Friday, September 12, 2008

Words we Use

Words we Use

A sound, a simple utterance of vocal chords that vibrate the air that vibrates the eardrum, is one definition of a word. Ink upon a piece of paper or a visible drawing on a computer screen we humans have defined as characters. So much for clinical descriptions. What really, are words?

Using predefined definitions, letters are assembled into groups that are then given a meaning that over time can morph into something quite unlike what started out as. Let’s look at a few examples. Turf used to be a safe word referring to ground. Now its gang-controlled territory. Ever twist your back? You can easily, doing the twist, a dance. Then we have bad, when used today we don’t know if it’s bad, or good. If something is cherry, is it red, edible, old, or just what?

These are the words we use. When you say something, make sure everyone involved in the conversation uses the same set of definitions, otherwise what you say may not be what you really mean. If in doubt, ask the other person to tell you what they think you said. You may be surprised.

It’s even more dangerous in written communication. The same words, read by two people can be read differently. Some people read word for word, literal reading. Others read between the lines and see a different meaning to the same words. With written communication, one does not have the benefit of enunciation or vocal inflection. Nor can one see or hear the tone of a voice and that also can change the meaning.

The bottom line is, be careful of the words you use. You may say something very much unlike what you want to say.


Bobby said...

I had a linguistics teacher in college who wrote a book about the word 'break.' He chose this topic, and this particular word, to show how words lose meaning and value because they have so many different meanings.

I actually enjoyed that class. Dr. Ruhl was his name - ODU in Norfolk.

HP toner said...

Sounds great that you know all about your stuff! Its intriguing when you speak to someone who knows what they speak about, as oppose to reciting it from someone else they learned from. I can see you are very experienced and with your credentials it is quite obvious that you will make it far in life, or have already made it far in life :)