Taking Ownership: What Makes Words Ours?
Just like the idiosyncrasies of our personalities, our vocabularies make us distinctly who we are — or at least make us sound like who we are. Look at a block of written text someone you know wrote, and you can probably tell who wrote it just by paying attention to the words they used.
From the pet names we have for others to our distinct catch phrases, to our assortment of curse words; we have a way of sticking to certain ones that we eventually adopt as our own. And at that point we call others out for using “our words.”
Let’s take a closer look at what makes words distinctly ours.
Saying it first.
Being the first to say it is the definition of coining a term, right? Oy with the poodles, already! was born out of thin air. It’s just how it happens. You’re in the moment, and BAM! It’s like the saying goes about modern art: I could’ve done that. Yeah, but you didn’t.
Saying it often.
Paris Hilton was far from being the first person ever to say that something was hot. But she kept at it. Eventually, we ended up with the mindless yet catchy, “That’s hot.”
Similarly, Donald Trump decided to reserve the rights to the phrase, “You’re fired!” after using it in every one of his The Apprentice episodes. Talk about originality.
The same principle works in literature; you know The Great Gatsby is talking to you when he asks, “How about that, old sport?” Or that Dear Sugar is soothing your worries when she calls you “sweet pea.”
Saying it, period.
Have you ever heard anyone other than Fred Flintstone say, “Yabba Dabba Doo?” Maybe cause no one else can pull it off. Same way that only Bart Simpson can tell you to eat his shorts. As long as you’re saying something outlandish enough that no one else would ever say, consider it yours. Bazinga!
Saying it with sass.
Joey from Friends probably inspired many to use his classic pick-up line, “How you doin?” Nothing special about the line itself, except how he said it. Similarly, Frank from Everybody Loves Raymond had a very specific way of saying, “Holy Crap!” Specific enough that it became his thing.
So next time you notice someone start to use the same words you do, consider it a compliment.