Naresh Ramchandani, communications and advertising partner at Pentagram’s London offices, is a self-confessed logophile and language geek. Ramchandani has realised something that many of us fail to – that words have immense power to change our moods, add rhythm and music to our everyday, and, in only a few simple sentences, trigger changes in mindset and behaviour that can alter our reality.
For his Design Indaba Conference Talk, Ramchandani created an ode to his eight favourite words, complete with short bespoke animations for each.
We recommend you watch the Talk and hear the articulate Ramchandani for yourselves, but here are a few of the marvellous things he made us aware of in the sound and meaning of these words.
Four letters that create four walls where you will always be safe, with the “om” – the place where you are most at peace in the world – at its centre.
A joyful and unintellectual word that embodies not only the sound of the game but also the spirit of it too. It’s onomatopoeic, incredibly physical and reversible – “ping pong the name, just as ping pong the game, goes backwards and forwards”. Gnop-gnip would is every bit as ping pongy as ping pong itself.
This word has the power to send Ramchandani on a language acid trip, where words are freed from the gravity of logic and the letters float into absurdity. But in doing so, language reveals itself to be giant code where shapes represent meanings, thoughts and actions.
“With this one little noun, I get to see the matrix – I get to see the code. Thanks to plug.”
Sharing most of its letters with “charge”, and ending with a big chunk of “anger”, change is a word that crackles with positive energy. Don’t suffer, with a little bit of energy you can change things.
Change also encapsulates Ramchandani’s belief that through our creativity we put magic in the world, as he tries to do through his creativity-versus-climate-change non-profit Do The Green Thing. Recent Do The Green Thing articles include some beef with Glastonbury, a dig at the make-up industry and a death threat to Santa.
“It’s a good word, because it is what words are so good at: change.”
Grace is the sugar coating to the bitter pill of change. Where something has no charm, it can give some. Where something is a little bit rough, it can add some finesse. Where change has anarchy, grace can give it a little bit of dignity. Where change is about provocation, grace can give it some sort of consideration.
Pathetic is the H-bomb of the english language. It is the greatest putdown known to mankind. Giant, withering syllables that literally make the speaker spit in their victims face, pathetic really is a fabulous piece of foulness.
Selflessness, which is much more outward looking than the self, is about being able to listen as well as to talk. And in a perfect act of selflessness, the 12-letter word only uses five letters of the alphabet.
Maybe is the garden of possibilities that lies behind the door that a “yes” or a “no” slam shut. May and be, two syllables sitting either side of a why, show that doubt is even stronger than being over certain or over opinionated too soon.