Ирина Говоруха
Writer, blogger and journalist
Liberal Arts
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Laura Zinich. Language, series «Fonts», 2023 / Facebook, «Sil-Sol».
Artwork: huxley.media via Photoshop


There are words sunny and rainy. The cold and the warm. Those that support and those that devalue. The good ones and the evil ones. Heavenly pure and infernal. Inspirational and threatening. Good tidings and warnings of danger. So it’s up to us to decide what to say and what to keep quiet about. What to go out into the world with and what to leave behind the scenes forever.


Words can kill and revive, injure and cure,

bring anxiety and hopelessness, dispel doubt and confusion,


to make you laugh and cry, to inspire faith in people

and to plant disbelief, to inspire to work and to dull the strength of the soul….


Vasyl Sukhomlynsky


In our family, it was common to say one seemingly insignificant phrase. Dad often repeated: «We are not given…» It is not given to us to achieve something, to get rich, to get out of poverty… Because we have such karma, fate, and cross. That’s why we shouldn’t even try and tear our hearts out, because it won’t work out anyway.

«Our grandmother went to the market to sell strawberries, picked a full basket (a big berry, the size of a paradise apple), and on the way, she tripped and fell into the ditch: no berries, no money, and broken leg… Do you remember how my mother grew dahlias all summer? Walking around them, fertilizing them, feeding them. Rejoiced that she had the best varieties: spherical, like Belgian waffles, and tall with a flower diameter of up to twenty centimeters. Each resembled a glamorous woman’s hat. On the eve of the first of September, she cut them off (there were only stumps left in the flower garden), put them in bouquets, and went to the market. She stood there all day and sold only one bunch for three hryvnias. I brought back wilted ‘wafer heads’ and ‘hats,’ which had to be thrown into the dung heap».

Dad had a lot of such examples in his stash, and with their help he could convince anyone in his own rightness.




Since then, no matter what I started to do, it was as if a woodpecker woke up in my head and persistently pounded: «I can’t do it! Not given! Not given!» Knocked persistently, causing prolonged migraines. He shouted out any good ideas and thoughts. That’s why, for a long time, I lived sluggishly and non-initiatively because why work hard if nothing will work out anyway?

Why strain, under-sleep, change work, housing, and profession when we have a «veto» on us? And since the time of my grandfathers and great-grandfathers, everyone in the family was poor. We bent our backs at the governor, at the Soviet power, at the next fat and stingy chief but invariably died in poverty.

Now I understand what a large-scale program was built into my body, and what a powerful energy the phrase «not given» has, because each word is not just a few letters and syllables. It’s not just accent, articulation, pronunciation. It is above all a stoic energy and message. Important information. A script. After all, if we now say «love», «ice», «honey», and «death», we will feel absolutely different vibrations.

Words can exalt and kill. Feed and poison. Heal and, conversely, destroy the foundation. And it is also important the mood in which we say this or that. In the network met a description of a strange case. His heroine drank a glass of water, and when she returned the empty container, she heard a cheeky: «Honey, congratulations, you drank poison». The girl instantly lost consciousness. It turns out that it was not the poison that knocked her down but the sentence, which carried a negative code.

There were no other options, like 50/50, only irrevocable death. We were given many examples in psychology class. Here is one of them: the subjects’ bodies were touched with a cold metal object, but they were warned: «Get ready, it is very hot». The person cried out in pain, and the skin was burned. Subsequently, they did the opposite, touched a hot object but called it cold, and nothing happened. Are words stronger than sensations?




There was a Japanese man named Masaru Emoto. His «science» was considered fake and fictitious, but he persevered. He experimented with water. Over one flask, he scattered pleasantries and compliments; over the other, he said insults and curses. Then he froze in shock the water in both flasks. The results were spectacular.

The water imbued with kindness froze with lace-like Irish or Flemish lace, while the water that had been insulted had chaotic and shapeless patterns in the cut. The same is true of man. You say the word pill to him, and he is resurrected. Loudly say: «You are a loser, and your father was a loser»— the life tone will instantly be at «zero» because words and word combinations can be useful, like vitamins, and can, on the contrary, carry poison.

I remember one fashionable training (I attended hundreds of them in my time). It was conducted by a rather arrogant man dressed in the latest fashion. Watches, cufflinks, shirts, and socks — everything was branded and expensive.

