Lately I seem to have been surrounded by snot. Almost everyone I know has been making close friends with a tissue, either discreetly wiping their nose, or doing the full gluggy evacuation. Recent bus trips have been particularly unpleasant.
I therefore thought it was time to use everything I know to help me stay well. So I did the usuals of eating lots of veges, getting more sleep and over-using the hand-sanitiser. Then I realised there was one tool I needed to use more – and that is paying attention to how I talk about colds.
Why paying attention to how we speak is important
Remember what our high school teachers said about nouns? A noun is a name for tangible object. Someone once told me that a good test for a noun is if we can put it in a wheel barrow. A book, a cat, a friend – these words are nouns and we can put each of them into a wheel barrow. Lucky friend! Unlucky cat! To use a bit of Star Trek, my good test for a noun is if Scotty can beam it up. Scotty only seems to beam up Captain Kirk or strange looking canisters, i.e. solid objects made up of molecules.
Sometimes we turn intangibles into nouns. Eg. courage, or friendship. These things are a bit harder for Scotty to beam up, as they don’t have molecules. We can work out how to have more courage or friendship in our lives if we turn them into verbs – how are you courage-ing? In fact, how do you en-courage yourself? Then people have to work out what they actually do and do more of it.
Turning intangibles into nouns is helpful if we want to keep them or get more of them, e.g. courage and friendship.
Not so good if we don’t want more of them, e.g. colds. That is why I don’t talk about “having a cold”. The other Friday I was indeed “colding”, and I asked myself “How am I colding right now?” That sounds crazy, or at the least very bad grammar, and my English teacher might disown me at this point.
Turning a noun into a verb is helpul if we want to get more clues about we go about having that noun in our lives.
To say “colding, or add -ing to the end of a noun, turns it into a verb, which means that I am somehow involved in what is going on. Well, my nose was indeed running, and my throat was aching. Then I asked myself, “What can I do right now to stop my nose running?” And I noticed that there were indeed some things I could do, which also included remembering that it does pass.
With me so far? The importance of ‘My’
The effect of nouns is stronger if we decided to own nouns. E.g. My hand bag, my wallet, my car.
So what is good in our lives we can feel more close to, by putting My at the front of it, and turning it into a noun, even if it isn’t completely tangible. My relationship, My love for you, My health, My finances – Scotty can’t really Beam these things up, but I do feel they are mine and I own them – that they are real tangible things that I want in my life.
Try not to say ‘My Cold‘ or ‘I have a cold’
So, next time you feel yourself colding, I would suggest staying away from saying “My cold’, or “I have a cold”. Otherwise you own it by saying My, and have turned it into a noun, when it doesn’t actually exist as a thing. Even though you might fervently wish it, Scotty can not beam up your cold.
Ask yourself instead, “How am I colding right now?” And notice how nice it feels to imply that you soon will be feeling restored to your usual health and harmony.