Words That Change

Posts Tagged ‘language’

The death list #1: Added value

In Uncategorized on 3 October, 2011 at 22:23

I am beginning a death list of words and terms that are becoming worthless through over-use. Death is a vital part of renewal and re-imagination. To restore a sense of meaning beyond words we need to change them consistently to understand the value that lies beneath.

My first word on the death list  is:


Notable Culprits: José Baldaia, The Minimalists, the entire design profession.

Beloved of designers and social business entrepreneurs this term isa way to suggest a deeper connection to one’s activity, or an interest in the needs of others. Indeed, by adding value, we are somehow contributing to a higher universal goal.

And what could be wrong with that?

Nothing. Except that a man turned up to a meeting today “to explore ways he could add value to the discussion”. He commoditised himself and became value adding machine.

This is a flip from previous meaning. Value-added used to be a term for economists to refer to activities that were motors of the economy. Technologies counted as value added, productivity and innovation were its hallmarks.

Added-Value, however, connotes a wider sense of contribution, in tune with natural human desires, relevant to the task at hand. Other people value what I do. What I do has value in that it – Note that a value has to exist in a person’s opinion. Nothing has value in itself. It has to be specified. To add value is therefore to create something about which people will have a good opinion. Surely not the hallmark of mavericks and world changers, or those whose creations have had lasting impact.

We use “added value” because we have lost a sense of how to specify what we want and need. And so a cliché is former whose use diminishes each time it is written or spoken.

Language-changing chefs

In Uncategorized on 13 September, 2011 at 14:29

9 of the world’s top chefs have written a manifesto for how their profession should create and engender well-being in society and the planet. Cynicism is inevitable but their language is radical and fantastic:

“Cooking is not only a response to the basic human need of feeding ourselves, and is also more than the search for happiness,” they said. “Cooking is a powerful, transformative tool that, through the joint effort of co-producers – whether we be chefs, producers or eaters – can change the way the world nourishes itself.”

We all have this power. It is not that they are telling everyone how they should be but taking responsibility for their role in the grand scheme. If each individual, business and government does the same quite a revolution would be on our hands.*

The Kogis of Colombia sit their children in caves to learn the teachings for nine years before they see daylight. When they emerge they are continuously supervised by an elder teaching and reminding them of the vast space they inhabit, even when engaged in the tiniest task.

“Look at the loom” says an elder to his student as he weaves, in the documentary From the Heart of the World “Look at its four corners and how they remind you of the four corners of the Earth”.

We are given the opportunity either to enslave ourselves and our surroundings, or be integrated, responsible and free. And changing our language is a powerful first step.

The Kogis documentary is viewable here, in appalling quality. I highly recommend buying the DVD but if you have no choice, its message is powerful even when pixellated.

*I have done the same for my business Words that Change – its role is to supply visions that inspire, and words that lift the heart.

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