Word Nerd

When Words Are Not Enough

Words are incredibly versatile things. Even when they are supposed to be simple and unambiguous, they can often be anything but.

Ordinary communication is replete with figurative, non-literal word use. Juliet is the Sun. Time is money. Linguists have documented in detail how pervasive metaphor and other types of figurative expression have become. They are now so pervasive in everyday language that most can no longer discern them. These days, a fish is more likely to notice the water it swims in.

Words labHuman communication is a glorious chaos. And images, from art to emojis, sometimes say it so much better than language can.

Societies are not biological organisms, but you wouldn’t know it from our everyday language. We talk of social afflictions and of a plague on society. We talk of the body politic, and of how we should give our nation a shot in the arm. The examples are endless, and this expressive flexibility is powerful. How is painting, or any art form, going to do anything that language can’t?

To answer this question, we need to look at the inexact art of human communication in the round. When a word is not enough.

Quartknee is an internationally beloved author, storied entertainer, and legendary night-life impresario. He’s also a prominent aesthete and all around tall guy.