A common aphorism in the Game of Thrones universe is "words are wind."
Amongst many others, Brienne of Tarth uses it:
Words are wind, Brienne told herself. They cannot hurt you. Let them wash over you.
Victarion Greyjoy uses it:
Words are wind, and the only good wind is that which fills our sails.
and Aemon Targaryen uses it:
What is honor compared to a woman's love? What is duty against the feel of a newborn son in your arms...or the memory of a brothers smile? Wind and words. Wind and words. We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.

Although used slightly different by each person, they all mean the same thing- words, like the wind, have no weight and no mass, and are not things to be trusted. This is especially true in Westeros, where everyone lies and an honest man is a soon to be dead man. 

This also, however, seems to ring true for us, albeit for a different reason. Words are one of our most important tools of communication, but they are often nothing more than a slight breeze, because like any other tool, words have their problems and limitations.

One problem that immediately comes to mind is that words change their meaning. Year to year new words with new meanings are born, generation to generation slang changes until we wonder what the hell the teenagers are saying, and century to century our language evolves so much we have trouble understanding each other (a major contributor to the success of No Fear Shakespeare). 

All of this by itself is no real problem, so long as we adapt along with changes in our language. Language can (and should) change as people change and our needs and method of communication change, so words having different meanings is a good thing. The real problem comes when we use words to mean different things simultaneously, when we use the same words to mean different things. To make matters worse, the messages that we distort with our garbled words are most often the most important ones, because the most important things are the hardest to say.

A good example of this is the word "like." While oft overused as a filler in lieu of pauses, the word "like" is also abused when we simply try to express what we like and don't like. To say I "like" this couch can be wholly different from I "like" these chicken wings, which is not too big a deal except we also use the same word "like" with people. I "like" Amy can mean something very different from I "like" Gina, and that woefully vague and poor distinction has led to some truly atrocious methods of expressing ourselves, such as the very popular turn of phrase "No, no, I don't like that person, I like like that person." Doesn't it seem like a slight problem that the same word can be used to show appreciation of an inanimate object, enjoyment of another's company, and fundamentally liking who the person is?

The problem worsens with the l-word. I am reminded of a great scene from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World:

Break out the L-word.


There are a lot of 4 letter words that kids are not supposed to use, but of them all I think this is one of the worst. Isn't it strange that we can use the word "love" to describe our feelings towards food and furniture, but also to describe the greatest affection between people? That the same love we use to describe a deep sense of longing and happiness and joy is the same word that Brick uses in Anchorman?

I love... carpet. I love... desk. I love... lamp.

Again, clearly a joke, but not too far off the mark- after all, I love steak is only a short distance from "I love lamp."

The problem with words serving multiple functions and meeting a wide scope of descriptions is that it becomes hard to tell what the meaning behind the word is, and when someone tells you "I love you" it becomes difficult to tell if they are using the same love they reserve for lamps or a wholly different sort of love. And if we use the same love in so many ways, when we feel true affection and care for someone, how do we express that in words?

The problem extends far beyond like and love. I am reminded by a great ZenPencils comic, illustrating a C.K. Louis joke:


We don't think about how we talk anymore. How do we express ourselves properly when we go "right for the top shelf" with our words now? By going straight for the big words, by exaggerating and overextending our words, we are blending the most poetic, most important, but most difficult things to say with the commonplace mundane things. That is lazy- and as Robin Williams so eloquently put it in Dead Poet's Society,

And how are you going to woo that girl if you already used up all your words on lamps and chicken wings?

p.s. rn