Power of Words

Humans want their words to mean something. You can tell by the earnestness with which they teach their language to their children. Eagerly listening for the first word. Working hard to repeat things again and again until the child gets it right. Or even earlier, when they agonize over the choice of a name for their unborn child. All that thought and deliberation, to choose a single word that will be the name of a son or daughter. When speaking to children, they are precise, specific – particular. They think first, and choose their words carefully.

Sometimes.

Eventually, they become careless. Somewhere along the line, the child learns that words can be used to manipulate, to say what you wish rather than what you mean. It begins with the toddler's insistence on "NO!" and continues when the not-yet-waist-high child claims innocence in the face of guilt. It is painful for them, though, to leave behind the absolute truth with which they were taught words. You can see their faces scrunch up with each lie.

The adults cast their words about with little thought. Their precision devolves until too many statements are followed with a helpless, "You know what I mean." So cavalier and…jaded. They have come to learn that words are not as powerful as they once believed. They learn that words can lie, promises are not kept, and saying something does not make it so. They only remember how the words make them feel – whether they hurt or comfort – and forget that it once mattered if the words were true.

You see this in weddings. Granted, I am not invited to many weddings. I have no place there. But sometimes, in the hustle and bustle beforehand, my name is invoked. And so I stick around for the event, and watch carefully as they exchange their words. Promises to be true until death. You can see in their eyes that they hope their words are true. At least, most of them. Some of them already have doubts on the altar, and so you wonder how far those promises will go before they are shattered in betrayal. But it takes only words to get married. The power of those words is something the community trusts in, something they want to believe.

That is where I can make their dreams come true. In my realm, words have their true meaning. Promises are binding, whether you meant them to be or not. It…keeps us honest, I suppose. The meaning of a word has power in and of itself, so that speaking it does make it so. Worlds can be created and destroyed with mere words…where I come from.

My subjects do not appreciate this. Goblins have never been known for their mastery of language or love of words. They fear the power of my words, of course – as well they should. But fear is only the beginning of respect, and they have never progressed further along that path. They never will. I am accustomed to it. It takes a human to appreciate how unique, how wonderful it is that words have power. I see that dawning realization in their eyes, and know that I have fulfilled that ancient desire. Sometimes, they fear it, little better than the goblins. But others try to wield it. Those are the most interesting.

They think I cheat. I have never cheated. I am always honest. I follow the rules, and if I do mislead, it only serves to reveal their assumptions. I always give them a chance. It is never completely hopeless, and there are always loopholes. It is their choice – their words – that will finally condemn them. But whether they choose reality or illusion, they will at least know this truth before the end: words have power.