The coach was constantly admiring himself in the mirror, catching his reflection in the window glass and looking carefully into our eyes as if looking for confirmation: «Really, I’m okay?» Toward the end, he drew our attention to two phrases — «You gotta be kidding me!» and «No way» — and demonstrated how illiterate we were in using them.

For example, a neighbor bought a house. It has ten rooms and three bathrooms. Smart coffee maker, electricity, doors. Wherever you go, the music wanders along. The floor heats itself as you cross the threshold. Genoa glass chandeliers. The furniture is beech. We stare in admiration and exclaim, «No way!» when we should be saying, «You gotta be kidding me!» In other words, «I want one of those».

Next case. A neighbor tells long and tediously about her ordeals. How she was ill with COVID, divorced her husband, and robbed her blind, changed five jobs during the year. We again inappropriately: «You gotta be kidding me!» — not realizing that subconsciously, we are asking for similar trials for ourselves. In this case, we should say a firm and unquestioning «No way!»

There are many words that can change life beyond recognition. Among them is the seemingly simple and unremarkable «Thank you». This story happened at school when I was in the fourth grade. There was among us one boy from a dysfunctional family, which was despised by everyone. Vasiliy did not have the stars from heaven: he barely managed to survive from a «D» to a «C», his memory was bad, he could not memorize even «The white flies flew in, all the underworld became white».

He used to wear out his school uniform after his older brothers, so his knees and elbows shone like mirrors. He always sat at the last desk alone like a finger. Once, he was on duty in the classroom and cleaned the blackboard well. The teacher paid attention to it and thanked him sincerely in front of the whole class. Vasily blushed. It was obvious that this was the first time in his life he had heard such a thing.

Since then, it was as if he was replaced. The teenager voluntarily fixed everything that broke, gave most of all waste paper, went to the library, and «repaired» books. Recently, he came to a meeting of his classmates and told us about his own cleaning agency, and then went up to our old teacher and quietly said: «Thank you for that ‘Thank you.’ You have awakened a great strength in me».

So, all words in the Ukrainian language are divided into three groups: positive, negative and neutral. The following ones discourage success: «no», «hate», «curse», «problem», «poverty», «death», «devil», «never», «bad luck», «fatigue», «fool», «can’t», «hopeless», «not given». Positive ones include «luck», «happiness», «love», «well-being», «gratitude», «success», «confidence», «trust», «health».

This list can be continued until the Second Coming, because euphonious and warm around the carriage and a small cart. You can admire them, bask in them, and also taste them like a crust of bread. Here are a few of them: «mug», «benevolent», «glade», «sitting», «conversation», «bearded man», «water carrier», «ring», «beauty», «Easter», «rowdies», «hardening», «lace», «strawberry».

Nossrat Pezeshkian, a German neurologist and psychotherapist of Iranian descent, has identified other categories of words, such as «words-breaker», «words-shackles», and «words-wings». After all, when we assure that «we can’t», «we don’t know how», «it won’t work», that is exactly what will happen, because subconsciously we have put shackles on ourselves. Here we can add «it’s not time yet», «as long as it’s not worse», «I can’t afford it», «it’s impossible», «not with our happiness», «not in this country», «we have what we have».

A similar thing happens when we say to others and thus clip other people’s wings: «You can’t,» «You won’t succeed, »«You don’t know,» «You won’t make it this far,» «Your thoughts are ridiculous», «You will never reach your goal»… There is even a parable about it. Childish, flat, but quite revealing.

Once, the frogs decided to climb a high mountain. They put on comfortable tights, proper rock boots, and baseball caps. A bunch of spectators, «armed» with popcorn and coke, gathered at the foot of the mountain. They stared, giggled, scoffed. Lively scanned, «You won’t make it», and all the frogs, as if on cue, flew down. Only one was able to climb to the very top because she was deaf from birth.

Wing words, on the other hand, have a very different message. They include «I can», «I want to», «I will succeed» and «I believe in you», «I support you», «I know you can do it».


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I think back to one of my psychology professors at university. A young woman who was sunny and endlessly in love with her subject. Once the psychologist came in and said a few sentences, we were imbued with the science of life. And she said the following: «Congratulations to you, future specialists. I am sincerely sure that you will reach great heights, each in his field, because you will get an understanding of how the human subconscious is organized. And also tools for mastering your own emotions and sensations». We left the classroom inspired. Full of energy and strength.

