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Taking note: A shared language

Dysania: The state of finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning.

“On Mondays, my dysania can cause me to reach for the snooze alarm upward of five times.”

This little-used word and fitting usage example resonated with me as soon as I read it on the Wayne State University Word Warriors’ list of the top 10 forgotten words that we should bring back in 2021.

It didn’t hurt that I was reading through the list on the first Monday morning of this year as I sipped my coffee and hoped I’d eventually feel a little bit more awake.

Dysania is a word you don’t hear often. But it sums up a frequently expressed sentiment.

And now that I know there’s a word for a “state of finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning,” it seems to drive home the point that this is a near-universal experience.

Sometimes, learning and sharing a new word — especially an uncommon term that describes a common experience — can make us feel more connected to others.

Learning and sharing certain new words and terms can inspire us to swap stories, reflect on shared experiences and learn a little more about one another in the process.

But then, there’s the words and phrases that we should maybe try to avoid using and sharing in this coming year.

There are some words and phrases that don’t always enrich our speech, vocabulary or our experience of the world.

Yes, I’m alluding to Lake Superior State University’s annual list of words banished for “overuse, misuse or general uselessness,” which placed COVID-19 right up at the top this year.

It’s a term and a disease we all wish we could leave behind, but as the list creators acknowledged, it’s not as easy to eliminate as previously banished terms like “mouthfeel” or “totes.”

And this illustrates how reality shapes our language in sometimes unavoidable and unfortunate ways.

But these annual lists always get me thinking about the incredible array of words that exist, the near-infinite possibilities of terms that we can use to express ourselves.

There are so many ways to convey a single, simple thought, feeling or idea.

And with all of these possibilities, our choice of words matter.

Swapping out one word for another term or altering a word’s position in a sentence can impact how others interpret and perceive a statement, even if the core meaning is unchanged.

And it never fails to amaze me how our language and vocabularies can shape our perceptions of ourselves, our worlds and our realities.

If we don’t have a word for a given experience, phenomenon, action or item, we might find it more challenging to describe to others. We might even feel a little isolated.

But when we have a concise term for an experience, phenomenon, action or item, the word can sometimes help us make more sense of it, whether or not we need to communicate it to others.

Because knowing there’s a term for something can help us understand that we are not alone, that someone else has thought about this or experienced it before.

And to me, this is one of the most beautiful gifts of language, the ability to communicate, to recognize our common ground and our shared experiences.

It offers us endless possibilities for enriching connections with others and seeing the world from new perspectives.

And learning new words or even closely examining the words we use can give us a new understanding of ourselves and others.

The words we know and choose to use can say much about who we are and what we have experienced.

They have the power to shape our reality and the realities of others.

They can influence how we feel about ourselves and other people.

Our choice of words makes a difference.

And when we are aware of the impact of our words, no matter how complex or simple the terms might be, we can become better and more compassionate communicators.

It might seem deceptively cliched or obvious, but we have the power to change so much, just with the words we use.

And when we use our words carefully, considerately and compassionately, we might find improvements in our self-esteem, our relationships and our communities.

So let’s enter this new year with a new focus on how we use language, and let’s give thoughtful consideration to the words that appear on lists curated — if you’ll excuse my use of this previously banished word — by the language-lovers at Lake Superior State University and Wayne State University.

Because our words make a difference in the world.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cecilia Brown is city editor at The Mining Journal. She lives in Marquette and can be found hiking if the weather’s nice, or curled up with a book if not. Contact her at cbrown@miningjournal.net.

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