Post # 655 WHAT’S IN A WORD *

In our view, of all the myriad definitions of the noun, ”word” ultimately, the most foundational and useful, is: “A grouping of letters that has meaning when it is spoken or written.” Languages, as known, made up of collections [lexicons or vocabularies] of words, empirically enable members of society, to desirably and meaningfully, construe sentences and thereby, express to others their thoughts, feelings, and observations.  In this writing, we have elected to comment on three categories of word use:  [1] the careful and intentional selection of words, by capable authors as perceived by unsophisticated reader comments concerning, “big” versus, “easy” words, [2] the careless reliance on synonyms, and finally, [3] the tactical use of words as misleading propaganda.

[1] “Big” and “simple” words:

We have encountered such comments all too often, most especially, among people who choose not to spend their leisure time, reading. Often, the critical observation often is “He uses so many big words, that I cannot understand him.” In such instances, the infrequent reader, having trouble comprehending the meaning of the written work, defensively, and unjustly, shifts the blame, for his disturbing incomprehension, to the author. We have, indeed, at times, heard this complaint, albeit, regarding the greatest and most communicative of authors, as well as respecting the modest essays offered at plinyblog. It is very disconcerting but, simply, revelatory of the inexperience of the reader.

We will emphatically, declare without exception, that there is no legitimate, aesthetic category as “big words” or, “simple” words. It is true that some words do have more letters or syllables in them, or perhaps, may not be everyday, conversational words, but considerations of the size, and perceived complexity of words, are absolutely and entirely irrelevant. Any capable author, possessing the adequate level of skill and sensitivity for precise description, is unconcerned with the number of syllables in his carefully and contextually, chosen words. Words are selectively employed which, in the judgment of the writer, best express or describe the feeling or perception, intended to be conveyed to the reader. The following category, “[2]” may be read in conjunction with “[1].”

[2] Undue reliance on synonyms:

A thesaurus or other recognized listing of “synonyms” or “antonyms” provide similar words; and it is certainly acceptable to consult these sources for synonyms, but with the essential proviso, than mere similarity in meaning does not usually equate to replication of desired context or desired expression. Where there is choice, the closest word to the closest to the intended transmittal of feeling or description, with no other qualifications, should be utilized, by the author.

Illustrative examples of legitimate “synonyms” which, as usual, mutually differ in contextual meaning and desired impression.

[a] “quick”, “fast”, “swift”: [comment] To do something in a quick manner, is merely to distinguish it from “slow.” The adjective “fast” would be applicable to a flowing stream [ as would “swift.”] A winning horse would best be described as “swift,” certainly not “quick.”

[b] “look”, “see,” “glare, “stare”:[comment] To” look” is merely to direct one’s attention and not necessarily to see. To “see,” is simply, to visually experience. To “stare” is to fixedly look at an object. To “glare” is to angrily stare.

[c]  “present,” ”gift, award”:  [comment] A “present” connotes an item brought by a dinner guest or delivered on an occasion like a birthday or anniversary. The word, “gift” also has legal or official suggestion or, alternatively, the recognition of a revealed talent. “Award” necessarily implies a recognized contest, or problem and a successful win or accomplishment.

[d] “hot,” “spicy,” “torrid,” “sweltering”:[comment] “hot’ can refer to the ambient temperature, or the spicy taste of chilies, ”torrid” or “sultry” can imply sexy. “Sweltering means uncomfortably hot.

We could cite virtually every word in our language with its characteristic availability of numerous synonyms or antonyms, and yet, rarely see an identity in contextual mood or intended color. An experienced and capable author employs words that are selectively chosen, to convey an intended mood or personal message to the receptive reader.

[3] The tactically false use of words as propaganda:

The existence and intrinsic use of words, viz., the communication to others of information and ideas, is, unfortunately, vulnerable to use in tactical perversion and misrepresentation, for sub-rosa motives. The following are four examples of the pernicious [mis]use of words for concealed purposes;

[1] “Right to Life.” The most detestable and fraudulent example of misrepresentation by words is the cynical and tactical use of this benevolent-sounding name. The right-wing opponents to abortion have pirated three inarguably, positive words to shield their malign purposes, whether they be based on religious, faux moral, or, simply, the unvarnished desire for political and financial influence. Holding themselves out to be moral protectors of life, by their organizational name and deceitful public pretentions, and in their strict opposition to a woman’s choice, when needed, to terminate her own early pregnancy. Their purported representation of the group to be the protectors of the life of the fetus [“life”], is empirically belied by their adamant opposition to governmental assistance to the needy child, following the event of birth. The falsity of their dedication to” “life” is also irrefutably demonstrated by their commission of premeditated murder of physicians and others assisting in abortions, their support of the purported right to own guns, and their support of capital punishment, the latter items, inarguably, agents of death and inarguably, the anthesis of life.

[2] “Socialism”:

 America’s menagerie of pro-Trump, underbelly denizens, are content to label every empathic and necessary governmental expression of compassionate Capitalism, as their [misunderstood] newly created epithet, “Socialist”. They are, nonetheless, happy to pocket the many citizen benefits and governmental assistance about which they ignorantly complain. With a minuscule of education, they would learn that the word, “Socialism,” is but a term in the lexicon of political science, which equates to the governmental ownership and management of all commerce and industry; a form of political economy, never favored by any leading candidate for high public office. The system of Socialism is not an American possibility, nor is it an epithet. In fact, it is America’s programs of compassionate capitalism [as compared to the cruelty of the Natural Law of Adam Smith] that keep foreign or exotic forms of government, far from our shores.

[3] Teaching America’s accurate and non-deleted history:

It required the objective study and understanding of the virus, responsible for the recent pandemic, to enable the chemical fabrication of a vaccine capable of its future prevention. By utilitarian analogy, the unacceptable persistence of “Jim Crow”, cannot be eliminated without recognition and understanding of our history of slavery. No course of study, representing itself as bearing the name, “American History,” can responsibly omit its history of institutional enslavement of Black Africans for agricultural labor; nor can our Nation’s ongoing struggle for universal rights and equality, be taught and understood without this historical context. For the identical reasons the Nation’s historical mistreatment of the Native Americans, must not immorally and foolishly be ignored.

Those who have immorally and unconstitutionally, opposed the right of universal equality, have given the candid teaching of American History, the challenging and accusatory label, “Critical Race Theory.” Such tactically construed title, lends implicit, unattractive suggestions of accusation, acrimony and “finger-pointing,” as contrasted with the facile continuance of the continuation of “sweeping everything under the carpet.” Extending the same idiom, the rug will lie flatter, better, and more comfortably, for the benefit of all concerned, only after its appropriate and complete cleansing. Perhaps a better title for the subject to be taught would simply be  “American History,” since right-thinking Americans do not seek to add chapters to the course, but simply, to fill in the wrongfully or foolishly deleted blanks.   


    [* Our apologies to Mr. Wm. Shakespeare for the use of a name taken from his “Romeo and Juliet.”]

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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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