Like Button

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


The movie, Princess Bride, is just one of those guilty pleasures I have. You know the kind. You're not proud of it, but, well, you like it. It's not something magnificent or grand, but, well, you just like it. That movie is one of those things. There are so many "classic" lines (I'm using the term loosely) from that movie. There is the spot where Miracle Max tells them "He's only mostly dead." There is the clergyman expounding on the importance of "twue wove". There is the repeated Inigo Montoya line, "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Vizzinni is the brains behind the kidnapping of the princess. As they proceed with their plan, things keep happening to which Vizzinni keeps saying, "Inconceivable!" After the fourth or fifth time, Montoya has a great line: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." I like that line.

On the news the other day a local woman was taken into custody because, for the third time, she was accused of abusing a large number of cats. On the first occasion they took away over a 70 of them. The second time there were over 100 of them, including some in the freezer which she admitted to using in a stew. The living ones had to all be put to sleep due to their condition. This time it was 64 cats. They were sick, malnourished, lame, poorly kept, dying. And she went to jail. In an interview with a news outlet she gave her side of the story. "I wasn't abusing them; I just love my cats." The cab driver that picked her up twice a week for years agreed. She just loved her cats. "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Me? I can only hope and pray that no one ever loves me so much that they starve me, refuse to care for my injuries, and eventually stick me in a stew. You see, to me, that's not "love".

Indeed, this seems to be a common problem. The abused spouse who assures her friends and the doctors who are treating her for her injuries, "He loves me; he just loses his temper sometimes." Or perhaps you've heard of the Stockholm Syndrome where hostages bond with their captors. Strange concepts of "love". "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

And if love was the only concept that was in trouble, it would be bad enough. But words are symbols of realities and when those words come to represent unrealities, they become problematic. When "love" can mean "torture and abuse", so far from what it really means, then the warm and friendly phrase, "I love you", can become worse than meaningless. It can become threatening. And love is not the only concept at risk here. There is "marriage", as anyone who has read my stuff knows is a prime issue for me. There is "sex". That might seem plain and simple. How can it go wrong? Well, it has. Our concepts there are so far from the original intentions that we might not even recognize them if we saw them. And speaking of sex, how many words in our vocabulary have been subjugated to some subversive new rude, crude, sexual content? It hardly seems like you can say a single sentence without someone catching some sexually deviant undertones in it. The other day I overheard a guy in a tire store. A woman came in and asked to get the tires rotated on her car. After she left I heard him say to his associate, "I'd like to rotate her tires." What does that even mean? Not sure, but we get the implications.

Our society has been playing fast and loose with the English language for a long time. In some ways, it almost defines the English language. (A little play on words there.) Add to that the complexity of the language as it is. As a silly example, a "hit" might mean someone got killed, the play was great, the bat collided with the ball in a satisfactory manner, or he sunk my battleship. Now add in evolutionary effects on the language and innuendo from stolen words and it just gets really, really difficult to communicate. Love? Marriage? Gay? Christian? "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Sometimes I'm quite sure it doesn't.


starflyer said...

I was at a wedding one time, and they actually used the phrase "twue wove" from that movie in the service! Oh wait, that was your kid! I guess certain guilty pleasures are passed on to the next generation...

Stan said...

I think my kid is more guilty than I. (Never would have used it in my wedding.)

Anonymous said...

Just a question—

When you retire from your job and have more time on your hands, will you post twice a day? Or start up a second blog site on some other issue?

I was eating at a casual place for lunch today. A man about 85 was at the next table, writing with pen and paper. I figured it was a to-do list. But I got a brief look at one of the sheets, and saw he was writing up the bare bones of a plot for a story about a Manhattan supermodel who is under suspicion of murder. I am impressed that somebody that age would keep his mind that active.

Stan said...

No. (Thought I'd keep my answer short.)