Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The nuances of language

In reading other blogs on the net, and in real life, I've recently had a crash course in semantics.

se·man·tics ( P ) Pronunciation Key (s-mntks)n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
Linguistics. The study or science of meaning in language.
Linguistics. The study of relationships between signs and symbols and what they represent. Also called semasiology.
The meaning or the interpretation of a word, sentence, or other language form: We're basically agreed; let's not quibble over semantics.

  • First, there was my Wednesday night discussion with a man who has similar interests in life, though with very different perspectives. We talked about lobbying, as it often is pursued these days - with no integrity, people only representing special interests because 1.) the group pays well, and 2.) the lobbyist is a professional communications type - a good spokesperson. Mr. Intelligent Politically Savvy Man pointed out that we have turned "lobbyist" into a bad word because of this mindset - but really, the American principles of lobbyism - pleading your case before a representative government - are what have shaped our education systems, public safety, etc. Not such a bad thing after all. I concurred, adding that the same thing was true for the words "liberal," and "conservative," noting that I tend to be socially "liberal" but fiscally "conservative," and everywhere in between on other various issues.

His response?

"Liberal IS a bad word!"

I just rolled my eyes at the time, conveying the message - have we gotten anywhere??
with respect to our dialogue.

As I've mulled it over in my mind this week - I've thought of all the synonyms for "lobbyist," and come up with this list:

Champion [for the cause]

Isn't that what Jesus is to me? He's all of those things and more, even in agony, He pleaded, "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do." That's the most intense form of lobbying - and He did it for us, totally unworthy recipients of His saving grace.

For me, trying to become Christlike means to be a lobbyist for those less fortunate than me - regardless of whether their circumstances are of their own making. I can only hope to be as relentless as He was in His efforts.

  • Then, there was Larry James' commentary on the Prez' recent slippage of a curse word, and the public response. His wasn't so much a lesson on semantics as it was a matter of perspective. I especially LOVED this tidbit:

The incident reminded me of a now infamous speech delivered by Tony Campolo several years ago at a big national youth ministry conference.

Campolo, the master of shock and prophetic comedy among Evangelicals, opened his address by screaming the same expletive that the networks had to bleep out of the President's audio.

Got the picture? Talk about sucking all the oxygen out of a room!

Tony then calmly stated, "Now, admit it. Most of you are more concerned that I used that word than you are that over 30,000 children died of disease and starvation last night."

Whoa! Talk about capturing audience attention.

  • Then, there was an interesting diatribe on the usage of swear words, and how they are really more relative than anything at Leigh Hope's online crib. (For my faint of heart readers - it's pretty peppered with profanity, but the named commentators have some valid points). And it made me think that some of what we deem cursewords now weren't even etymologically evolved yet! How's that for ironic?

So...all in all, kind of interesting for those who ponder linguistic trends or the significance and priority of clean vocabularies over basic humanitarian efforts. Also otherwise random rubbish....I've had a tough day; more later.

No comments:

Post a Comment