When you think about it, the word “word” sounds kind of silly. Sort of like a child’s toy, only we need to take a hint from all those cat memes and spell it funny, like maybe “Wurd,” or add in the much underutilized letter “z” to pluralize it as “Wurdz.”

Just the sound of it as it rolls off the tongue brings to mind an image of a brightly colored, amorphous blob somewhere between Silly Putty and any number of plush toys, or perhaps a bean bag chair. It doesn’t start out as much, but when you throw it around it sort of takes a random shape wherever and on whatever it lands.

“Hey, kids! You’ll never have so much fun doing so little! You must have the new Werd (patent pending) from Toyz WurkShop! Throw them, drop them, put them in a pile! Tell your parents that you demand the only toy that can be both an action figure and a Cuddle Friend! And don’t forget the new Wurdz Action Set and Wurdz Village (Wurdz figures sold separately!) for hours of entertainment with your friends! No other toy on the market has that satisfying ‘plop!’ sound (no batteries needed) when you fling it, catch it, or it hits the wall! Call now because supplies are limited! And call back soon, because supplies will be limited later, too!” *Supplies not actually limited. Wurdz and Wurdz Action Set/Village trademarked by Toyz Wurkshop.*

I admit that the above is just a, somewhat, questionable attempt at being clever, and that it is all a figment of my overactive and somewhat strange imagination — but if anyone were to actually produce the toys, I’ll be waiting for my royalty check. The (frequently) belated point here is that words often seem silly in and of themselves, and because of this, people fail to take them seriously; that is until these words cause contention. There is even an old adage that states “talk is cheap,” further relegating words themselves to the dustbin of inadequacy and lack of importance. So, comparing words to children’s toys is a fairly accurate analogy because most adults don’t pay much attention to, or place much value on, something kids play with.

But we do use words every day, and toss, catch or drop them just like we would the fictional toy. We talk, text, message or email them all the time assuming that whoever is on the other end of those communications will understand exactly what the thoughts are we are attempting to convey, with no regard to real or implied subtext, nuances of vocabulary choice or even clarity of composition. Surely if they can understand the “Haz Cheeseburger” in the cat video they just posted to Facebook, then they can understand what I just said in a properly spelled message. Can’t they?

Maybe, but we can’t bank on it. Words — just like Wurdz! — are notoriously easy to misunderstand. We wad them up in a ball and serve up a fastball special (or so we think) but somewhere between us and them, the amorphous nature sometimes reasserts itself and that fastball ends up being a flat-ball oozing off the catcher’s mitt. Then we are embarrassed, the batter and the umpire are scratching their heads, and the catcher has to stop the game to go clean the mess up. And I can only imagine what would have happened if it had resulted in a line drive up the middle.

So, to prevent all this possible chaos, it is in our best interest to give the silly sounding “word” the proper respect; or if not respect, that at least consideration. We need to do this because at the end of the day, words are not really silly at all. Words in fact are quite the opposite; along with being positive and uplifting to the spirit, they can also be extremely volatile and dangerous things. They can only be marginally controlled, and those who receive them have the ability to twist them into whatever shape they deem useful or necessary. No, words aren’t very silly at all when you truly think about it.

If we simply toss around poorly thought-out ideas with poorly chosen words, we never know exactly what it is that our intended or unintended audience might “catch”. Then, they might decide “that isn’t right”, and twist it around before throwing it back. What we (or others) receive in turn doesn’t quite resemble what we intended, so we squish and pull it some more before throwing it back — and the cycle is repeated indefinitely, and all those “plopping” sounds (see above) become deafening and distracting to the point where we just drop the whole thing and walk away. Or in the worst-case scenario, we become angry and resort to violence.

The best way to resolve this is that if we are sharing our Wurdz Village with our friends and other kids in the neighborhood, we need to realize that we don’t own all the Wurdz. Dialogue, of course, is the key.

Say (or write) what you mean and be willing to explain it if necessary. Read what others write and ask questions. Agree, disagree or change the conversation entirely if need be. Question what people say, and always — always — insist on proof rather than simply dumping more Wurdz on the pile until the playground is covered. And remember this; the only people benefiting from more and more words thrown around indiscriminately and clogging up the carousel are the people selling them. They don’t really care if you are having a good time or not, as long as you are buying what they are selling.

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