December 16, 2008: The Power of Words

If you live long enough, you eventually know enough stuff that most of it becomes background noise. But from time to time, something you know will step away from the herd of information, and it’ll feel like you’re learning it for the first time.

I’ve been a verbal thing my whole life; I talked early and often (to the point that one of my childhood nicknames was ‘Motormouth’). So the idea that my words have power is not new to me. (They also make great toys, if you’re so inclined.) Still, I’ve been watching how I respond to a particular word in a particular instance, and marveling at how much difference that one word makes. It’s like I’m a magician dazzled by my own trick, believing the illusion even though I know it is an illusion.

I see people running all the time, and when I do, something inside yearns to do the same thing. However, I have bad knees and an iffy hip, so running is out of the question for me. My joints can’t take the pounding. I still need some kind of cardio-vascular workout, and my preference is the elliptical machine (over an exercise bike, the other possibility, given my knees and hip).

Here’s the trick: when I’m going to work out on the elliptical, I tell myself I’m going for a run. Even though I know I’m not actually going to run, the part of me that gets wistful when I see a runner on the street is happy and excited. Just calling it a run is enough to satisfy that hunger.

Run: it’s just a work, a single syllable, and yet it’s all I need to completely change my outlook. I know words have power, I’ve known it for decades, but watching that power in action makes me realize it as if for the first time.

And this is just another reason I love, love, love language.


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