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The Language of Words
Your self-representation
9 June 2020 . 3min read

I recently talked about how words seem to take on a mind of their own, and somehow seem to change after they have been written. I was, of course, trying to explain away my rather skilful ability to put the wrong word in the wrong place.

It was all about Word Salad.

I use a specific piece of software to do my writing; Ulysses. I've been using it for just over a couple of years now. Well, according to the statistics that it obediently keeps, I've written around 400,000 words. I'm not sure if that is a lot or not enough, but it got me to thinking about why and what.

In 1921, Ludwig Wittgenstein, a subsequent philosopher of note, published a work called Tractatus. The ground-breaking work stated that the limits of philosophy were tied to the limits of language. Further, that the limits of thought and expression of an individual were also limited by language.

In essence, Wittgenstein is saying that our ability to think, express ourselves and to reason, are directly linked to and limited by our grasp of language.

In the same way in which Time could be considered one of the cornerstones of Physics, perhaps it follows that words could be considered the cornerstone of our thinking selves.

So, apparently all those words I've written are actually quite important.

On 1st December 2015, I wrote this piece of poetry, titled "Filling page" (published in my book Accidental Poetry, in 2018)

Letters from creative fingers of self; I learn the workings of my mind.

Patterns before me, filling downwards; help calm my thoughts.

A drizzle falls into words of meaning; but what?

With increasing numbers, comfort and creative calm; lubricating time.

White space battle black words; awkward grey results.

Moment passed, word misspelled, creative place explored; conclude.

Here I was expressing how the letters that spill from my creative thoughts fall like drizzle onto the page, forming words. Collectively, those words fill the page, into a creative work.

Later in the same book, I express the difficulties in finding words. Words seem to have a special ever present power.

Back in the early 2000s, someone wondered what would happen if you could video record every single moment of your life. Would it give some kind of overall expression that you couldn't get from a single photograph? They got funding and created a small device that you would wear like a necklace. It would take a snapshot every 30 seconds, continuously. Each night, those snapshots would be uploaded, and a time-lapse video would be created. In the theoretical laboratory, that seemed like a great idea; in real life, people valued their privacy.

Despite its failure, it makes you wonder about the collective accumulation of images, and what that might show. In the present day, you could argue that we are close to that, in a combination of Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

Does the same apply to words?

As you would expect by now, I was pondering that very thought.

There is a distinct difference between spoken words and the written word. I think it's down to the fact that the spoken words are considered to be more transient in nature. I mean, who can actually remember exactly the words that they used on 11 Jul 1984 at 5:34pm?

The written word is a little more considered. Perhaps that is because you need to, or rather should strive to, take into account grammar. With the spoken word, that seems to be a little more fluid; more artistic license is in play.

The written word generally takes more mental effort to create. So perhaps that does give it a greater weight of importance.

Wittgenstein saw a link between language and thought.

When I think about something, I hear a voice in my head. When I write something, I hear the same voice, but it is calmer and more considered in its tone. Perhaps that is because it is both formal and rigid, it is therefore a somewhat richer expression.

So, if I took everything I have ever written as a whole, could that then be an expression or at the very least a representation of my self?

I'm not sure. I am sure, though, that I should keep writing these words; they appear to be important.

I took this whilst staying at the wonderful 25hours hotel in Zurich. This was the delightfully crazy lift lobby. I just love the odd florescent green lighting, and the random typography on the bare concrete walls. The rest of the hotel was just as "interesting".


Profile photo of Nigel Derbyshire

I'm a carbon-unit who writes; a Carbon Writer. Life & culture are my default topics, mixed with a little English wit & sarcasm. Full of mostly true stories, I occasionally remember to write them down. Found in a crowd, or contemplating in a corner. Habit of talking to anyone. Author.
- Nigel Derbyshire