The words we use say a lot about us and the way we think about the words we use says even more. This is something I considered whilst using Microsoft Word’s inbuilt thesaurus and comparing it to a much more thorough and useful one online. The difference was very telling, especially where Microsoft, money and the priorities of our society were concerned.
For the word ‘value’ for example, Microsoft came up with synonyms like price, worth and cost first – all very financially orientated words for what is really a very broad concept (admittedly this is less so for worth). The more complete thesaurus on the other hand came up with admire, application and appraise, to name the first three in the alphabetical list – a good variety of words relating to the multiple meanings of the word value.
Overall Microsoft came up with eight terms for value, five of which were financially orientated. By comparison, out of the first eight words the more thorough thesaurus came up with, only two were financial. Some were general synonyms for value and one was beauty, which got me thinking.
The price or cost of something is only one subjective analysis of its value. The beauty of something is another. Both are subjective: ‘Beauty is in the eye of the be
holder’ and ‘everything is worth what the buyer will pay’ to coin two old phrases. The main difference here is that beauty is innate in things; created and evaluated personally, independently of any objective human system, whereas price is a human construct based on supply and demand. Our society has slowly turned in on itself, evaluating things based only on their price, when it should be pricing things based on their wider value. Our politics and institutions reflect this. We hear our leaders talking about cutting back on important services to save money. They make the same error as Microsoft’s thesaurus does, confusing the value of something with its price, seeing money as having its own value and thinking that just because something costs a lot it is not worthwhile.
The price of something is not the same as its value, just as the height of something is not the same as its size. Everything must be considered from every angle; our words simply tell others what angles we are able to look at things from.