The inadequacy of words

​Words are such an inadequate tool for the job we wish them to do. With them we try to describe and understand life and death, love and betrayal, sadness and joy. But they are never up to the task.

Words always fall short.

But just because they are inadequate doesn’t change the fact that they are the only tools, along with music and the image, that we have.

Imagine how you felt when you lost someone. The deep, deep sorrow. The overwhelming frustration at your inability to go back and alter the time you had together. The realisation that you will never see a smile spread across their face.

This feeling is beyond words. When we put pen to paper and try to express our feelings, we can’t. The words we use to describe such things manages to capture just a fraction of the intensity and the immensity of what we experience.

It is true what Guy Sajer, a young French-born German soldier in World War Two, observed: “I cannot find the words to describe what I saw. My impression is that all words and syllables were perfected to describe unimportant things.”

Yet we still try. Why? 

Because we have no better way to transmit our experience into the mind of another.