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Monday, May 14, 2012

Verbal Evolution

Words, they are a'changin'.

I remember a time when "gay" meant "happy". Or maybe it was a girl's name. But it wasn't a reference to someone's sexual activities. Words, they are a'changin'.

Regardless of the language that expressed it, for as long as time has gone on, "marriage" meant "the union of a man and a woman for the purpose of propogation and cooperation." In every culture it was the same. Some cultures had a man who married a woman and then the man would marry another woman and so on, but it was always a man and a woman. (That is, these women in this situation were not related or married.) It did not refer to "a relationship between people for the period for which it lasts". (Seriously, I actually found that definition out there.) Words, they are a'changin'.

We all know what love is. At least, you'd think so. Unfortunately, these days it depends on your generation. The older generation understood that "making love" was performing the kindnesses to the opposite sex that provoked warm feelings toward you. "Love" has had many faces. It has been something we choose to do, pursuing the best interests of another, that produces warm feelings for that other. It has been the commitment to pursue those best interests. At some point it became the relationship that formed the only correct basis for that other term, "marriage", which has also shifted. So when we say, "Love and marriage go together", the terms are likely ambiguous. Nowadays it often is used to refer to food we like or, most often, to engaging in sexual relations apart from any requirement for feelings or commitments. Words, they are a'changin'.

How about this new concept that is making the rounds? It is quite a change that is in progress. At one point (not too long ago), "monogamy" meant "one spouse". It was a term used in contrast with "bigamy", two spouses, or "polygamy", multiple spouses. It's most common usage today, however, is no longer a reference to spouses, but to sexual partners. A "monogamous couple" indicates that these two people are having sexual relations with no one else except each other. Turns out, however, that the homosexual community has its own use of the term "monogamy". When they use it they mean "sex with one at a time" where "at a time" means "right now". And the latest heterosexual concept being bantied about (in terms of "monogamy") is "serial monogamy". In this one you have sexual relations with one at a time, but that time is not expected or even wanted to be an extended period of time. "For as long as we both shall ... feel like it." That's it. No love. No commitment. No real effort, in fact. The epitome of the "if it feels good, do it" morality. The complete absence of anything real in the arena of marriage or love.

Words, they are a'changin'.

But here's the thing. As these words change as words are prone to do, how do we express what they used to mean? If I want to speak of the lifelong union of a man and a woman for purposes of propogation and cooperation, what word can I use to express it? If I wish to speak of that effort and commitment that seeks the best for another person, what word can I use to get it across? "Marriage" has been usurped. "Love" means too many things. "Monogamy" is a shifting target that can easily mean "as many sexual partners as you wish." How do I express what these (and other) terms mean when the words have changed?

5 comments:

David said...

Last time I heard the term "serial monogamy" it was a more accurate definition of what we humans have. Unlike some animals that truly mate for life, and if that mate dies they don't get a new one, when our spouse dies, we are free to find a new spouse. It is a shame that words that have held their meaning for so long are breaking down. But it is to be expected in a living language from a dieing culture. The people that develop our language are corrupt, so our language is going to follow it.

David said...

How do I express what these (and other) terms mean when the words have changed?

You can either learn a dead language like Latin or Koine Greek, or make your sentences more robust by defining each word as you go.

Marshall Art said...

Of course, it's really the attitudes of the people using these words that has changed. That attitude has shifted from doing what one does to doing what one feels. Then the scramble is to find a way to sound sophisticated in explaining why they acted in a manner that is so obviously self-serving and selfish. This is when they take words that meant something specific, and stretch them to include whatever one wants it to include so as to legitimize the behavior.

So, what words do you use to mean what the words once meant? They would say the same words, but now one must add and explanation for how it is being used at the time. "We're getting married, and by that I mean that I, a man, and my fiance, a woman, will be joining for a lifelong committment for the purpose of propogation and cooperation." See? Simple.

We're doomed.

Stan said...

@David,
Yeah, on the face "serial monogamy" has the possibility of being not so much of a big deal ... except no one uses it that way anymore. And people already complain that I am too wordy and they can't understand me, so Greek or more words in a sentence don't seem likely. :)

@Marshall Art,
I agree. The heart attitude is the issue. Indeed, it is my firm conviction that the changing of these words are not "accidental", but, as you indicated, an attempt to make their sin sound legitimate and approved. (This is demonstrated in California where the homosexuals had all the rights that heterosexual marriages had with their civil unions, but were still not satisfied until they wrench away "marriage".)

On the other hand, I believe that there is another side to the coin. If they can legitimize their sin and eliminate the good that originally was the intent, then they make sin to be good and erase good.

Dan said...

Confusion, disorientation, isolation. These are just three words that describe the people who live in a society that has lost the ability to communicate due to the fact that their uttered sounds have been relived of the burdened of meaning.