The Power of Words

When English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote the adage ‘The pen is mightier than the sword.’ he had little idea of how this line would evolve into a much used maxim over nearly two centuries of creative culture.

Since it’s introduction in Bulwer-Lytton’s 1839 play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy, the phrase, advocating disputes can be resolved by erudite communication as opposed to violence, has been included in numerous pieces of artistic work.

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It was utilised by author Mark Twain in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the movies Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade as well as Batman, in US presidential campaigns and as university mottos. Additionally, Rap artist Eminem used the phrase in his song Baby, not to mention its use on a poster by the moody, master of melancholy Morrissey.

The lead singer of The Smiths mischievously combining the words pen and is so the adage now included a word for appendage!

I’d like to think that, after penning this dictum of reasoning, Bulwer-Lytton got involved in a fist fight with critics who’d slated the opening night of his 1839 play. I suspect that didn’t happen, though, as he wasn’t even at the theatre that evening; preferring instead to stay home playing Kerplunk and polishing his sword.

What would the London born Earl have made of his creative endeavour being hijacked by a 21st century rapper, included in 20th century action film scripts and used by Woodrow Wilson in his 1916 US presidential re-election campaign? ……. Don’t look at me, I don’t chuffing know!…… I never met the bloke, he died over a hundred years ago!

I would guess he’d be flattered that a line emanating from the depths of his cranial corridors became an aphorism deemed worthy of enduring appreciation over the last 180 years..

Bearing in mind authors don’t use pens on a large scale in the 21st century, I pondered what an updated version of Bulwer-Lytton’s adage would look like.

‘Word for Windows is mightier than the sword’ perhaps? Or would the sword need to be replaced by a contemporary weapon leaving an updated phrase of ‘Word for Windows is mightier than the Kalashnikov rifle.’

Personally, I prefer the Earl’s 19th century version for its superior poetic literary value. You could argue no weapon is appealing, however there is a romance and something chivalrous about pens and swords. Something undeniably lacking in Word for Windows and Kalashnikov rifles.

Can you imagine how much the romance would diminish in the legend of King Arthur and Camelot if he received a rifle from the Lady of the Lake, instead of Excalibur. Not to mention how the weapon would no longer be fit for purpose, its internal workings jammed by rust.

There would be no WD40 to clear the rust in those times, although saying that there wouldn’t have been rifles either so strike that thought.

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In this social media age, the pen can be an even mightier nemesis. It give millions more people the opportunity to indoctrinate their connections with negativity, hate, bullying and spite.

You can guarantee that your Twitter feed is never short of negativity and the rants of the over-indulged. Along with the vitriol of individuals who deem they should never be inconvenienced no matter what.

I should know as I’ve just written two paragraphs of negative crap as well. It’s really easy although without benefit.

I’m confident I’m not wrong, but I don’t have any stats to back up if the negative tweets are in the majority so it’s pure supposition. They are merely the subjective comments of a bitter middle aged man.

I like to end my narratives with something positive or light hearted, after all you shouldn’t go to bed on an argument…… But I’m not tonight!….. I’m off in the spare room!…… Turn the lights off and put out the cat when you come up!


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