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Thursday, June 08, 2017

Words Mean Something

Both sides of the debate agree: words mean something. Unfortunately, no one can figure out just what. And can you blame them? Look at what we do with words.

It is common to take words and "bend" their meaning -- I get that -- but we've taken them and turned them on their heads. Take the word "moot". The word used to mean a point worth debating. Now it means a point not worth discussing. How did we get there from here? You've heard the word "refrain". It means to hold back from doing or saying something. The word originally meant to repeat something. (That's why in music there is a "refrain" -- a repeated section.) Those aren't even close. We "trim" hair by removing it and "trim" trees by adding to them. "Oversight" could mean "to supervise" or "to forget". You could have left your keys at home when you left the house -- one means to stay and the other not. The Bible says marriage is when a man and a woman cleave together, but we also use the term to describe severing something (like meat). You can have a "light dusting" of snow meaning to add "dust" or you can "do the dusting" which means to remove it. You can use a screen to show something or to block the view of something. The list goes on and on.

There is a whole slew of words used every day by the masses that we all know and all understand and have no clue about. There is "no-fault divorce", "homosexual", "gay", "transgender", "safe sex", and "marriage". No one -- no one that I know of ... except me, I suppose -- scratches their heads over these terms. We use them. We understand them. We get it. But, really, what do any of them mean? There is, for instance, no such thing as a divorce that doesn't include fault. That's like saying that there is an effect without a cause. Doesn't happen. Terms like "homosexual", "gay", and "transgender" have been picked up and used as if they're real things, but they're not. "Gay" means "happy" or "bright", but we've turned it to mean "homosexual", and now that's the number one meaning in the dictionary. "Homosexual" refers to someone who is sexually attracted to someone of their own sex, but we've entirely pushed that beyond its bounds. Now it's an "orientation", a "lifestyle", even a community. It is not a behavior; it is an identity. We're even pretty sure it's genetic ... although there is no such indication from science. How do we end up creating an identity from what we do in the bedroom? But we do. And "transgender". Really? How did we get so confused that a guy can be a girl if he feels like it? Merely if he feels like it? We do that by stripping all meaning from "guy" and "girl", I suppose. Because in all species "male" and "female" have hard definitions and nothing you do can make a "male" into a "female" ... except in the human species where you just feel like it. And, oh, that's the limit. It only works in gender. You're a skinny woman that feels like she's fat? We have treatments for that. You're a white person that feels black? Stop it! That's crazy. You're a middle-class American who believes he's Napoleon? Too bad. See a shrink. You're a high school girl who believes she's a guy? We will bend over backward to see to it that you are endued with all the rights and privileges thereto. Nonsense! And I mean that in the literal sense -- not sensible. They call it "gender dysphoria". Do you know what the opposite of "dysphoria" is? It is "euphoria". So "dysphoria" means to be uncomfortable. Our solution? "Forget reality; embrace it!" Crazy talk. Then there's "marriage". For all of history in all places regardless of the actual word used it always meant the same basic thing -- the union of a male and a female forming a single family for purposes of procreation and mutual support. Various practices have entered and left -- various traditions come and go -- but the definition has never changed ... until now. In the enlightened 21st century now it can mean ... nothing at all, as perfectly illustrated by the "gay marriage" of a fellow and his dead partner. So bizarre is our definition (or lack thereof) of this particular word, this particular concept, that we have simultaneously eliminated its meaning and strictly defined it as not "more than two" or "with anything other than one other human being." Any what other than another single human being? We aren't clear. And why so arbitrary?

The purpose of language is to communicate ideas and information. The concept is to take what is in my head and transmit it to your head in a medium we both understand. Words are symbols of thoughts. A "tree" is not a four-letter word, but an entire ecosystem from roots to stems, but we convey it in a word. Given the disarray of what we call "language" today, is there any question as to why we don't all get along? We're not speaking the same language. You're telling me about someone who has delusions of gender. I'm thinking, "Wow! He needs help." You're thinking, "Wow! She needs help!" Not the same help. Not the same thing. Rodney King famously asked, "Can't we all just get along?" No, Rodney. The answer is no. We don't even know what we're talking about.

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