The Two-Faced Coin of Language

Language is a delightful invention. Particularly English. The amount of ways to express ourselves with words is infinite. Especially for writers, it’s how we relate the detailed stories from our lives and imaginations for a greater audience.

Infinite Means of Communication

Since my class in the American Renaissance, I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for the dissection of individual words. Now, I can’t vouch for other languages. But I do know that in English, there are synonyms for everything. The beauty behind this is that writers have a wide selection of words that, while similar in definition, can convey a vast difference in actual meaning.

Language Dichotomy

Paul Tillich presents a fine example on the dichotomy of language in this famous quote:

“Language has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”

‘Loneliness’ and ‘solitude’ both describe the state of being alone. However, they are interpreted in ways that project different tones and even attitudes toward the state of being alone.

On average, the concept of ‘loneliness’ projects a sour, negative reaction to being alone. A desire to socialise while experiencing loneliness can be so strong that the emotional pain of isolation becomes too much for the lonely. Perhaps depression seeps in. Loneliness, in my opinion, is an involuntary state of being alone.

‘Solitude,’ on the other hand, is a personal decision to be alone. The seeker wishes, for whatever reason, to be sheltered from the rest of the world.  To be away from stress and sensual overstimulation. At peace with oneself and one’s environment.

Other Language Synonyms?

What other words in English easily represent this difference in word analysis? Or, even better, how do other languages handle this interpretive concept?

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