What are words for?


Every so often, an e-mail arrives.

For this little wandering of wondering, an e-mail with specific content. Not often. But often enough. Probably five or six times each year.

They contain offers, where a company claims the ability to provide for all of my needs in backpacks and backpack supplies. Promises that my customers will be getting the highest quality products. Everyone will be delighted. Expectations exceeded.

If you’ve been visiting the In My Backpack web site every so often since March of 2003, you already know the punchline. There are no backpack needs around here when it comes to physical backpacks and physical backpack supplies. There are no customers looking for the latest and greatest in outdoor gear, hiking equipment or assorted but similar stuff.

There are a few reasons people wind up visiting the In My Backpack web site. Some come for the wonderful creations from ComplemenTerry Designs. Some come to learn more about Local Friends for Local Business. There are bits and pieces and stuff not necessarily associated with my writing around every corner of the site to check out.

Several do stop by for the writing. They come for the essays. They make comments, offer feedback, and look around to find out more about some of my books.

Many arrive by mistake. (Hurt to write that. Still, it’s true.)

Those that land on the web site looking for backpacks leave… perhaps quickly… and, since I’m not taking orders for backpacks, they leave without placing an order for a backpack.

The really funny part though is probably that the arrival of adventurous backpackers shouldn’t be a surprise. Neither should the e-mails. And, for me at least, it’s not. As eye rolling as it can be, the reality is simple. I do use the phrasing and wording the mentions backpacks, and technology is a wonderous thing.

In many of the misinterpretation of content moments, they’ve come to In My Backpack because of a word. Backpack. That’s all. But in these days of search engines and software and programming… ta-dah… welcome to In My Backpack hikers and adventurists everywhere! (Enjoy your stay. Please check out the gift shop.)

A few years ago, I could not in any way determine why people were putting number signs in front of things. Or, in the automated phone call world, pound signs. What the hell did hashtag mean? What was a hashtag?

The world has changed.

Words are no longer items solely with meaning and intent. We’ve moved beyond communication. Words now have significant weight… numerical weight. Words are compiled and processed and reviewed and charted and interpreted.

It used to be that you could offer support and praise with words. Now it’s some variation of #support and #praise, posted with a selfie and the hopes of likes and shares and follows. Now it’s not selecting the words with the proper significance you wish to convey as it is selecting them to get placed on the first page of search results and the top of trending analytics.

I suppose in many ways, a lot of this is closer to being an expansion of the true value of words. After all, in discussing cars we car still use terms like bonnet, trunk, boot and hood, and have a complete and full understanding of each other. (At least until the conversation moves along to which side is proper for the placement of a steering wheel, at which point everything will fall apart.)

The trick is, and always will be, being able to create some form of understanding. A connection. Exchanging information. Communicating. That is, ultimately, what words are for.

When the filling-my-backpack-needs e-mails arrive, they might generate a chuckle while always earning a quick delete from me. That’s it. I don’t reply. (I never click links.)

If I want a presence on the world wide web, there will be searches and more leading people to my figurative doorstep. (Or more precisely, misleading people to it. (Or, even more precisely, leading software and programs to it.)) And the same methods that trigger responses in error also have the potential to bring people to the site that might never have found it otherwise (and potentially turn them into frequently returning visitors).

(Side note – To those of you stopping in for the first time. Welcome! Hope you enjoy your stay, look around, and come back often. Glad to have you here.)

Ultimately, we use words to achieve results. Results in broad, sweeping, generalized ways. Results in multiple definitions and synonyms and more. Results.

Occasionally, they simply may not be the results we intend.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com