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What is the Meaning of This?

Photo by E. Rachel Thompson


In my last post, the purpose was to create a distinction between the two words, pride and arrogance. All too often, “pride” is associated with the negative connotations of arrogance and this unclarity may lead some to shortchange themselves with their own confidence and abilities. Discerning when pride is a positive emotion can be quite beneficial to our healing and empowerment. (Click here to read that post).

After reading some of the responses, I began to ask myself, “What makes me a Discerner of Words or a Sovereign of Meaning Making”? I have no Ph.D. in Etymology nor am I a Philologist. Is it arrogant of me to believe I have an ability to arbitrarily affix meanings to any words?

So I began to ponder further about what language really is and why it came to fruition? How did the combination of air vibrating vocal chords, combined with tongue, teeth, and lip movement, develop into a complex communication system? It must have started by someone first giving meaning to these vocally emitted sounds but in order to be an actual communication, others needed to concur with those definitions. Come forward a few dozen millennia and that is still the case. Each individual must accept for him or herself what they believe the definition of every word is.  We decide for ourselves – wrongly or rightly – its meaning.

As a child, I recall observing an adult who had a few too many glasses of wine and when questioned about it, that person exclaimed, “I’m still sober”. For years after that, I believed the definition of sober was a little tipsy but not quite to the point of being drunk. Not confirming its meaning with the dictionary, it took several years before I realized my error.

No doubt it behooves us to understand the generally accepted meanings of words. It helps us communicate with everyone speaking that language. But not only do we give meaning to each word, we also give it power through that meaning. The phrase, sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me, is frequently cited and also not very true. In theory it would be great however many have been hurt or damaged by the uttering of certain words. The hurt came from the power which was given to it based on what the individual believed its meaning was. If we have ever been hurt by someone calling us stupid, it’s because of how we understood its meaning and gave it the power by believing what was said.

Words do have power; but only to the extent of which each person allows that power to influence their lives. The same dynamic speech may create a frenzy of inspiration in one while another gives it a passive yawn. It is our personal responsibility to decide what those meanings are and how it relates to us on a daily basis. Just as I have carefully selected particular words to convey my thoughts in this post, it is now up to each reader to apply them to their own circumstances.

Thanks again to E. Rachel Thompson for the beautiful picture. I encourage you to find out more about her here. As always, I look forward to your comments.

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