What is a word worth? Words are how we conduct debate. Words are how we convey messages to one another, such as this post. Words are ultimately the foundation of our thoughts. Words are important. But what are far more important are ideas, conceptions, and knowledge. All of these are based on words, but at the same time transcend words.
Proof of this comes from the fact that different languages exist. Virtually all cultures have some conception of life; what it is to be alive. But “life,” “vida,” and “život,” are quite unsimilar by all sensory appearances. However, they all contain the same idea, which transcends the physical action of thinking or speaking the word.
Further proof, or example, comes from the fact that the same word can mean different things to different people. Take relationships as an illustration. Everyone has a conception of what it means to be “dating,” “going out,” “in a relationship,” “liking,” “crushing on someone,” etc. However, these conceptions are not necessarily the same for each word. One person’s definition of “dating” may be the same as another person’s definition of “in a relationship” and someone else’s definition of “crushing on someone.”
There are two corollaries from this.
First of all, it is necessary in any conversation to define the key terms being used. When discussion different guitar amps, it is necessary to define what “good tone” is to each person because one person may say they like Fender amps and another Mesa, which are both American amps, but have very different tones. To say one is “better” than the other, is contingent on what one believes to be good: in this case, crunch and fuzz or crisp and defined (For the record, I require crunch in any guitar tone, and thus prefer Mesa amps to Fender amps and will only use Fender amps when I have to and I have a good deal of pedals—preferably MXR—at my disposal).
The second consequence of this phenomenon is that you can define concepts with whatever word you want, it doesn’t matter because words themselves don’t matter, and should not spend too long debating the words, because the truth lies in the concepts the words represent. When discussing, say, the soul, there are a million different ways to define the soul, and different people have different words for the different aspects. When it comes down to it, if you can’t decide on what to call it, describe the concept and label it with some arbitrary noun, such as “pumpkin,” or “boat,” it doesn’t matter, so long as both of you know what concept or idea is being referred to by “boat,” which in the context of the conversation, has nothing to do with flotation or nauticality. The point of having a conversation is not to go back and forth about whether something is part of the “soul” or part of the “spirit” or “mind” of a person, the purpose is, or at least ought to be, to gain insight about what that something has to do with life, how it applies, where it comes from, what all that means, etc. Debating how to categorize it is, well, semantics shmemantics.
As a quick tangent, which will work as a segue to my penultimate point, I’d like to mention music. I’m sick of listening to people debate how to categorize a certain band: are they hardcore, post-hardcore, punkcore, or indie-scenecore emo experimental? I don’t care. If I like their music I’ll listen to them, but you aren’t adding meaning or insight to how they sound or their music by adding prefixes and suffixes to the root “core.”
This leads me to the question, how then are we to define things? When no word is available that can be agreed upon, then look at the axes of the concept. Most things in life are found on a continuum, and most concepts that we try to define are at the intersection of multiple, conceptual axes. In my music allusion, rather than inventing a plethora of meaningless titles, it is more informative to describe a band in terms of where it lies on the hard-mellow axis, the fast paced-chill axis, the lyrically melodramatic-insightful axis, etc. There are myriad different axes, yes, but since they are continuums, they make for an easy basis of comparison to other bands, even within the same genre, and thus give the listener something to compare the new band to and give them a mental image of something meaningful. I have no idea what “punkcore” means, so using it to describe a band is not going to work unless you have previously defined “punkcore” by tying it to some concept that I do understand, which maybe I’m an anomaly, but most concepts of musical genres are built on aforementioned axes.
My last point has been tacitly hinted at this entire post, and I’m going to stop with the hinting and flat out say it. Words convey concepts, as I’ve been saying all along, but more than that, most concepts have different words that mean the same things, but/albeit they have various/myriad, feels/connotations. These “feels” are only barely important if you define the terms within the conversation. The point of these different words that mean the same thing is to provide extra meaning to what you’re saying. However, if the listener doesn’t understand the words you are using, then not only is this added benefit of extra meaning lost, but using these words is also counterproductive in the purpose of conveying meaning. I’ve used a large number of “big words” in this post. I hope you’ve busted out your dictionary and learned a thing or two, but if you got confused along the way, that was proving my point. I said what I meant, but if you don’t understand what I said, then you can’t understand what I meant, so what’s the purpose of me saying it at all?
Applications to life:
1.) Define your words
2.) Value concepts more than words and when a word doesn’t fit, then make a new one, they’re just words after all, but only use that word around others who know how the word was formed/defined.
3.) Read a dictionary so you can understand others, but don’t be a verbose, pretentious, elitist nefarion like me; speak in a way that others can understand.
The Blacksheep sends his Love.