Words lose their meaning

Do you know what semantic satiation is? According to wikipedia it is this psychological phenomenon in which repetition of a word or phrase causes it to temporarily lose meaning for the listener, who then perceives the speech as repeated meaningless sounds.

Take an everyday object, say, a broom. Now repeat the word “broom” again and again. Broom, broom, broom, broom, broom, …. See? Not only you feel like this cluster of letters totally doesn’t make sense, but also that you’ve temporarily forgotten what the word broom stands for. (Just a little tip: if you’re gonna try this, go for a different word if you don’t want to sound like you’re attempting to imitate an old car’s engine starting.)

This is exactly what happens with some words or phrases nowadays – they lose their meaning. Only you don’t need to repeat them out loud all over again 10 times in a row. What I have in mind here are words or phrases that denote feelings. Like everyone is “so happy”, “so sad”, “so misunderstood”, everybody “loves” everybody…

Is it just me or do people nowadays waste away too many words? Every social network encourages you to show the world how you feel and by wanting so bad to present yourself in a good light, you end up embellishing your own feelings to the extent you might almost forget what was your original emotion. I think that by trivializing the emotions, by turning them into a set of emoticons and comments they slowly become just empty words. Words anyone can use anytime to make oneself believe he or she actually feels that way.

Or maybe, the meaning of the word is still the same, but its value is missing. I serve as a good example to this. I am the worst hypochondriac. There is always something I identify as a symptom of this or that disease and whenever I do, I annoy my friends and family with my constant whining about how I need to go and see the doctor, how I’m dying and thinking about writing a testament and so on an so forth…
Do you think anyone takes me seriously? And would they if I was for once actually ill? Yeah maybe, if the evidence was indisputable. Like, say, I’d be all blue and cold – then I guess I would be taken seriously. But repeating something without any value to it? Of course it becomes trivial.

Nowadays, these emotions people show on social networks are like my “illnesses”. Just words.

With our facebooks and twitters where everyone is saying (writing) stuff like: “I’m the happiest person ever”, “I love you so much”, “you look so gorgeous”, and on the other hand trivializing stuff like “I’m sad”, “I’m depressed” or “I feel lonely” would we even notice when someone is truly happy? When it’s not just glitter? And would we even distinguish between attention seeking and a genuine cry for help?


3 thoughts on “Words lose their meaning

  1. I hear you. It’s hard to believe people on the social networks truly mean what they are saying much of the time. It’s more a venue for pumping yourself up, promoting yourself, or seeking validation of some kind (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree entirely with the repetition theory. Writers spend agonising hours trying to replace a word that they have already used. Repetition works for the memory only like learning the times tables. It is boring but when you use a word once it creates excitement – even if you forget the topic.


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