Possibly the most under-used word humankind has ever created. It is the jack-of-all-trades in terms of usage; it can be singular in response, requiring no other syntax attached before or after. It can project playfulness, disbelief, anger, surprise, hurt, accusation - the list goes on. Surprisingly (to me), it doesn't even make the top 100 on wikipedia's 'Most Common Words in English.' If curious, check for yourself by clicking on this LINK.
Just ask any parent trying to cajole a five year old into eating broccoli:
"Eat your broccoli, darling."
Defiant child, "Why?"
"Because it's good for you, sweetie."
Inhales deeply, "It'll make you big and strong, darling."
Evil little twinkle appears in the eyes, "Whhhhhy?"
And you can see where that is heading.
Below is a more clinical breakdown of this versatile, little, innocuous word that has such power and impact.
is an adverb - for what cause, reason or purpose, "Why did you do it?"
a conjunction - the cause, reason or purpose for which - know why you did it... that is why you did it.
for which / on account of which - know the reason why you did it.
a noun (plural: whys) - reason / cause - wants to know the whys and wherefores.
interjection - used to express mild surprise, hesitation, approval, disapproval or impatience - why, here's what I was looking for.
Even used in a sentence as an adverb - Why did you quit your job? Why is the sky blue?
Moreover, it's used when we feel betrayed, let down, cheated or as an expression of anguish. It can be the most crushing of words uttered from the lips of the one you love and have hurt, but more likely, the one you used to love. It's imploring tonal use, coupled with tear-filled eyes and a heart-broken visage standing before you is more powerful than any physical assault, and sometimes the latter is preferred.
As the one asking, it is doubly painful when the one being asked refuses to give an answer, and that, as mentioned, can be a soul-crushing feeling. I have been there, both as the one asking, and the one being asked. Neither is an experience I wish to repeat.
On the flip side, it is also a powerful means with which to disarm a passive-aggressive barrage of words thrown at you by a smug, self-righteous arse. WHY can destroy the rhetoric hurled your way in one simple stroke, forcing the opposition to regroup and explain. This usually results in flustered mumbling then abuse, should the person in question have zero grasp of what they've said, proving they're regurgitating words from another source, whilst not knowing or understanding the justification, logic or viewpoint from which the diatribe originated. This is commonly used by certain political advocates as a means to discredit an opponent without any basis in truth, fact or justification, but purely based on an opposite idea of thought.
Quite often WHY is a method of self analysis. A delving into your own reasoning and psyche. Admittedly, there are those for whom the act of opening their inner Pandora's Box is an unappealing prospect, and the majority will opt for an easy route, never to darken that particular closet within their mind.
But for the stronger and less faint of heart it is, or at least, can be, a massively empowering journey towards the iD - as described by Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory of personality, 'the id is the personality component made up of unconscious psychic energy that works to satisfy basic urges, needs and desires.'
To face this is to face the darkest depths of your own personality and humanity. To gaze into this mirror is never to un-see it, nor unknow it. It stays with you your entire life, so be careful as the person staring back at you isn't always going to be the one you hoped for.
WHY did I begin this post? A combination of things; my current state of mind, life, memories, a feeling of reflection maybe? Ultimately, only I will ever know, but has it set you to thinking? If so, then good.
Whatever the reason, IF you've read all the way through I thank you. I shall leave you with Annie Lennox and the song that sums it all up beautifully, 'WHY'.