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Religion

A Word About the Word “Word”

Jaine Toth | Jul 28, 2015

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Jaine Toth | Jul 28, 2015

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

A word to the wise.

By word of mouth.

What’s the good word?

Just a quick word…

…words can never harm me.

The Word.

The last word.

What’s in a word?

Word!

Axioms and adages about the word “word,” as well as many of its uses, often seem to be mis-worded.

Written-wordsA word to the wise seems to suggest “preaching to the choir.” Maybe the people who use this phrase mean “A word to the foolish.”

By word of mouth — Duh! By word of foot, or nose, or hand just ain’t gonna happen. Why doesn’t anyone say, “By word of pen”—or “typewriter”—or “word processor?”

What’s the good word? A word? Just one word? How could one word be sufficient to accurately relate what’s good about anything? We could ask “What’re the good words?”—but that just doesn’t sound right. Why not substitute another common question: “What’s the good news?”

Just a quick word… When someone says this, run, or you may end up listening to a lengthy spiel.

Words can never harm me. Poppycock. Words can devastate, can play ping pong with our psyches. This includes both the spoken and the written word. Robert Burton asserts, in Anatomy of Melancholy, “…how much more cruel the pen is than the sword.”

In the Baha’i teachings, Baha’u’llah cautions:

…one word hath the influence of spring and causeth hearts to become fresh and verdant, while another is like unto blight which causeth the blossoms and flowers to wither.” – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 141.

The Word, used as a proper noun, denotes the entire sacred scriptures, every Word that proceeds from God to man. The Bible says:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. – John 1:1

That supposedly was the beginning, the primal cause, of all existence. Yet the familiar phrase the last word refers to the highest human authority, as in “Miss Manners is the last word in etiquette.” If I don’t agree with her, does that make me a boor? Who or what is the determining factor in being the last word?

The last word also indicates a contest of wills. It should rather belong to God than to one of his misguided, power-hungry children. Perhaps that’s why the Word always trumps the last word.

Back to the Word. Baha’u’llah tells us:

It is clear and evident, therefore, that the first bestowal of God is the Word, and its discoverer and recipient is the power of understanding. This Word is the foremost instructor in the school of existence and the revealer of Him Who is the Almighty. All that is seen is visible only through the light of its wisdom. All that is manifest is but a token of its knowledge. All names are but its name, and the beginning and end of all matters must needs depend upon it. – Tabernacle of Unity, p. 4.

What’s in a word? Volumes are often implicit in one word. Words can engender fear, excitement, anticipation and a myriad other emotions, when the appropriate word is chosen and spoken for effect. Author Julia Cameron likens this choice to jewelry design: “We finger words like beads, choosing one over the other.”

What, then, IS in a word?

Knowledge, communication, power, possibilities. The explanation of “Why,” “How,” “When,” “Who,” and “Where.” The stuff of past and present, and a hint of the future.

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