Language Please!

When I was younger, if someone cursed or swore in conversation in a pub, the landlord would call out “Language please!” prompting the person to be circumspect in what they were saying.  Actually, anyone who was offended might say the same thing.

I have always enjoyed language.  I have been reading since I was four or five and you could call me a book worm.  I easily get lost in the words and I really enjoy rich, descriptive language as well as informative and factual reading.  I also enjoy tracing the etymology of words.  Enchantress for example – a word that might be used in stories to suggest a witch or the sort of woman who might lead a man astray, actually means one who chants and traditionally women would chant when they were working together.  They might be working with textiles, weaving or washing clothes;  or in a garden; perhaps they were all spinning together (spinster!!).  Unfortunately, the early Church did not like women to be chanting together in case they were calling up demons or exercising their power and so the word enchantress now has negative connotations.

The etymology of a shanty or song, such as a sea shanty is interesting.  You could expect ‘shanty’ to come from the French verb chanter – to sing but it is thought to come from chantier – a naval work camp or lumberjack’s hut.  You see how interesting etymology or the study of the history of words is!

Language is both an art and a science.  When I studied Literature in college, our lecturer gave us a facsimile of the original copy of a poet laureate’s work.  There were scribbles and crossings out where he had alternated between different words as he must have thought one word carried more weight than another or perhaps conveyed more meaning. I found this very interesting because I had assumed Poet Laureates just wrote poems – just like that!  Of course not…they craft their poems. I also remember writing an essay on the language of Thomas Hardy and ended up lost in a very boring text book about the scientific structure of grammar.

I am writing about language today for a number of reasons, reasons which mainly make me angry.  Let’s start with the word “weeds“.  Weed is derived from the old English weod – meaning grass, herb, weed. You could say it was one of those catch-all words, meaning anything that grew that was smaller than a shrub or tree.  Nowadays the word has only negative connotations which means many people inadvertently destroy the natural medicine that is growing outside their door.

Other words that make me really angry are words like “factory” when someone means abattoir .  Phrases like “Agri-Industry”  are just oxymorons and make morons out of the people who use them. “Stock” is a word that used to mean goods that were held in stock, i.e in a shop or warehouse.  Now the word is also used to describe animals going to the “factory”.  Those animals are not things and nor are they commodities in my mind, they are living beings!! Our beautiful trees, that used to cover so much of Ireland and were so important to the people that they created an alphabet, Ogham, are now regarded as yet another industry.  Our beautiful trees which were once regarded as living elders and wise ones are now just lumber, timber or cubic metres of logs.  Of course we need wood for heating and furniture, building and paper; but our woodlands and forests, our beautiful trees have been reduced to just being a component of industry and have been dragged to the factory floor.

Worst of all, of course, are those words that trick and deceive people; words such as “cases” or sentences like “..due to the increase in cases“.  Such sentences are deliberately mis-using a word and are re-defining it to obtain a specific reaction.  It is important, when we are bombarded with media at every turn, to be discerning and to really listen.  Don’t just hear the word, listen to what is actually being said. Listen to the tone of the speaker, are they making sense? Are they being logical and truthful?  Are they tripping and stuttering over their words?  Are they using fancy, obfuscating words that people do not understand? Are they twisting their words so that they cannot be held accountable?  Words can become propaganda and unless we really listen to what is being said and make discerning judgement we can be hoodwinked.  We can be tricked into thinking that a “factory” is not a slaughter house.  We can be tricked into thinking that agriculture, which is defined as – the practice of cultivating the soil, growing crops and raising animals has become an industry (which is defined  as the process of making products using machinery and factories).  How did we end up with and accept, an oxymoron such as agri-industry?  We didn’t listen!!! We didn’t question! Remember those little “w” words – who, what, why, when, where?

Words create everything don’t they? “In the beginning there was The Word”.  Once something is named, we all know it.  If a plant is called Hawthorn, then we all know it by that naming word. If it is called Fuchsia, then we know it as Fuchsia.

Words have power so we must be careful what we wish for.  We must guard our tongue in case we say something we might regret, because words carry energy.  To spell a word is to make a spell.  We must look at meanings behind words to know if the language is helping or hindering us.

Language can be beautiful as well of course and beautiful language is poetry.  Nature poetry particularly uses language to describe our amazing, diverse, incredible world.  There is also the “Language of Flowers” and there are words and phrases which evoke feelings of belonging and connection,  Mother Nature, Mother Earth. We all belong to Mother Earth, we are all relations so therefore we are all connected and if we are all connected, surely we are all one.  If we are all one, then let us use language please, to tell the truth and to spread only love.

46 thoughts on “Language Please!

  1. Caroline says:

    Fantastic read…..The power of words and how we have forgotten to question anything is so true during these times ,
    Keep up the the brilliant work Danu writing your very interesting blogs

  2. Ann Beirne says:

    Dear Terry
    WOW!!!!! you and I think so much alike about the using of words incorrectly for dodgy purposes I too love language and I and a lovely lady on the Audlum Canal in Shropshire why she was working a lock had a very interesting chat about the possible start of meanings of particular words particularly as she was winding various gears with a windlass we though it might have meant wind less at one time. Along the edges of the tow path are the most beautiful mix of plants and wildlife and this was the second time we have visited the canal and each time we something different, just returning to mother earth and some just coming into fruit there are a lot of Hawthorne berries out this year and blackberries are literally going wild. I must admit the ugly words bought tears to my eyes is ignorance an excuse not to find out about our connection to our wonderful planet and mother nature I don’t personally don’t think so. Thanks so much for these wonderful pearls of wisdom Love and Hugs Ann

  3. Gail-Elizabeth England says:

    Thank you Terry! This is so important to think about and remember. I need to choose the words I speak with greater care and listen more intently. Words can heal or harm, bless or curse, soothe or distress. I want mine to bring only joy and goodness to those who are listening.

