I sometimes tell my students they are lucky to be taking my class, because our subject matter – spoken and written language – is the most powerful force on earth. After always seeing some shrugs and sighs and looks of puzzlement, I explain that without words being said and/or written, no war would have started, no marriage would have been made or unmade, no plans for anything would have been laid, and not even the littlest shared deed would have been done. It all starts with words, those smallest and most transient of our creations, those short-lived inventions we make with our mouths and place on computer screens or paper. They’re like significant explosions, each of them -- little lights let loose in the world to enlighten or bewilder, pacify or sting. They carry immense forces in their small containers, and my students and I are lucky to be learning of their powers each day in English class.
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