Use Your Words!

Use Your Words!

“I’ll come play with you really soon!”

Yeah, we’ve heard that one before.

I’m currently studying the English language in one of my classes, and we discussed a property of language known as cultural transmission. This means you learn and define words as you hear them; language is taught culturally. Well, the example my professor described for this principle is the word soon. Its original meaning was “without delay, forthwith, straightway,” whereas it has come to mean, in layman’s terms, “relatively quickly but not right now.” If it’s true that language is learned based on how it is heard being used, can’t you see how easily this shift in meaning could have occurred? One generation of parents uses the word “soon” to describe when they will play with their kids or when their next trip to Disneyland will be, and just like that the word the child learned has a different meaning than the one the parents thought they were using.

This is just one rather nerdy, but kind of fun, example of the influence the words you say have on those around you, especially in the case of your children. I knew a mother who over and over again, when talking about hard times or difficult situations, would say, “Yeah, it’s tricky!” She said this to her children and everyone who knew her when talking about problems. I loved it! For this mother, and the children she taught, nothing was ever so hard that it was impossible! It was only “tricky.” Tricks can be solved. Things that are “tricky” will go away and get better. I think this wonderful woman taught her children and all of us a thing or two about trials, just by using that one little word “tricky” in place of so many others she could have used.

As in every aspect of parenting, there’s not just one right way to speak to your children. There’s not a set vocabulary for good parents and bad ones. Just pay a little bit of attention to the things you say! Are you using words in a way that could distort their meaning for your children? Are you using words that teach your children something about the way you view the world? Your actions might speak louder than your words do, but your words still speak! You can use words many ways to communicate all those things you so desire your children to know.

Here’s a fun word to try (and to teach your kiddos) for when you don’t have the words!
Ineffable: too great for words; transcending expression


[1] “soon, adv.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, July 2018, Accessed 15 November 2018.

[1] “ineffable, adj. and n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, July 2018, Accessed 15 November 2018.