Worth 1,000 Words

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Recently a client request came through my office for an illustrator that does real time drawings of meetings. The idea behind the concept is that written notes are more apt to be biased and meaning distorted than if an artist sketches the conversation.

This was a particularly interesting concept to me, as I like to think of myself as a “words” person.

  1. I like lists.
  2. And neatly spaced grids.
  3. And bullets.
  4. And paragraphs upon paragraphs of 12th-grade-reading-level prose with phenomenal topic sentences.
  5. Uncharacteristically, I am also starting to appreciate a well-organized flow-chart.

But words CAN be extremely limiting. Limited by personal vocabulary, by listening comprehension, by connotation and by the language itself.

The best example I can think of is how you explain the middle-ground between liking and loving someone. There isn’t a word in English, at least one that I can think of, that adequately explains the feeling of liking someone more than a casual acquaintance without the full-on connotation of love. Thus, the term “LIKE like.”

Person 1: “I like Chris.”

Person 2: “Do you like Chris, or do you LIKE like Chris?”

Okay, I admit that is probably a horrible example…

Which is a great example of how words can be limiting! (You fell right into that one, didn’t you?)

Anyways, the whole reason that I wrote this post was to share a link with you. But I won’t share the link until I explain who posted it first. My college friend Wendy (you might remember her from the Books for Cameroon project this past fall) amazes me with her ability to learn new languages and successfully interact in many cultures that are very different from each other.

Wendy was born in Taiwan, moved to Missouri in elementary school, studied and interned abroad in London and Paris, and, most recently, spent 2 years in Cameroon, West Africa, serving as a Peace Corps volunteer. She speaks more languages than anyone else I have ever met. She learns new ones for fun. One day, Wendy will probably rule the world, and be able to talk to everyone about it in their native languages.

She shared a link via her Twitter account from the Wall Street Journal on how language influences culture. The article goes beyond the cliche “how-many-words-for-snow-do-eskimos-have” and provides some very interesting facts on the effects of language and perception of reality on criminal justice, politics and economics – see the bit about Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson and the wardrobe malfunction for proof.

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