Shakespeare was and still is one of the great masters of the English language. He was able to paint vivid portraits in words and rhythmic sentences. I’ve introduced a few people to the works of Shakespeare and when they finally start to get the hang of it, the common question is, “Why doesn’t anybody talk like this anymore?”
Of course, the answer is that no one spoke the way that characters do in Shakespearean plays.
But it’s still a great question. Billy Shakes didn’t waste a word. Every sentence was laced with imagery, metaphor, and emotion.
That Is, Like, Totally Awesome I Love It
This is in stark contrast to how we speak today. In the same way that I say, “I love my mom,” I will also say “I love Taco Bell.” Then I assume everyone will understand that what I actually mean is that I enjoy eating at Taco Bell and my mother is near and dear to my heart.
About six months ago I started to pay closer attention to my speech and the words I was using. As I listened to myself, it began to irritate me how often I would say “I love that” or “this is awesome” and “that is amazing.”
Really? Are the stars in the sky amazing just like the gif of the cat I just laughed at? No. In reality the cat gif is not amazing. And the more I use the word to describe things that are not amazing, the less meaning it has. It’s the same as the person who gives every movie five stars. Eventually you stop valuing their opinion.
The Sparano Scale
A few years ago I stumbled across The Sparano Scale™ and was immediately hooked by the simplicity and power of the idea. There is a great post explaining it fully over at the Oxide blog. The basic idea is that there are four possible assessments. Two positive: Great™ and Good™; and two negative: Not Great™ and Not Good™.
It didn’t take me long to incorporate this into how I talk about my enjoyment of movies, tv, food and music. This solved part of my language dilemma because it gave me a framework to be deliberate in the words I used. So in lieu of all the superlatives I would normally throw out when reviewing a film or making a recommendation to a friend- I would share where it ranked on the Sparano Scale™.
The one thing that didn’t change was how often I used the word “love” for things that I didn’t actually love. This bothered me because love is an amazing thing and every time I blurted it out about the waffle fries at Chick-fil-a the word decreased in value. And there wasn’t a way for me to incorporate The Sparano Scale™ because the words in the scale are assessments of quality. What I needed was a framework for expressing fondness.
The Affection Scale (beta)
The Affection Scale™ is the best answer I have devised yet to solve my problem. I needed a simple framework that would help me pay attention to the words I use, and give them more weight when I use them. Like the Sparano Scale™, it has no neutral area. I heavily debated this because in life there are many things that I could take or leave. The answer became clear when I asked myself, “What if I had a neutral affection towards everything?” That would be a miserable life.
As much as possible I want to have people and things in my life that I Like™ and Love™, because those things are what make life worth living.
I Like™ my iPhone because it does so much for me while being so small.
I Love™ my parents, they brought me into this world and have cared for and supported me my whole life.
Similarly, I need to understand my values and the things I stand for so that I can easily identify what I Dislike™ and Hate™. For example, I Dislike™ U.S. politics and the way our party system bickers and gets nothing done.
On the further side of the scale, I Hate™ human trafficking.
You’re Invited To Join The Beta!
I have been rolling this idea around for awhile now. I wanted to finally put it out into the world so I could get your feedback and hear your thoughts. Do you think about the weight of the words you say? Do you think something like The Affection Scale™ is helpful? How could it be improved?
I wanted to have comments up and working so we could have a lively discussion under this post, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. See my first post on moving past perfectionism to understand why I don’t care.
That’s Why There’s Twitter
So instead, hit me up on twitter (@joshuagoodell) with your thoughts and use the hashtag #affectionscale