This only a lament for all of us who really really really like to use words. I must agree that they have quite an appeal...and I've learned a bit from the more lavish 21st century laureates like Malcolm Gladwell, so if you find yourself easily swayed by my sanguine tone, please try to stay alert. In order to really accept any idea, you have to be just skeptical enough to consider it on your own terms, not mine. Probably the most important thing is for you to take it easy, all throughout. Print this out and read it on the patio with a mimosa, or whatever.
You think I'm paranoid, but this can really be dangerous. Like, jump-off-of-tall-buildings dangerous, since some people actually go nuts, thinking over and over in endless cycles over the same problem...so if you're feeling squeamish now, just set this aside, since it probably won't matter to you in the long run. In fact, when I first tried to grasp it, it took me five whole years to climb out of a heinous death spiral, during which my performance steadily slipped and I regressed into my own little fantasies, trying to nurse all those little overheated bits of brain back to health, but still relapsing into...ahem, anyway. Are you comfortable now?
The basic idea is: words are not what most people think they are. In fact, they're not what anyone thinks they are, since you can only think about them, or about thinking about them, ad infinitum, when you've spun yourself to the ground. Imagine finding a rock and picking it up. You can call it a rock, but unless you can get someone else to agree that the dirty chunk of geostrata that you're holding is a rock, you won't really be going anywhere with your awesome fancy word for it. To put it tritely: words are not things, or truth, or ideas. They only look like those.
You can take that a bit further, because what you're calling a rock is actually different from every other rock...by size, shape, texture, coloring...everything your senses can find. You might want to start distinguishing the "rocks" with other words ('pebble', 'stone', 'boulder'), but what's the big deal, you ask? Why not just 'gigantorock' or 'doubleplus unbig rock'? Honestly, I'm not sure, but someone told me that a rock is something you can hold or throw with one hand, whereas a stone needs two hands and a boulder is too much for any one person. Of course, if you like, you can go much, much further down this path, since there's a whole lot more than just words that you can worry about, like things and ideas and...well, I'm certainly not about to ruin all that tasty blasphemy with my own opinions.
A charming example is with Gene Ray, who, as far as I can tell, hit this hideous problem of the imperfection of language as a means of representation, and became aggrieved at its profound misappropriation in modern education, which led him to search for fundamental truth transcendent of language, which he then found in the form of the number 4 and applied to all known aspects of existence, attempting to explain his genius in his own nonconformist dialect. Quite a noble mission, don't you think?
There's almost no escape from it, since it's literally everywhere you look: news, speeches, debates, and everyday conversations. I still can get much too attached to what I'm saying sometimes, or argue over tiny little grammar and semantics issues as if they were the end-all, be-all of the universe. I mean, sometimes it's worth it, especially if you have a paper due tomorrow and you need to know whether the unbearably pedantic TA will appeal to your particular use of some old idiom like "pennies on the eyes," or whatnot.
Usually it only becomes a issue, as I'm sure we've all seen, when someone uses so many words at once that they start getting full of themselves. I mean, it can seriously become an addiction (just like everything (and the withdrawal is killer, man))! In fact, almost any job nowadays that involves a lot of human interaction will be a shoe-in for you if you can spread that addiction of yours around. Marketers know it: you can sell anything with a smart tie and a saucy slogan, or whatever verbal gymnastics it takes.
If you're still with me at this point (and heaven knows why), it's possible that you're either very excited or mad or otherwise agitated about what I'm implying here, and that's not going to do much good. If you think I'm trying to present it either as some kind of profound and enlightening truth on a silver platter, or rather just as straight nihilism, that would be silly of me and possibly harmful to your delicate human psyche, especially since this is a pretty basic problem that's been dealt with for millennia by people of all sorts. Take it in stride!!
On the other hand, I might have hit a nerve (or I will sometime soon when you reflect on this later) with a precious line of verse you've taken to heart, or something like that, since we all seem to need to believe in something. Don't worry about it; there doesn't seem to be much harm in holding onto pithy aphorisms for the sake of shared wisdom. Just make sure not to take them 100% literally (whatever that means), or use them at the wrong time.
Of course you might still just think that I was being way too paranoid. You might also be thinking that you knew all this all along and that everything I've said is ridiculous. Although I will doubt that you've never taken something out of its proper context or said something that you didn't intend or regret, it's OK. You could just think of this as a reminder to be a bit careful when you're playing with your personal vast arsenal of shiny word-blades. They can hurt!
Finally, if you're still worried that this has something to do with religion, i.e. the True Word, then now would be a good time to get over it. It's true that a lot of doctrine texts, even with all the best intentions, often get twisted and undermined, or even used to justify some really mean things, and by some really important people, I might add. To me, it all just goes to show that nothing in this world is truly perfect, so trying too hard to get others to think the way you do would be like shoving a priceless jewel down their throats, instead of just offering it to them to see if they can admire it. The best thing to do (and pretty much the only thing there is to do) is to learn as much as you can from the world and its crazy little inhabitants, and find out what it means to you, which I'm sure a lot of you can agree on.
Additionally, I Am Not Bothered In The Slightest That This Is Not Original, My Good Messieurs. Ta!