it’ doesn’t just encompass context, tone, choice of actual words & phrasing but also what’s inside you stuff – intent, AND, MAYBE THE MOST Important of all, belief in the words you are saying. All this becomes incredibly important because when words are used in front of a receptive audience, they can encourage marching, fighting and a sense of hunger for life that can gnaw at us all.

While I could write an entire book on what makes words tricky, I will offer a couple of things:

  • Words given and words used

Yes. Some words we choose on our own. And then there are words that are given to us.

Now. It is easy to think about how there are speechwriters and how some people have to stand up and deliver someone else’s words, but this bleeds into everyday life. In business you can be sitting around a table and people parse out words and offer different ways of saying what you want to say. Parents suggest different words to their children and teachers do it day in and day out. Friends say “don’t say that” or “I wouldn’t say it that way,” in other words, we are given words to say all the frickin’ time. Suffice it to say not all words given to you are actually good words for you to use. Words have to match personal beliefs to be delivered effectively. Just listen to anyone who is given a speech to give and you will see how difficult it is to cloak your own thoughts and beliefs in words given to you. Anyway. Here is what I think I know from years of giving speeches and seeing people give speeches — thoughts versus principles. In general, most people working together share some basic principles. These are the foundations for specific words. Therefore, when given words to speak, the shared principles kind of ground the tone and delivery so that they don’t sound painful or distasteful coming out of the speaker’s mouth – just maybe a little uncomfortable on occasion. Without shared principles the words have no foundation, they are delivered hollow of anything. They are just empty words. And empty words sound, well, empty. They may be the actual right words to say, but the wrong person is trying to say them – which then strips them of any meaning.

Which leads me to what I know about empty words — empty words are evil.


“And empty words are evil.”

Homer <The Odyssey>

They have been uttered full of nothing, despite possibly crafted by a lot of something <passion, thought, insight, whatever>, but as they eased out from between the lips of the deliverer, they were stripped of anything meaningful and simply become platitudes. I could argue that this ensures inevitable invisibility <unless some listeners/pundits attempt to parse out each word as meaningful and full of some meaning & intent – where there actually was none of that>.  These words are not harmless because in their emptiness they have become a version of evil. Evil in that they have not prompted any thought, any idea, any new passion. They are evil in that they have not inspired anything new and everything old, or that which exists now, remains unchanged. That’s what evil does. It fights change and thrives on inertia. Those of us who give words should be credibly careful, and smart, on who we give them to. just because a word is right it may not be right for that person.

  • Words can have a life of their own

Words are their own people with minds of their own. This means that they may not always remain a true reflection of the speaker’s thoughts. Once they leave the lips and they enter into the ether … well … they can be chameleons. They often take on the hues of the environment.

“Words are chameleons, which reflect the color of their environment.”

Learned Hand

This makes choosing words even more difficult. More difficult in that a word can mean several things at exactly the same time – what it means in your head, what it means as it leaves your lips, what it means as it floats thru the environment <slowly, or quickly, changing as it is bombarded with contextual environment> and what it means as it is heard. Yeah. Context, and delivery, can strip a word of meaning or it can dress it in whatever clothes you would like. For example, if I use the word ‘unity’ and, yet, it is used within an overall “us versus them” driven narrative, it suggests not an overall unity but rather a unity of “us only.” Yeah.

One would think unity would be a word well used in almost any environment, but context warps everything.

So. Unite. Blend. Coalesce. Combine. Fuse. Join. Merge. These words refer to the bringing or coming together of several different elements to form a whole.

Out of many one. E pluribus unim.

  • Unites actually comes for the Latin word ‘usus’ which means one.
  • Combine means to bring together in close union … more general in application than unite and does not emphasize as strongly the completeness of the process of coming together. In other words it just places things together but don’t guarantee the full integration.
  • Blend even more strongly than combine suggests a mingling of different elements. Unlike combine it specifically refers to the obscuring or harmonizing of various components.
  • Merge, like blend, suggest the loss of spate identity of ingredients, but does not imply the physical act of making or mingling together different elements.
  • Join is the broadest term of this group can mean to become part of to bring together or connect or to put together in close contact.
  • Fuse means to join by or as if by melting together – it also implies some aspect of ‘forcing or forging.’ Fuse in other contexts implies a solid lasting connection.
  • Coalesce suggests a gradual or natural coming together. In extended senses coalesce suggests two separate courses that gradually merge into one. .

In other words I can say unity in a number of ways or even qualify unity with another likeminded word all of which suggests this is a multi-dimensional challenge — constantly in flux. Regardless. I imagine my real point is that words without their corners knocked off, or ground down, can be good words and used for good. They need to be shaped, protected, and guided through the environment instead of being flippantly flung out assuming a basic stimulus – response world.

Which leads me to say I clearly have a healthy respect for words.

And I, frankly, have a healthy respect for the responsibility of words handed to someone.

  • Used well they can nudge the world.
  • Used hollowly they are evil.
  • Used poorly they are just wasted.



They’re innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos. But when they get their corners knocked off, they’re no good any more… I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are.

They deserve respect.

If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you’re dead.”

Tom Stoppard


Anyway. If you have words in your pocket, use them.

“It’s hard not to drown underneath all the words I’ve left unspoken. “


Let me end with my three favorite words:

  • Mellifluous.

  • Truth.

  • Silence.

I had to chuckle a little because it took me a long time to name three words and then only to end with ‘silence.’ Ponder.


Words to keep inside your pocket:

Quiescent – a quiet, soft-spoken soul.

Chimerical – merely imaginary; fanciful.

Susurrus – a whispering or rustling sound.

Raconteur – one who excels in story-telling.

Clinquant – glittering; tinsel-like.

Aubade – a song greeting the dawn.

Ephemeral – lasting a very short time.

Sempiternal – everlasting; eternal.

Euphonious – pleasing; sweet in sound.

Billet-doux – a love letter.

Redamancy – act of loving in return.

Written by Bruce