Recently, two people have influenced a certain area of my life that also reflects into writing: these people are John Green and Daniel Handler, both authors. Green mentioned in a video the line from Romeo and Juliet: “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, while Handler wrote a book that I only read recently called Adverbs. More on that later.

Green goes on to explain something about this line: Juliet suggests that what we call something isn’t important, only what the thing really is. “There is ample evidence that the words we use to describe the things we feel matter,” Green says. In short, Juliet and Shakespeare were wrong. What we call things is important. As people and as writers (that’s specifically as writers, not instead of being people) we all ought to take a long hard look at that; John’s example is that he has to say “I love you” to his brother Hank. If he were to say “I really like you a lot,” it doesn’t mean the same thing. For one, you can love someone without liking them. They’re called your siblings.

So I guess the point I’m making is that we need to be careful about the words we use, because they do hold a certain degree of significance. What we say matters. And trust me on this one – I know from personal experience from the past week or so that it really, really does matter what words you use.

So, on to Adverbs. To cut a long story short, this is a book about love, specifically the way in which it is shown and expressed and felt. My point is that Adverbs shows us that it’s not just what we say or do that matters, but also how we say and do these things. We’ll stick to the same lines as John Green and the book’s topic – love. Earlier videos from John and Hank’s channel tell us that for a year they couldn’t communicate textually with one another. This sort of kept up, a lot, though they make videos less regularly (every couple of days instead of every day) so the need to write emails and cards and letters and other such things kind of increased. However, it means more to Hank (I’m assuming) and more to the viewers of the channel if John says “I love you” on camera rather than in written form.

I know, that’s not an adverb. Let’s rephrase this, then. John looks at the camera. “I love you,” he says quickly. There: quickly. Adverb. He says it quickly because he’s already shown his discomfort when it comes to displaying emotion. Especially love, and especially towards Hank. He’d much rather have over 10,000 trees planted for him for his birthday than tell him he loves him (FYI, that actually happened: over 10,000 plants on 6 continents).

So I argue that we need to think about how we tell someone something. I think it’s fair to suggest that everyone reading this has Internet access of some sort, unless it’s been printed off and handed to them (in which case, I thank whoever printed it off in this hypothetical world). A lot of people with the Internet have an account on a forum or a social networking site. Not everyone, but a lot of people. Most of the time, people with accounts on a social networking site use it to talk to people they know in real life.

Is anyone seeing where I’m going with this?

Without assuming too much, I think all of these people with accounts on, for example, Facebook have mobile phones. Or at least a land-line if not that. I won’t suggest that we see all the people we talk to on Facebook all the time in real life. I don’t. I’ve seen one friend twice over the whole summer since early on May 27th, at about half two in the morning when he nearly threw me under a car. Most of the time I’ve spent talking to him has been on Facebook.

Here’s where the “How you say something” part comes in. We talk a lot. We talk on chat or in messages, whatever. Sometimes, but not always, we make phone calls. Here’s where the problem is: most of the important stuff isn’t said on the phone, where at least the line of communication is drawn a little more clearly than it is online. At least then we’re conversing properly, usually without any other distractions (like all of the Internet). And I’ve come to realise that too many people do what we do, only a lot of the time without the phone calls.

We’re a society forgetting how to talk.

Now, I will point out that I do also say things in the wrong way on the phone, not just online where it can be misinterpreted easier. It’s too easy to sound upset if you actually are upset. That worries people. A lot. Facebook is even worse. If you tell someone you’re really, really upset on Facebook and they’re not online, by the time they read it you could be gone and they’d worry. Trust me on that – I made the mistake before. Bad Paul.

I guess what I’m saying is, when Joey in Friends says “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it,” he was only half-right. It is what you say that matters and how you say it, in both the words the use and the way you express them, be it vehemently, sarcastically, quickly, objectively, whatever. It’s all important.

Now, this has been a fairly touch-and-go blog post. I apologise. I’m technically still on Internet Holiday for another day, at least, so no complaining. Just keep in mind what I’ve said, because I know it’s good advice (I can say this, because if I’d taken this advice I would have avoided a lot of unnecessary trouble).

Take care,
Paul.

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