Words help inform, express emotions, and entertain. When words are put on paper they have endless life. Words that are only verbalized can be forgotten or have their meanings misinterpreted in a matter of seconds. In this blog, I intend to highlight the power of communication through written words and spoken words. I will also show you how the use of words has evolved over time.
Looking through the pages of Genesis in The Holy Bible we see a narrative outlining the beginning of time as we know it. All but two of the 31 verses in chapter one of Genesis in the King James Version of The Holy Bible begins with the word ‘and’; The Douay has the same features. Newer translations offer a different style to modernize the text. The New American translates the Hebrew we or wa as ‘and’, ‘when’, ‘then’, ‘thus’, or ‘while’ (Ong, 1982: 37). Original transcripts feature archaic words, so it is not uncommon to see words featured in older texts of The Holy Bible translated to modern terms. Walter Ong (1982) said when generations pass and the object referred to by the archaic word is no longer used its meaning is often altered or disappears. Those words we today see as archaic were the words people verbally used hundreds of years ago. The Holy Bible itself was drafted based on words spoken to men by God.
In some cases we see God inspired words removed from modern Bible translations. For instance, the New International Version does not have Acts 8:37. The verse reads, “And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” According to Like The Master Ministries, the verse did not occur in the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament. The verse did not appear until about 500-600 A.D. in a manuscript now known as Codex Laudianus. The passage was inserted by a scribe who wanted to explain why the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized (“Bible questions,” 2011). Bible scholars also point to the Apostle John’s statement found in John 21:25, which says “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.”
Like The Holy Bible, The Illiad is believed to be an oral creation. In The Illiad, Homer uses elaborate and sensational words to tell the story of Achilles and the Greek siege on Troy. The Illiad is incredibly violent. Physical violence is often a characteristic of oral narrative (Ong, 1982: 45). Ong (1982) said ignorance of causes of disaster can foster tension. In lieu of physical causes, hostility is often directed toward people. When verbal communication must be by direct word of mouth, interpersonal relations, good or bad, are kept high (Ong, 1982: 45). With this mindset, one could say we are safer with the use of writing!
Walter Ong wrote that writing is a technology that restructures thought (Ong, 1986). Technology is defined as the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area (“Dictionary and,” 2011). Many of us correlate technology with electronic devices. The definition of technology, and Ong’s statement, makes us realize pencil and paper can make a difference in lives just like electronics. When I read a piece of history for the first time it changes what I know. If someone had not documented that information, I would have to receive the information verbally. Without writing, words are sounds with no focus or trace; there is nowhere to “look” for them (Ong, 1982: 31).
Our minds are often filled with what seems like a million thoughts. Relying on my mind as a source of accurate knowledge is not something I recommend. Words spoken have a short life, whereas words written have the potential to transcend centuries. As I have highlighted above, words have a lot of power; they should be respected by being given a longer chance of survival.
Bible questions & answers. (2011). Retrieved February/3, 2011, from http://www.neverthirsty.org/pp/corner/read1/r00583.html
Dictionary and thesaurus. (2011). Retrieved February/3, 2011, from http://www.merriam-webster.com
Ong, W. (1982). Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. London: Methuen.