In the 1930s, linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf argued that language shapes thought. Language, wrote Sapir, can be considered “the mold of thought.” Languages doesn’t simply latch on to pre-existing concepts. The words themselves define the concepts available to us and provide the raw building material for our thoughts. There can be no thoughts without the words to define them.
The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, as this argument became known, itself went on to influence social theories and, perhaps most famously, the ‘newspeak’ in George Orwell’s 1984.
I’m no linguist and I won’t try to argue over the correctness of linguistic relativity. What I find interesting is the premise that words can influence our thoughts, if not outright shaping them.