Words, Words and Maps

Words and how you create a map of the world though language
Language changes you

“To think or not to think, that is the question”

I found myself casually thinking recently about becoming 30 years old and then suddenly realised that actually I will be 48 this year. Life seems to speed up the older you get. Which got me thinking, what is it that causes this effect?

Now let’s consider the theories that time does not exist.  These theories have been determined by a number of physicists and also Buddhists and they suggest that all that exists is Now.  It has been postulated that we move through a succession of Nows and that Now is an arrangement of everything in the universe. We therefore create the impression that things have definite positions relative to each other and so our brains have a way of sorting and making some distinction between the future from the past. So what is it that makes time seem to speed up?

One part of the solution to this time puzzle that I propose – is that we get in a rut with the words that we use.

I wonder if you’ll find this, or what I’m about to tell you, to be the most profound?

New words, fresh words and exciting words

When you were aged between 2and 10 it was amazing how many new words you learnt. According to the Economist  by the age of 4 you knew 5,000 words, by 10 this had doubled to 10,000. The world was fresh, new and exciting. Then one day during adulthood you settled on a fixed range of about 20,000 words that you knew.

To put this into perspective the number of words in the English language is 1,025,109.8.   This is the estimate given by the Global Language Monitor on 1 January 2014.

The English Language passed the Million Word threshold on 10 June 10 2009 at 10:22 a.m. (GMT). The Millionth Word was the controversial ‘Web 2.0’ (i.e. World Wide Web sites that use technology beyond the static pages of earlier Web sites).  Currently there is a new word created every 98 minutes or about 14.7 words per day.

Words help us create our own individual and unique maps of the world, which we then navigate. Yet sadly we find it easy to create a rut and restrict the extent and range of our own language.

Our individual maps started to become predictable and safe, new words no longer seemed seductive. Instead of enjoying a romance with your vocabulary, you put feet up and all become all cosy warm and safe. If language creates the map, let’s take our slippers off and explore further.

Language and the map

Gregory Bateson (an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician and cyberneticist, 1904 -1980) once said “The map is not the territory”.   But how do we create this map that we then function by? One of the ways is through language as we have said. Sadly once our map becomes set we act on this map as if it is the territory.

Let me ask you a question: “if you don’t have a word for something, does it exist in your world? It exists in the world, what I am asking is does it exist in your world?” “Oh, by the way ‘thingy’ is a word”

What do you think? If you answered ‘Yes’ then how do you know?

Let’s take an example. When did you hear about NLP? Today, last week, month, a few years ago? Where was it before you knew about it? Now you have a word for it you discover that it’s everywhere….TV, radio, books, magazines etc. You realise suddenly that friends you’ve known for years are NLP Practitioners and when you mention to them “You didn’t say”, they respond with “yes I did you, but I thought you weren’t interested.”

It’s worth pausing to consider any words that you think you don’t know, but if you did could make you very successful. Do you come across strange new words when reading and simply ignore them, or do you turn to the dictionary to learn something new that you could effectively use in future? The latter takes a little time that is well invested because new language leads to new thoughts. So could something as simple as changing you language change your world?

Change your language and change your thoughts

Have you noticed that there are certain people who seem to be alive and have a fresh perspective on life? One of things they all seem to have in common is that they interested in life and this could encompass reading different books, getting involved in sports, studying the arts or pursuing cookery to name just a few. By embracing new ventures people consistently discover and learn new words.

Let’s do a simple exercise:

Consider and select some new sensory-based words. These can be either visual (e.g. perspective), auditory (e.g. enunciate) or feeling word (e.g. malleable).

Add these words to your vocabulary and make a point of using them for 30 days.

– Add new visual words and you will begin to see new things around you that you used to delete.

– By adding auditory words, you will spontaneously start to hear new sounds around you. They have always been there, but you will now start to notice them.

– Use different feeling, emotional words and you will experience new feelings and emotions for yourself.

I find it incredible that just by adding and regularly using new words you will have new experiences. Have you realised yet that this is such a wonderful opportunity?

Every opportunity to learn new verses

When at an airport, pick a book on a topic you have never read about. Take a class in painting, cooking or Kung Fu. You will be exposed to new words and a shift will happen in your language patterns.

Roy H Williams once suggested to me “Read a poem a day, out loud. This is like taking atonic for your communication.” As Roy is a man of action he gave me a book called “A poem a day.” What will surprise you is that there are 365 poems in the book.

Are you saying that if I learn a new word my life will change?

Yes, this is what I am proposing. Test it.

I have had the pleasure of meeting some very successful people in all walks of life. One thing they all seem to have in common is that they are well read and possess a large vocabulary. For example, I notice that entrepreneurs use verbs about 15% more than other people. As we know, a verb is used to describe an action, state, or occurrence. 15% is not that much more than other people and yet it creates a lot more action in the individual. I know I track strange stuff and many of you will know that this is because I’m interested in how language affects us.

I don’t have time to do the things you have suggested I do. Can’t I just pick words out of a dictionary?

Malcolm X the activist transformed his life by reading the dictionary from cover to cover. Yes the full dictionary. This altered him as a person and he become a leader who had a powerful impact in the USA and the world. He did read it in prison, so you could argue he had the time.

Go ahead and read the dictionary. The last word in the Collins Concise English Dictionary, 21st Century edition is zymurgy – this is the noun given to the branch of chemistry concerned with fermentation processes in brewing. Oopps…. I have given the ending away.

When you notice that you have had no new thoughts, or struggle coming up with a solution for a problem, do something different that causes you to learn new language patterns. The world will seem young again. My new word today is zymurgy; I wonder just how this will affect my life? I’m not going to think about it too much as I’m just going to let the idea ferment for a while……

“To actively learn new words or not to learn new words, that is the question”. But you know the life changing answer now, don’t you?

Next Step:

At the heart of the NLP Practitioner training programme is a wide range of powerful language patterns. Once your become aware of the effect of language, you may start to find an irresistible idea forming in your mind about taking our NLP training. When you are ready to book your training click here

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Article written by John Cassidy-Rice

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  1. John

    I really enjoyed reading the article, thanks.

    I have also been sending some clients your way…

    Take care.
    Ranjit

  2. Dear John
    I enjoyed reading the article. I figure out that many ideas encompass some of my beleifs and my own perception.
    But, I have some questions.
    Is the language as a mean to change life also impact when it comes to learn a second language? I notice here that the main purpose for the learner is the language itself not the knowledge. Even if extending and developping vocabulary is a priority.
    Is it easy for a new word the change a life while practicing is not possible or difficult?
    Many thanks

    1. Dear Mohamed, Thank you for your comments.
      I would say when you learn a second language to the point where you can think in that language, you will experience the world in a different way. Can say certain things in English that you cannot say in Hindu for example. Also you can say things in Hindu that you cannot say in English.
      Not sure what you mean by the last question. If it was impossible to practice you could use different words in writing.
      Let me know how you get on