Visuals rule in the digital world, but great brand storytelling can’t be done with graphics alone. We communicate through conversation, and dialogue requires words. Words spark emotion and transport people. Words influence human behavior. In fact, it’s been said that if we can change and improve words, we can change and improve life.
We navigate our whole lives using words.
I’m a marketer who values the power of words, but I’m also a writer who suffers from a severe case of legolepsy (a passion for or an obsession with words). My bookshelves – yes, I still own books; just ask my movers, bless their little hernias – are lined with novelty vocabulary guides like The Disheveled Dictionary: A Curious Caper Through Our Sumptuous Lexicon, by Karen Elizabeth Gordon.
You’ll find a well-worn copy of J.I. Rodale’s The Synonym Finder there, too. I carried this much-loved and indispensable 48-pounder (I’m exaggerating) on the subway every single day to my first copywriting gig. I’ve gone through six copies since then (they finally made a hardback) and yes, it’s simply better than online versions. Here’s a photo of one of my last raggedy, war-torn softback.
We all crave words so much that every year in December various dictionaries select their “Word of the Year” (WOY). For wordsmiths of the world (like me) it’s a time for jubilation and sometime lamentation. The picks for 2016: Post-truth, Xenophobia, and – possibly – Fascism (Merriam-Webster hasn’t finalized its 2016 Word yet because people are campaigning against “fascism” being their selection)! Like most organizations, WOY is based (in part) on the most “looked up” word online. See a pattern this year? We’ve come a long way since words like “science” and “selfie” and even “woot” were given the annual nod.
Post-truth comes from the Oxford Dictionaries, and is an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.
Xenophobia (the fear of strangers, foreigners or the alien) was selected by Dictionary.com, who “aims to pick a word that embodies a major theme resonating deeply in the cultural consciousness over the prior 12 months.”
For the record, Merriam-Webster defines fascism as: A political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.
Oddly enough, the folks across the pond at Oxford Dictionaries announced that post-truth is also their 2016 WOY and Cambridge Dictionary has proclaimed that paranoid is their WOY.
Behold, the power of Word Nerd Wednesday.
What a cluster of bleak words we have for 2016, huh? My personal glossary needs a good cleanse, which is why last week Salty Dog and my collaborators at P4 Sales Consultants began a social media campaign we’re calling #WordNerdWednesday. We started with legolepsy, which I referenced above.
We then paid tribute to the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor with patriot. Sure, it’s a word you know but have you looked at its meaning lately?
I have more than enough words to fill the next 52 weeks, but I’d love to hear your suggestions! Please, give it some heartfelt contemplation.
Oh, and by the way, how strong is your vocabulary? While I was nosing around I found this Merriam-Webster quiz. Try it, you’ll like it! I got 100%, but then words are my thing.