The price of words

As a preacher and writer, I ‘trade’ in words. They are the ammunition in my arsenal. They are the strings, woodwind, percussion and brass in my orchestra.I try to treat them with respect and to appreciate their value. What are words actually worth, though?

As some of you will know, I am in the process of finalising my next book at the moment – Who Needs Words. As part of that process I contacted a national newspaper to seek permission to use a small twenty word quote. When they replied to my query that I would be charged at the rate of £2 + VAT for each word, for a licence lasting only five years, I declined and rewrote the relevant page. Costly words indeed!

Apparently in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia words can be very valuable just now. If the population are prepared to say ‘oh alright then’ , and ignore the unrest amongst their neighbours, it could be worth £880 per person from the royal coffers to buy their acquiescence.

In other contexts words are just about priceless. Analysis of transcripts from phone calls made on September 11th 2001 from the Twin Towers and Flight 93 reveal the three word phrase “I love you” time and time again. What else would you say in your last conversation?

Across the world today hundreds of thousands of Welsh people will be remembering their patron saint, St David, and his words. Amongst the most famous are: ‘Do the little things in life’ (‘Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd’). Words are not little things – they can start wars, seed revolutions, soothe souls and mend fences.

On average we speak between 16000 and 25000 words per day. How will you use yours today?