How To Be a Superhero in One Easy Step

Good morning, and welcome to the end of the week. It’s Friday, you guys! We made it!

I wanted to take some time today to thank you all for a wonderful week! It may have seemed like we stuck with, shall we say, some less than serious topics, but the truth is that I love all of our conversations, and that you inspire me more than you might think.

Today’s inspiration comes courtesy of my wonderful friend Bonnie – thanks Bon! She sent me an article that I want to share with you. You can read the full piece by clicking here, but basically, the author suggests that changes in our society can be traced by observing the trends in our written language:

A recent study of books published between 1960 and 2008 found that individualistic words and phrases (like “personalized,” “self,” and “I come first”) began to be used more frequently, and communal words and phrases (like “community,” “share,” and “common good”) receded. In another study, it was found that words associated with humility (like “modesty” and “humbleness”) dropped by 52%, and words associated with compassion (like “kindness” and “helpfulness”) dropped by 56%.

I know; evidence that we’re becoming less compassionate as a society is probably not quite the inspiration you were expecting, is it?

But here’s what I loved about this article. It made me think: if the words we use change along with our society, doesn’t that mean that the words we use can also change us, and our society, in some pretty sweeping, far-reaching ways? And doesn’t that pretty much make us all into superheroes? Doesn’t that pretty much give us all the power to create exactly the kind of homes and lives and really, the whole entire planet that we want?

I’d certainly like to think so.

“Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences.” – Sylvia Plath

See? Inspiring! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. Be a superhero and tell someone you love that you love them, would you?

love amb

27 thoughts on “How To Be a Superhero in One Easy Step

  1. Do you think that the written language becomes a reflection of the people we want to be or the persona of the person we want to project? Also, I wonder if these words are reflections of our expectations and what we may have taken for granted.

    (I think I can explain my little theory using movie references haha)

    For my first point, The Mask (Jim Carrey not Cher) allowed people to be the person that they really wanted to be on the inside. Combine this with globalization and a character like Crocodile Dundee – would Dundee be the same guy if a glorified perception and fictionalization of reality was as prolific in his homeland?

    (This will probably go all over the place and sometimes I’ll go on tangents, but bear with me)

    So what I’m saying is that globalization and the proliferation of the home television set, internet, and everything like that creates increased immersion in a false, romanticized view that wasn’t necessarily available prior to these things. You live one way for long enough and you don’t know that things are/can be different – think Pleasantville$

    Have people taken kindness and respect for granted and something that used to be a given, as now something that has to be earned or mutual?

    Therefore, have our Pleasantville existences been replaced with Scarface dreams creating The Mask which is totally going to eff up Crocodile Dundee (let us not forget that they made like 4 of those)?

    Hahahaha

    • First of all, can I just say …

      Oh my goodness you’re back you’re back you’re back you’re back!! Hi!! I’ve missed you! Hope things are good – will likely be sending you a series of very excited bbm messages shortly, to get all caught up. Brace yourself.

      Ok. Moving on …

      I think written language can both reflect and project. It’s all about intentions and audiences right? Why you’re writing and who you’re writing for? I could project all over this blog and pretend to be a much cooler, more put together person than I am … but would that cause me to eventually become cool? Highly unlikely. If anything, my innate geekiness would eventually find a way out πŸ˜‰

      Loving everything that you said about the effects globalization and mass entertainment have on our expectations of kindness and respect … and you KNOW I love how you tied it all together with movies! Effed up Crocodile Dundee, indeed. πŸ™‚

  2. George Carlin, one of the greatest comics of our time, once said, language is the most beautiful thing. However, he went on to say, language can also be used to hide things that are simple to understand. He used the example of soldiers who came back from war and their nervous systems were hitting the absolute peak of stress. The phrase used in WWI was Shell Shock. Simple, direct, two syllables. Then WWII came along and the very same phrase turned into Battle Fatigue. More vague and four syllables. In the Korean War it was Operational Exhaustion. Less humanized and eight syllables this time. In the Vietnam war it was known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Still eight syllables, but now there’s a hyphen! Any pain that was in previous phrases have all but left. And finally, here we are today and the term we’re using now is PTSD. They’re not even words but an acronym.

    Anyway, language is such a wonderful and beautiful thing. Used in the proper context, it can (using a clichΓ© here) move mountains. Oh, and in George Carlin’s case, make people laugh! πŸ˜‰

    • I LOVE George Carlin! I love it when someone’s humour is driven by a sharp intellect and genuine compassion. For all of his rants about the sorry state we’re all in, you got the sense that George really just loved us and wanted us to do better, you know?

      That’s an awesome example about soldiers coming back from war – I’ve never heard that before but it’s so true! Totally agree with you that language can move mountains (sometimes cliches are cliches because they just sound so good!).

