My Very Favorite Word

I traffic in words.  

I read them, write them, sing them, memorize them, teach them, misunderstand them, fall into fussy little debates about their proper usage, and spend way too long analyzing them. 

Words comfort, soothe, challenge, entertain, fortify, and protect--and I love them. I'd like to say that I love them all, but the truth is that A) I don't know them all, and B) some words are just plain awful -- hard to pronounce or awkward or gross or stupid or pointless or dumb. 

Yes, we all have words that we hate (impactful, moist, mammogram), but we also have words that we love: words pregnant with meaning (redemption, justice, vow), words that are a sheer delight to say (cattywampus, effervescent, galumphing, piffle), and words that we'd love to drop in conversation but avoid using too often for fear of sounding pompous (ubiquitous, erstwhile, obstreperous, panoply, contretemps). 

My favorite word, however, carries none of these qualities. This word is not necessarily pregnant with meaning by itself (although its presence does alter the meaning of the overall sentence). 

It's small, simple, and unimpressive, but what a difference it makes.

The word is yet.

Consider the difference:

"I haven't won the lottery" vs. "I haven't won the lottery...yet."

See what I mean?

Such a tiny word, but look what it can do:

"I haven't seen the world," vs. "I haven't seen the world ...yet."
"I haven't started jogging," vs. "I haven't started jogging...yet."
"I haven't quit smoking," vs. "I haven't quit smoking... yet."
"I haven't met the President," vs. "I haven't met the President... yet."
"I haven't made amends," vs. "I haven't made amends...yet."
"I haven't learned to juggle," vs. "I haven't learned to juggle... yet."

A change in tone. A statement of intent. A world of hope in three little letters.

Of course, the reverse is also true. Sadly, the word yet can be harnessed for a darker purpose, one favored by those who live in constant fear of the next unknown disaster:

"I haven't been ripped off," vs. "I haven't been ripped off... yet."
"I haven't contracted cancer," vs. "I haven't contracted cancer... yet."
"I haven't failed as a parent," vs. "I haven't failed as a parent... yet."
"I haven't screwed up at work," vs. "I haven't screwed up at work.. yet."
"I haven't gotten a divorce," vs. "I haven't gotten a divorce... yet."

The word yet is a hinge that affects our mental balance, and tipping too far in either direction is unhealthy. Remember that all goals aren't necessarily accomplished just because we believe they are possible, and all catastrophes don't strike simply because they might.

The word yet is not a guarantee but a word that creates space in our minds for possibilities.

Let's learn to use it wisely.


Popular Posts