    Now when I hear someone swear I’ll think “Language please!”

  4. Cynthia Talbert says:

    Hi Terri, this is very informative. I’m reflecting on my move to south eastern Oklahoma almost 13 years ago from southern Nevada. A big portion of Oklahoma is plains and cattle and crops being raised! We are hills and small mountains and green, close to the Ozark mountains, and decades ago people came to this area and decided to cut down the trees and make pasture lands to raise cattle! We have lots of wild edible plants and herbs, that grow everywhere and along the roads and the county will spray to kill them off. It’s beautiful here but some of the practices are shockingly antiquated peace and love Cynthia USA PS. We have lots of fairy trees

  5. Alan Mawdsley says:

    Yes Terri I totally agree with everything you say. I detest the term ‘meat industry’. I don’t like people categorising animals ~ sentient beings ~ as ‘vermin’ which suggests they are a risk to us and must be destroyed. Of course when it comes to war tactics a foreign leader suddenly becomes a ‘mad dog’ and we all know they must be destroyed. Be very careful out there!

  6. Sandra Rhoad says:

    Eloquent, instructive, needed and welcome because in this world of shortened text messages we need to appreciate the beauty of words. Thank you for the reminder Terri..

  7. Marilyn Roberts says:

    Dear Terri,
    Truer words were never said ! Thank you for reminding us of the importance of using our tongues wisely and correctly …it’s always a pleasure reading your posts. Wishing you a day filled with Green Blessings.

  8. Jan says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful on language. I’ve been fascinated by the relationship between language and trees in Ireland’s history, although my enthusiasm far outweighs my knowledge. Perhaps you would consider writing more on this topic during the winter months when you’re not in the garden. I’m writing from Cape Breton Island on the east coast of Canada. I can see Ireland from here

  9. Stephanie says:

    Hi Terri beautiful Godess thank you for the blog. For just under a year I came across a video of you in your beautiful herb garden. How grateful I am to learn lots of good healthy recipes to see me thought winter & have none harmful body care. Being a northern lass myself your voice just reminds me of home. I live close to Manchester now. Take care looking forward to more blogs ❤

  10. Mary Dunn says:

    Words and language matter so much ,thank you for highlighting it .The written and spoken word are so distorted and debased currently .I feel politicians and the press have accelerated the decline by lying and distorting the truth, plus people only hear and read what re enforces their prejudices .I also find book publishing houses culpable,nobody proof reads anymore and the most awful grammar is printed.I feel I have become a real curmudgeon .Even here in France the most awful franglais is in use

  11. Irene Garner says:

    Well said. Will be looking into how I use certain words from now on. Will be more astute as to what is actually being said by the media and the powers that be. Thank you.

  12. Linda says:

    Hello Terri thank you for send email re. your blog .. I too like language and entomology, I did a course in college alongside ALevel English Literature …
    old languages like old English and the Celtic languages I’m doing an online course of “Old Irish ” now ,
    My father born in County Roscommon
    spoke the language I have always wanted to learn . I have always been interested in the culture of my fathers people.
    One of the reasons I tune into your YouTube channel alongside Colette ONiell !
    Hugs and Blessing to you .

  13. Linda says:

    Thank you for that most articulate piece of writing. It is informative and emotive creating deep resonance throughout my being.
    It is incredible how words can be used so manipulatively.
    I have often got myself into trouble for saying things as they are rather than what is ‘acceptable’ however I stand strong in transparency and authentic truth through language.
    Blessings and love to al beings❤️
    I am definitely sharing this.

  14. Yanina says:

    Hi Terri, I must say that this was such a pleasure to read tonight. I love words too and I agree with all you say here. Thank you for the gorgeous videos you put onto you tube, they are informstive and always relaxing… I look forward to seeing them and following you around your garden and your little walks along the lane.

  15. Triona O'Neill says:

    Well said! And sooooo true….tg for ppl like you and Colette at bealtaine cottage for trying yer best to ensure some of us are trying to keep the earth somewhat safe….i have been even more inspired by what you are both doing and am planting as tho my life depends on it….cos it does!!!!! Thank you both soooo much

  16. Kathleen Ziser says:

    How do we know which words are good for us and which ones we should leave at the gate? I love this article. It should be posted in a NEWS PAPER or SOCIAL/POLITICAL MAGAZINE. How powerful your words are.
    Thank you,

  17. Terri Conroy says:

    thank you Linda for standing strong in transparency and authenticity. I hope more people realise how powerful they would be if they stood like that. xx

  18. Terri Conroy says:

    You are right. Perhaps if we slow down and think before speaking we are less likely to harm. Our world is so fast now though that we don’t give ourselves time.

  19. Patricia Mac Eoin says:

    Thaitin an t-alt seo go mór liom! This was a very interesting read. Thanks Terri!

  20. Michael O’Brien says:

    Thanks Terri. Wonderful thoughts you have written so clearly, and I agree with you.

  21. María Mayorga says:

    I loved the post and it resonate with some thoughts I had recently. The same way some words can be distorted into different meaning, good words when used so many times they loose their power. When a natural thing becomes made ambiguous, the word is ambigous too, used so many times until the meaning differs from the original idea. It could be the same wrong appropiation in order to use it as fake propaganda. Does it make the honest people to look for new words a bit more powerful?

    Thanks for all you do. You are indeed an inspiration.

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