Intentionalities: Mean What You Say, Say What You Mean

I don’t care what you say. The actual words that come out of your mouth are of little to no concern to me. That is, unless you mean them. Unless the words you are speaking have meaning to you, and you intend to give that meaning to me, I could care less what combination of phonetic sounds within your anatomical capabilities you choose to utter. 

I have had this discussion (well, kind of) with my girls groups as well as with my whole 5th grade class last year when “cursing” became an issue on the recess radar. I tried to explain to them that curse words, like all words, only have meaning if we ourselves choose to give them that meaning. Since we have agreed socially that saying “F you” is generally offensive, it’s not okay to say it at school. At 10 years old, it’s hard to process non-concrete ideas and rules, so rather than saying, “You can use it if we agree it has no meaning,” the “no cursing” rule stands. 

I thought about this in the shower yesterday as I let my shampoo lather and read my soap bottle. The scent is “Surfside.” Underneath this, there is the French translation that made me laugh: “vagues des mers.” Word by word, it means “waves of the sea.” Not quite “surfside” if you ask me, but this is where meaning comes into play in utmost importance. 

Who cares if we match word for word in translation. Is that what we are doing when we translate? Or are we doing something much deeper, much heavier: transferring meaning across language barriers— barriers so personal and intimate that crossing them is an art form. 

“Surfside” evokes an image of waves, blue waters, sunshine, salty air and fresh fun. Perhaps “waves of the sea” evokes this same image for a French mind, likely better than if we would have literally used the words for “surf” and “side.” So here, as in most cases, we are much more concerned with meaning than words. 

You can say, “I love you” and “I’m sorry” or “How are you” and “Thinking of you” all you want. I could teach a Russian to say those words, but to mean them is different. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Otherwise, it is of little to no use. 

I’m over formalities and onto “intentionalities". Be intentional. Every word. What do you mean when you speak?