The Power of Language
I was very intrigued by Delany’s use of language in this book and how he basically challenges the way our brain thinks through the language that he uses. An example of this is the name Brian Sanders in the book, which is the name of a female character. In our society, the name Brian has a male connotation to it, and I found myself having to make the conscious effort to remind myself that when the book referred to Brian, it was referring to a woman character. The play on language in that example shows just how deeply language affects our thinking and our brain processes.
This is an aspect about the words we use in our everyday interactions that is overlooked by many. The idea that language drastically affects the way we think is one that should be more consciously focused on, due to the magnitude of its impact. In my Ethical Theory class, we are discussing the idea of happiness. The book we are reading cites a tribe from the Amazon, the Piraha, who were studied for an extended period of time. It’s described that they never seemed to be overly concerned about much. They lived in a bare bones, hunter-gatherer society. Linguist Daniel Everett wrote in his book Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes, “I have never heard a Piraha say that he or she is worried. In fact, as far as I can tell, the Pirahas have no word for ‘worry’ in their language.” While this is just one example, there are many other examples of languages that don’t even have words for certain negative emotions. If one doesn’t have a word for a certain emotion such as worry for example, I would venture to say that it begins to be difficult to experience such an emotion (though that’s likely not universal, as many people feel emotions that they can’t put into words). It’s a testament to how powerful language can be.
One of my favorite modern day philosophers, Jason Silva, has a number of YouTube videos that speak on this idea of how language can affect us in various ways. Here’s one of my favorites.