I've always been a lover of language for as long as I could remember. There are so many ways for us to express our feelings, emotions, thoughts, passions, concerns, and anything else we are thinking with the rest of the world. Language opens up the door to our creativity in how we choose to put word and phrases together in certain rhythms and tones in order for others to listen or understand most effectively. It's brilliant! I'm not sure how many people know this about me, but I've also always been extremely interested in the study of multiple languages. The term 'polyglot' is reserved for individuals who speak and understand multiple languages (not to be confused with polygamist...may do a blog about that later though). I've always wanted to be a polyglot! In my life so far, I have studied (or attempted to study) English (obviously), Spanish, French, German, Latin, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, Arabic, Swedish, and even sign language (asl)! Not that I'm particularly fluent in anything but English, but I do find it very intriguing how each language has a different name for the same thing. If you think about it, even within ONE language there can be multiple names for one thing (as with synonyms or euphemisms). How then do we decide which words to use at which times? Do the words we use have the same meaning to the person listening to us?
Have you ever been in a situation where you said something and someone took it the wrong way? Of course you have! MIScommunication is the basis of most communication. Choosing the words we want to use in a particular setting can sometimes be quite difficult. This is probably one reason why I listen way more than I speak, but love to write everything down. That way I can see how it looks from different angles, and also not confuse the wording with the delivery. But that's just me!
What's in a word anyway? These days it seems that a lot of us get into arguments over what certain things actually mean, confusing the heck outta me if I do say so myself. For instance, there are so many words that have recently surfaced over the past decade to further define and categorize people by gender, race, class, age, etc. Millenial, Latin-x, non-gender binary... so many things! Even phrases and words I've been accustomed to using all of my life (like "black" to describe an ethnic background) are sometimes looked at as limiting, non-inclusive, or just plain wrong. At this point, I sometimes don't know what to call anyone or anything anymore so I just keep my darn mouth shut. I've also seen a lot of back and forth over certain word meanings via social media. Racism and feminism happen to be two of the biggest as far as I've seen. I admit that these 2 words, in particular, carry a lot of weight behind them, and are far more complex than a mere dictionary could define. Since language is a human invention, it's open to human interpretation. People attach meaning to words based on different experiences and points of view, which doesn't really get us very far if the people we are talking to can't agree on one particular meaning. I've watched countless videos on Youtube, read numerous articles, and seen many statuses... all with wildly different connotations. Usually, in heated debates, people love to retreat to the "google it" defense (which, in my opinion, is probably the absolute worst thing you could ever say to anyone ever in a conversation).
This is one reason why semantics [is/are?] both the bain of my existence and a very important tool to help us all communicate better. What's really in a word? Over time, language has proven to evolve and change with the times. Even words that once meant something, could now mean something else. It is difficult for sure when in the middle of a discussion amongst peers, there are discrepancies with meanings on both ends. Language is often something most of us take for granted since we do it all the time. We tend to take split seconds to dissect, analyze, interpret, and ultimately respond to the things we hear. I'm certain that many intentions with our wording and phrasing are simply lost on deaf ears. One of my favorite things to ask others is actually "what do you mean". I like to be clear! Even if I understand what a word means, I know it could mean something else and/or MORE to the person using it in their own context. Context is important. Alternatively, whenever a person says something like "you know what I mean", often times, sure, I do know they mean, but sometimes what is obvious to you, may not be to someone else.
This subject is just so interesting to me! I could really go on and on. I'm actually simultaneously in a Youtube k-hole watching linguistic lectures while typing this very post. Super nerdy. We all seem to be very concerned with the content of what we say these days, but I think the fascinating part is much deeper than that. One of my theories in life is that most conversation relaying opposing viewpoints are really just arguing the exact same case but worded differently. Think about it! The point is, try not to get so irate when people seemingly have another meaning for a word you are using. Alternatively, express yourself using a more descriptive definition of what you mean. As I said before, definitions of words do tend to develop and meanings are adapted by others based on numerous factors. Open up your mind and you might realize we all just might be speaking the same language!
P.s. In the Bible, there was an interesting story about how the world got to have so many different languages, called The Tower of Babel. Back in the day, everybody in the world spoke one language. They decided they wanted to build a tower that would reach the heavens. God say heck no and decided to scrabble their communication into thousands of languages. They never finished the tower after that... Gotta look more into this story!
P.p.s. If anyone who reads this blog speaks (fluently) any of the languages I mentioned earlier, let's be text buddies so I can learn more! Tryna be hyperpolyglot status...
P.p.p.s. Seriously though, telling someone to "look it up" when inquiring about a particular word is so dismissive. Just freakin' say what you meant so you can all be on the same page! Who's whippin' out the dictionary in the middle of a discussion anyway??