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The power of words and their meaning shape our perceptions


You cannot watch television, read a magazine, do ANYTHING on the Internet, or even just take a walk around most towns without being bombarded by words and their meanings — words and meanings that shape the way we actually see and regard the world we live in.

Take the city of Las Vegas as an example. The concept of Vegas vacations have changed over the last few decades, largely because of the decisions Las Vegas merchants and the business community there make to reinvent the city. People think about Las Vegas in a certain way, whether they live there or simply travel there for vacations or business. And that perception has been consciously changed regarding the entire city and surrounding area throughout the life of the city.

In the 1950s and ’60s, Las Vegas changed from a sleepy desert town to an entertainment/gambling destination. In the 1960s especially, glamorous entertainers and big-name acts were in vogue, i.e., Frank Sinatra and his “Rat Pack” were hot.

But during the 1970s and ’80s, as I understand it, the mega hotels with games and a family resort-like atmosphere began to grow. Gambling and casinos never stopped, of course, because that’s where the real money is in Vegas. Yet business interests in Vegas changed their advertising and turned (tried to turn) the city into a family fun destination.

Then came the 1990s and recent efforts in the early 2000s — “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” was the slogan that took over, and it was suddenly a fun Sin City again. Currently, most of the advertising I’ve seen for Las Vegas seems not really clearly defined. They want to keep the “sin city” draw, but they want to appeal to a broader group of tourists, too. The most recent television ads I’ve seen for Las Vegas show a rather bizarre, screwy bunch of people self-destructing in a beauty salon, with so little identification to Las Vegas that I almost always forget what the ad is for until near the end. (In my opinion, it’s a very lame ad campaign, but they never asked for my opinion.)

What’s the point of all this? The point is that millions of dollars in revenue and the entire perception of this city of several million people rises and falls on the words used and the way those words are used to portray them. Is that good or bad? Good or bad, it illustrates the reality that words and the way those words are used actually shape reality, or at least our perception of reality.

Be thoughtful about using words today. As a writer, you have great power at your fingertips as they dance across the keyboard. Use that power for good, not evil.