      Thanks so much for jumping in to the discussion – loved chatting with you as always πŸ™‚

  3. the only way we are going to change society is to change the focus from ourselves to everyone else. people are not fully aware that there is more self fullfilment in helping others feel happy then constantly feeding their ego and making themselves feel happy

    • Hi there Bryan! Thanks for visiting – always nice to see new faces around here πŸ™‚

      I think you’re right in that there’s a lot of power in doing things for other people. More people would probably be a lot happier with their lives if they, ironically enough, stopped thinking about making themselves happy.

  4. What a great post and what great comments, amb. The article is worrisome, but I suppose it’s only reporting what’s been going for a while now. Makes sense–some terrible things have been happening. What to do? Guess there are worse ways to move people forward than by offering powerfully positive words (and muffins and funny names and songs and…). You’re doing your part for sure πŸ™‚ Have a lovely Friday.

    • Thank you so much Liz! What a lovely thing to say. Ended up not having a dance party here today but it was fun anyway πŸ™‚

      I agree, the article is a bit worrisome, but then again, as the author says, you can always find patterns if you’re looking for them. I hope that’s at least partially the case here.

      Thanks for the encouragement, as always! Sometimes I feel like what I do here is a bit frivolous compared to what’s going on in the world, but then I get comments from awesome friends like you and I know it’s worth it!! You have a lovely Friday yourself! I’m off to listen to the Current … πŸ™‚

    • Thank you Dianne! I’m so glad you liked it!!

      And I agree, Jack’s comment was awesome. I’m so lucky to hang out with such cool people around here – present company included, of course πŸ™‚

  5. Hey Amb..awesome, I am so glad you clicked with the article, just like I knew you would. I am beyond way too tired to add to the insightful remarks in the comments above, some really great points in a terrific conversation. I love your take on them and resonates with another article I read late last night that I should send to you also. It spoke about creating the kind of relationships we want to have, adding in nothing but support and positivity to those around us, to encourage others to do the very same. It all starts with what we say, to each other and about each other.

    The fun part of all this, is that you will find yourself and one of your signature post-styles mentioned in the post I just published! I love all this bloggy-overlap! Happy weekend my wonderful wordful friend…xoxo bon

    • Hi Bon! I so appreciate you stopping by even in your sleep deprived state; thanks to all of this awesome bloggy-overlap, I know what a busy week you’ve had! I’d love to see that other article, if you get a chance to send it my way. I love the idea of creating a support network based on what we say to each other and how we say it … but of course you already knew that I would! Have a fantastic rest of your weekend – enjoy Gatsby! – and we’ll talk again soon! xo.

  6. I absolutely believe that we are shaped by the language we use – so I love the idea that we can also shape others by choosing our words wisely when we write. I like the idea of being a superhero! Have a great weekend, Amb!

    • Hey Sally! Hope you’re having a great weekend as well! I’m so glad you’ve connected with this post – I’m with you, I love the idea of using our superpowers for good instead of evil based on how we choose our words πŸ™‚ Off to visit your blog now, I see you’ve got a new post up, yay!

  7. That’s a very interesting discussion! It reminded me of the fictional language created in the dystopic world of the novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell. The language was structured in a way to limit free thinking and other forms of “revolutions”. It was still English, but with fewer words. You couldn’t talk about “freedom” for example, there was no word for it, so, theoretically nobody in that totalitarian society could even think about it. Language limitations used to control thoughts of a whole population. That’s a very frightening situation!!
    Another book exploring this theme is a science fiction classic “The Languages of Pao” by Jack Vence (1958). The plot is all based on the theory that language structure directly affects the behavior and values of its speakers. So each “cast” had a different language, and so on.

    What a great post!

    • I haven’t read 1984 since I was in school so I didn’t even think of that, but you’re absolutely right! What a perfect example of the impact language can have on society – I’m so glad you brought that up! You’ve actually given me an idea for a future post … I think it could be a lot of fun to look at the different words that different languages use for “friendship” and “love” and other warm and fuzzy terms like that … something a little less bleak than the idea of the individualistic society crowding out the needs of the group!

      Your blog has really been such a huge help to me in terms of post ideas lately … make sure you come by and visit next week (hint: Tuesday and again on Friday) as I have a couple of things planned that I think you’re going to love πŸ™‚

      I haven’t heard of “The Languages of Pao” but it sounds really interesting, I may have to see if it’s available at the library!

      Thanks so much for joining the conversation with everyone and for your encouraging words. I’m so glad you’re here ariadnemm!

      • Hello, amb!!

        I’m so glad to be of some help!! I’ll definitely check out your blog next week πŸ™‚

        Speaking of words like “friendship” and “love”, there is the word “saudade” (a noun) which in portuguese means “missing someone/something”.

        There is no equivalent word in English, and I’ve read once that very few languages have one specific noun for this feeling. It sounds like a curious fact!

        Yeah, Languages of Pao is not a popular book, I’ve read it some years ago, it’s more like a pulp-science-fiction. The idea behind the book/plot is better than the book itself, if my memory is correct.

        Keep on the great work!!

