It sounded better in Spanish

There’s a sign in the gym at my church that says “No fumar.” No fumar – it   sounds so official, so important. Fumar sounds, well it sounds bad. It brings to mind pictures of nuclear plants, radiation, fall-out shelters. Turns out that fumar sounds bad because it is but this sign is referring to “no smoking” or literally, “not to smoke.” Somehow “no fumar” instead of “no smoking” gives so much more import, sounds more official, more “take notice.”

While driving in Ireland on vacation, I saw signs written in both English and German that said “Attention: Drive on left.” The German  had so much more punch – Achtung. Achtung. It really sounds important, makes you want to sit up straight, and well, pay attention. The signs were placed on the downhill drive of curvy mountain roads that for the most part, lacked guard rails. White-knuckled American and German drivers, whose instincts told them to move to the safety on the right on this steep and dangerous descent, were constantly reminded to stay where they were supposed to be. Achtung, Achtung, all the way down did the trick. 

The right words, spoken or written, are like soothing music to our ears and minds. Reading a well-written book, article or blog is a joy. The same sentiment, in awkward or harsh-sounding prose, conveys a different meaning and leaves the hearer/reader in a less-happy state of mind. When stern warnings are needed, the right words convey the importance of the message, without offending the reader.

Today, think about your words, written or spoken. Do they convey the meaning you want to give? Are there better words to convey your point? What words do you use to draw attention or squelch bad behavior, without crushing the spirit?

(Images courtesy of Google. Original photo credits unknown.)

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