From the Series
In 2014, the Global Language Monitor estimated that there are over one million words in the English language. English speakers use only a tiny fraction of those words in their everyday communication. And out of that small group of familiar, everyday words, there are probably a few that stick with us – our favourite words.
In his Design Indaba Conference talk, communication designer and advertising executive, Naresh Ramchandani shared his top eight words with the audience. Titled “Eight Words,” the presentation looked into the meaning of those particular words, in order to investigate how and why words are an important influence in our lives. Ramchandani created a corresponding short film for each word, which explains why he likes it so much.
Naresh Ramchandani’s “Eight Words”:
Home is a word that connotes comfort. Its middle letters make up the word Om, a sacred mantra of peace. For Ramchandani, “the simple form and sound of Home, and the deeply human idea it represents” is reason enough to love the word.
Ping-pong is an onomatopoeia, which means it imitates the sound of what it is describing. It has rhythm, making the mouth change shape in time with the words that bounce off the tongue. Ramchandani says, “the word, just like the game, goes backwards and forwards, and is pretty much perfect, whichever way you look at it.”
The word plug sends Ramchandani on a “vocabulary acid trip,” as he contemplates the shape of its letters, and who invented the word and why they didn’t call it something else. Ultimately, “plug” reminds him that language is one giant code and it makes him “see the Matrix”.
Ramchandani believes the word “change” to be an unattractive-sounding word but is particularly fond of its flexibility. Its ability to inspire change in any shape or form empowers people. “It’s a good word because it’s what words are good at. Change,” says Ramchandani.
Some attribute a feminine quality to the word “grace”, but Ramchandani disagrees. He believes in its power to soften “all that is competitive and muscular, brusque and boorish, the Gentle in Gentleman.” Grace speaks of dignity and consideration.
According to Ramchandani, if ever you are in need of a lethal insult, “pathetic” is your word, and it all comes down to its syllabic sounds and meanings. It starts with a “sharp, withering puh” and ends with “the ick – causing the speaker to literally spit in the direction of the receiver’s face.”
Ramchandani thinks the word “selflessness” is a delight and applauds it for its ability to lead by example. He says, “Although 12 letters long, the word only uses five different letters which is, in itself, a perfect act of Selflessness.”
For Ramchandani the word “maybe” signifies possibility. According to him, one needs a certain level of maturity to use it. The wordsmith relates the word’s meaning to its phonetic form: “May, opening the mouth in wonder, and Be, turning the lips into a smile at the wonder perceived.”