Reclaiming words

Language is an evolving thing. Grammar changes (hey there, singular they). Syntax changes. Words change. And our senses of different words change, too.

Now, it’s often my job to be a stickler for grammar and diction and I enjoy it. But I don’t bemoan the fate of the English language. The fate of the English language is the fate of every living language: change.

What makes me sad is the way some words feel a little lost to us in a positive sense. They’re loaded. Overburdened with a significance not inherent to their roots and origin. It’s inevitable, but it’s also something of a bummer.

Productive is one of those words for me. It’s not a new switch. This idea of “product” has changed the connotation of productivity significantly. It’s a capitalist word–an industrial word. It’s a measuring of worker output.

But productive need not conjure the image of a factory line. Produce is, after all, a generative word, a creative word. To produce something is to make. We impose our notions of what worthwhile creation is–indeed, much of what we produce now is fairly intangible–but that sense of the word can change.

Creative is another word that gets muddied, I think. What it means to be creative has significantly shifted. Not in wholly negative ways. There are more ways to be creative and more people who can be creative than ever before. Creativity seems more lauded than it once was.

But it’s also become a commodity. And a job description. A creative. A productive creative.

We can debate whether these shifts are inherently damaging (it depends, I imagine, largely on your view of capitalism vs. mine). But I think it’s clear that the idea of making for the sake of making has gotten somewhat lost. And there’s a pleasure in making–in creating–in producing that anyone, whatever their product output, deserves to experience.

[Don’t even get me started on synergy.]


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