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Why The Most Dangerous Tool We Have Can Be The Alphabet (Or - Words Can Be Open To Misinterpretation In Both Good And Bad Ways)

Here is a question for you – What have “What If” (by Randall Munroe), “Spellbinder” (by Stephen Bowkett), a book on flags, any of a list of books on words and grammar, the song “Another Brick In The Wall” (by Pink Floyd), any Religious text you care to mention, a YouTube video of clips of “Still Game”, blogs by (among others) Dr Derek Lee, Nathan Constable, John Sutherland, Michael Brown (aka “Mental Health Cop”), James Patrick, all got in common? Apart from the fact that they all contain words, that is.

The answer is they have all – in one way or another – inspired this blog post.

To be completely honest it was “What If”, and “Spellbinder” that initially got the spark flickering to life. The first one because it is a book I find fascinating – and somewhat scary. (Put it this way – if you have ever wondered what would happen if you tried to build a wall using all the Chemical Elements from that table you see in Science textbooks as building blocks – that is the book you really want to read. A clue – you and your surroundings would not last very long at all.) The second book ignited the spark because I always wonder what would happen if we allowed ourselves to believe that Fiction can be made real. (One of my biggest fantasies is to be able to walk around inside other people's minds at will. That idea has become more and more relevant as I get older and I have found myself having to work out other people's motives for things they said or did.)

OK – so now you are probably wondering whether or not you should carry on reading this blog post??? After all, I may suddenly start writing something which you may find offensive, may give you ideas on how to launch any kind of attack on someone, or may cause you to break any number of Laws in the territory you happen to find yourself in as you read this!

Or – I could just be sitting here innocently typing this blog post only to turn on the news in a few days time to find that you have somehow taken my words as some kind of codeword which triggers you to wreak havoc on the entire universe as we know it.

What I am trying to say is that words are open to misinterpretation which can lead to serious consequences. I have stated elsewhere in another blog post that I do not like the phrase “Religious Extremist” when applied to Terrorists – mainly because I know quite a few people who I would classify as “Religious Extremists” who (to my knowledge at least) haven't used their Religious beliefs as an excuse for killing anyone. In fact, the opposite is the case.

Everything we say or write has an equal and an opposite definition. When speaking we can use our tone of voice to indicate what we mean (in fact, before I could understand a word of Dutch I could tell you exactly what mood a Dutch speaker is in just through listening to how they spoke). However, things can become a little harder to work out when we are writing (or – more to the point – reading).

We need to learn how to separate fact from fiction as we watch the news or read the Mainstream Media's output.

Most of all, we need to learn to be a little bit slower to start blaming other people when we misread or mishear something and act on our interpretation of it.

Two things come to mind as I am typing this (these might go some way to explain what I am trying to say).

The first is my second favourite scene from “Still Game”;

Jack and Victor are sitting at the bar in The Clansman when Boaby (the barman) asks them what they want. They order two beers and two pies. Jack turns to Victor and says, “Can you pay for these? As I am saving my change to tip the Concierge in the lavatory when he offers me a range of expensive colognes from around the world.” The look on Boaby's face is priceless.

The second thing which comes to mind is something which just tickles my sense of humour every time I hear the announcement for it in the Church I attend – so much so that I have a very difficult job trying to stop myself from singing the lyrics immediately before the chorus. To cut a long story short we have a part of the service where part of “Another Brick In The Wall” is played as small change is put into a container and used to raise a brick on the other end of a seesaw type contraption (this is an attempt to raise money for the redevelopment of our Church buildings). I am so tempted to sing (and slightly misquote) the lyrics “We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control. Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone”.

My vivid imagination – combined with my weird - and sometimes literal – sense of humour can be both a blessing and a curse at times.

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