At one time I worked as a governess for a wealthy family. I had just graduated from university and was tirelessly searching for myself. One day, the grandmother came to visit her grandchildren and began to put everything in order. One day a woman came to my class and saw that the children were unwilling to learn. 

Lazing around, confusing vowels and consonants, demanding chocolate and a break. She then led them over to a window where builders were busily constructing new cottages and gardeners were spreading rolls of grass on the tennis court and sniggered: «If you don’t study hard enough, you’ll become stinking laborers like this. Second-class people».

Honestly, I felt dizzy, and my mouth felt so bitter, as if I had eaten that cement and artificial grass. Seemingly ordinary words were spoken, but combined in such an unexpected way that it immediately felt bad, as honest labor was devalued and the world was divided into light and dim.




We Ukrainians have in our own baggage two more driving forces: blessing and curse (they say that wounding with firearms is less dangerous than curses). Here, there are already no individual words, but whole sentences imbued with goodness or, on the contrary, hatred. Positive words and factors help to receive good energy. Words-curses, which are uttered in hearts with malicious intent, resemble knives and carry destructive power.

Especially when wished: «And that you do not see the wealth!», «That you sour!», «Damn you!», «That your face threshed millet!» «That you were empty!». The list of swear words isn’t just long, it’s extensive. Neighbors, teachers, and mothers sin against their own children. My classmate and her brother’s mother used to say in her heart: «May you become stumps!» — and son came back from the war without both legs.

A woman with Tourette’s syndrome often wanders near our house. She’s thin, always gray, dirty. Apparently has several mental illnesses and looks completely crazy. Everywhere she goes, she’s always cursing. Does it loudly, with anger and hatred. My child was so scared of her that I had to go to specialists because children are too sensitive to the energy of words.

They see and hear things that cannot be comprehended with ordinary sight and hearing. We live on the eighth floor, but when a crazy person steps somewhere, we always know about it, even if the windows are tightly closed because what is said in our hearts has the ability to fly to any height.

In the snowy mountains of Switzerland, in some places guides ask travelers to keep complete silence, because from the slightest fluctuation of air the snow can separate from the clay and provoke a collapse. In this case, everything will fly into the abyss: people, snow and the sun and clouds.

There is another amazing group of words that can inspire, uplift the mood, as if to apply lotions to the soul. It is talented poetry. In it, words are selected in such a way that the phrase in the end began to shine, shimmering colors, to cause a mental uplift. Each word has its own rhythm and coloring. Combined with another, the rhythm becomes clearer and the colors juicier.

For example, when I read Lina Kostenko’s poems, I get the impression that I am drinking spring water, tempered in the morning sun. It’s as if I’m looking out the window, and there are primrose flowers, thaw, sky in blue chiffon. Palm trees, parental pears, and the green August Dnipro. When I recite Zhadan, I want to straighten up, pull in my stomach and tame my disheveled hair. To go to the gym, to put my house and my head in order.

His lines are so rhythmic and inspiring that after reading just one poem, you can roll mountains. You can change your profile, get married or finally divorce, dig up a vegetable garden, invent a new project, and figure out congruent numbers.

Rereading Natalia Zabila, you just want to build a tiny house with your daughter. Invite her friends to visit and organize a master class on painting ginger cookies. Put to bed a hare, sew a new sundress for Marinka doll. Play hide-and-seek and «Swan-Goose».

Another parable came to mind. The story of a phlegmatic father and a choleric son. The boy had a hot temper and, for any reason, would explode, boil over, and get hot-tempered. Every time he entered a certain state of affect, risked to make a mess. Once his father gave him a bag of nails and ordered him to hammer them into the fence when he would lose patience. On the first day the boy hammered thirty-seven nails. Then things got better, and there came a moment when he had not hammered a single one.

— Now, pull one out at a time when you feel another emotional outburst.

After a week or two, the boy put the nails in his bag and felt like a winner. Then the man took him over to the fence and pointed out the numerous holes:

— You see, the word is not really something loose and weightless. It is not absorbent cotton or swan down, but rather a battle sword. A sharp weapon. You can stick the «knife» in, later repent, take the «knife» back, but the wound remains. A soul wound inflicted by the language hurts as much as a bodily wound. You can stitch up the bodily wound, apply antibiotic ointment or staples, but you can’t heal the soul with sewing or bandaging.


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