It’s not just what you say but how you say it

Playl's Ponderings

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 Words are, indeed, the building blocks for human communication. According to the estimate made by one source, there are well over 170,000 words currently in use in the English language. Obviously, that does not include the other 6,500 languages in the world nor does it include tens of thousands of obsolete words in English.

I’m pretty sure I am familiar with fewer than 100,000 words. How many words are in your vocabulary? 

Starting with “da-da” or “ma-ma” and adding to as we go along, most of us pick up thousands of words. But knowing words and using them to communicate can be two different things. In fact, most words in our vocabularies have a variety of meanings and then...

Recently, Sammie and I were relaxing by the pool at the Oceanana Motel, in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. Under the shade of an umbrella, enjoying the ocean breeze we chatted. At a lull in our conversation, I closed my eyes and listened to the conversations of others around the pool. Some spoke in languages other than English, but some simply spoke with a variety of dialects and accents.

Most were from the Tarheel state, and I began trying to figure out - there’s an expression most of you understand - what part of Carolina they were from. The accents and brogues of the Carolinas are abundant. People from the mountains do not talk like those from the coast, or piedmont area, or other scattered regions.

Atlantic Beach, Salter Path, Emerald Isle, Morehead City, Beaufort, Cedar Point and Bogue are all around Bogue Sound. Old timers along Bogue Sound have a very distinct brogue that sounds like nothing else in the English language. It is similar to the brogue of the older natives of the Outer Banks, especially Ocracoke.

Chester Lynn is a 10th generation “O’coker” who still speaks the language and brogue of Ocracoke. We spoke with him at his home on the “oiland” and had to listen carefully to understand his brogue and interpret his vocabulary. What a pleasant visit we had.

All of that reminded me that when we “have a word” with someone (Chester’s term), it is extremely important to listen carefully and also be careful what you say and how you say it.

How you say the words is almost as important as the words you use. I’m not talking about accents now. Often, someone will say the words, “I’m sorry,” when they have no thought of regret or sincere apology. The words are there, but the way they are spoken convey an obvious feeling of sarcasm. The words are, “I’m sorry,” but the obvious meaning is, “I have nothing to be sorry for, and you will never receive a sincere apology from me.”

Often the misunderstanding comes because the listener already has his or her mind made up as to what the person is trying to communicate instead of listening and being willing to have an honest discussion.

Words that come from the mouth - or appear on paper or a screen through social media - can encourage...or destroy - not only the words, but how they are spoken. In addition to sarcasm there is anger, maliciousness, and intolerance.

Jesus said what comes out of our mouth can cause more harm than what goes into it. So be careful what you say...and how you say it. Check your heart and check your speech.

--Steve Playl, columnist, college instructor, former pastor, and hospital chaplain, may be reached at playlsr@yahoo,com    

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