06/07/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Step Aside Math, There's a New Universal Language in the Global Village

I'm sorry, Math. You had a great run as the universal language, but I'm afraid that LEGO bricks have supplanted you when it comes to getting a point across.

When the language columnist at The Christian Science Monitor sought to explain how prefixes and suffixes can change the meaning of words, she turned to the little plastic bricks and not integers. Columnist Ruth Walker wrote, "You might think of this process as the LEGO approach to making new words by snapping pieces together -- or occasionally, by breaking a piece off."

There's no bigger endorsement than a language columnist. But why did Walker choose to explain the creation of new words through the act of clicking bricks together? I think she -- like dictionaries before her -- has picked up on what's happening in our society.

We use LEGO bricks to explain just about everything in our lives. Hospital ward modules that snap together? They're "LEGO wards."The prefabricated Klip House is built from "LEGO-like parts." " In Love? Wired's Matt Blum suggests, "If feelings were LEGO sets, my love for you would be the Death Star."

And that universal understanding comes from two distinct sources: the global availability of the toy (approximately one LEGO set is sold every seven seconds) and the composition of LEGO set instructions. Every pirate ship or building comes with a printed booklet that uses pictures to communicate numbered (welcome back to the party, Math) steps. There's no written text, other than the set's name. You have to find the pictured bricks and then match your creation to what you see on the page. And that experience happens on living room floors all across the world.

We also have a series of shared experiences that help us relate -- it's not "How about them Mets?" Today, "It's how about those LEGOs." Parents know all about the hot agony of stepping with a bare foot on a bumpy brick. Children know the experience of looming dental work after biting into two bricks in an attempt to pry them apart. And both would know the satisfaction of hearing pieces click together.

So now Mathematics, you know why I avoided you in college. It was nothing personal, I just knew, even then, that there was a better thing coming. But look on the bright side Math, you can totally still get a job at McDonald's -- they always need someone to work the register.

If you're reading this Math, I just want to let you know in your language:
01001001 00100111 01101101 00100000 01110011 01101111 01110010 01110010 01111001 00100000 01101101 01100001 01110100 01101000 00001101 00001010