      • *swoon* That is just the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard, and I’m totally going to do some googling and then use that word for a Wordful Wednesday one of these days! I love it! Thanks so much for sharing – the inspiration continues πŸ™‚ Hope you’re having a great weekend

  8. Ok, so my response is a little off track as I speak about words in the spoken context. Several years ago the big question about personal outlooks on life was ” Is your glass half empty or half full?” Now, I always believe that the power of staying positive continues to support a higher level of living so of course my answer was always, the glass is at least half full.

    But today there seems to be two common expressions that seem to set a positive/negative tone in my life. The expression I use on an almost daily basis is “It’s all Good!” Life might not be all peachy keen but I am going to make the most out of a situation when a curve ball is thrown my way. I take it all in stride knowing that keeping a focused attitude, living life with great passion and loving all people, will result in a more abundant life.

    The second common expression is “It is what it is.” Now I will sometimes say this but I tend to cringe when I hear others speak it because it sounds so depressing. To me this is not the “Let’s change the world” mindset that a good superhero proclaims. It sounds more like “I accept all things that I can not change so let’s just let it be.” (Let it be was not one of my favorite Beatle songs”

    In any case, I am glad I found your blog….and as Arnold always says…”I’ll be Back!”

    • Hello there Michael! Pleasure to meet you. Welcome to my little corner of the internet. Make yourself comfortable – you’ll find there’s no such thing as getting a little off track around here – not with how much I talk πŸ™‚

      Loved your points about the common expressions people use to describe how they’re doing. If more people had your positive attitude the world would be a brighter place indeed! Focusing on making the most of any situation we find ourselves in is a fabulous way to expend our energy, I think.

      I’m glad you found my blog as well! Looking forward to chatting with you again soon πŸ™‚

  9. Thank you for my little escape from reality. I’m stuck on the bay bus for a second time in the last 3-4 business days. Yay me!

    So back to my comment. I totally agree abt the jist of the article and probably wouldn’t need to read it to concur that our western society is becoming a total mess of individuals who all seem to have an entitlement complex (myself included every now and again!). We’ve created a society of pansy individuals who each believe they’re unique and special and that these qualities need to be recognized and accommodated for, by everyone else!! I just had a special hazelnut macchiato from starbucks made just for me. Yay me! But the problem people fail to recognize is that we each contribute to the issues and good at hand. Take for example the subway delay I’m trying to be ok with: fire investigation on the spadina-university line. It’s likely due to a single individual who decided that it wasn’t worth their time to pick up their newspaper and put it in the recycle bin. Or that picking up a once-read-over copy to be below them because it’s “used”. For crying out loud! Words are words regardless of how used the physical literary vehicle is! Does anyone else miss physically checking out a library book? And last week, someone decided their life wasn’t worth living anymore so jumped the platform and as a result, the entire group of subway riders at rush hour were paralyzed from getting to work. AND the poor driver is probably on leave due to the shock and stress of knowing s/he killed someone. I mean seriously people!!! It’s not all abt you. Think abt the rest of this world and the people you share your space with. Sheesh!!

    I realize this has become a rant but your post really resonated with me, amber. I love that you could take the best message from that negative article and spin it around to remind each of us that we live with one another, no matter how small the scale. And that we should each work together even if we don’t actually know who we’re trying to help! πŸ™‚ thank you.

    • I love how this blog is letting us chat even though you’re trapped on the bus. You know my days are better when I start them off by talking to you! Yay us! Yay technology! πŸ™‚

      Moving on – I totally thought of you while I was writing this, I had a feeling that you’d agree with the article. Actually, I totally thought of you on the subway while I was writing this, because I know that one of the, um, joys of public transportation is that people tend to act like there’s no one watching even though they’re surrounded by strangers, and I know that you’ve had some really, um, interesting experiences on your way into work over the months and years you’ve been dealing with the TTC.

      All of which is a long, amber-ish way of saying, I hear ya, baby! I know how frustrating it is when you’re confronted with evidence that people just don’t seem to care about anyone two times a day, five days a week. For what it’s worth, I think you do an amazing job of being aware and respectful of the people you share space with. I think it’s partly because you’re such an animal person – you’re in tune with your kitty and your horses, and some of that naturally spills over into dealing with the monkeys and hamsters on the subway (and in Corporate World! )

      Thank YOU for the thoughtful and articulate comment. You know you’re welcome to rant here anytime! You got my day off to a great start! Although I have to admit that I, too, started my day with a special starbucks drink personalized just for me! πŸ˜‰

      • totally agree!! you keep me sane when i’m ready to blast those two women who are complaining with complete strangers about something that they have the control to mitigate just by doing something minor like taking their trash with them.

        and thank you so much for the kind words πŸ™‚ it’s nice to know that i’m not taking crazy pills and that there are people who can relate on the same level. it’s actually everyone else who’s nutso πŸ˜‰

  10. Pingback: An Announcement in Two Parts | words become superfluous

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