Do I Understand What You Mean?

I promised this blog to Steven Z. In response to a tweet, he wrote, “I have a possible new article suggestion for you and it’s simply – Rethinking Word Usage.” He continued,In general, people use ‘words’ that they unfortunately have no clue of their true meaning or origin. I’ll even go so far as to suggest the paradigm of usage has become corrupted on purpose, as a social control mechanism. By whom?”**

After giving examples, Steven Z concluded, “It’s all these subtleties that add up to being where the world is today = lack of awareness.”

On June 17th, I answered back, “Great Message, Steve. I’ve written extensively about this issue. 1) Virtually every key term in the English language has been perverted to the extent that the same word means both one thing and its opposite. 2) Unraveling this “Tower of Babel” factor is essential to communication.

In fact, I tweeted out today, from The Positive Paradigm Handbook: ‘Axiom Six: Used as a linguistic tool, the Positive Paradigm Wheel promotes clear, accurate and effective communication.’”

Here’s an illustration worth a thousand words, It shows the range of different meanings assigned to the single word, “discrimination.”

062414 Discrim

Here’s a basic explanation of Axiom Six:

Like humanity itself, the English language is also becoming an endangered species. Clear and effective communication can no more be taken for granted than any other aspect of the civilization.

In tracking the meanings of words, their devolution is found to be systematic. In some cases, the same word means not only one thing, but its exact opposite as well. The inherent danger is that people often talk at cross-purposes, thinking they understand each other when in fact they’re missing each other coming and going, only vaguely aware of the disconnect.

It’s worth the time to pay attention to what’s meant by specific words in common use. Working with the Positive Paradigm Wheel explains the dynamics of shifting definitions. The same word takes on different meanings on different levels of the Wheel.

One example is the word “positive.” Webster’s Dictionary lists seventeen (!) different uses. They span the continuum from center to surface, with many gradations along the route. At the core, “positive” refers to that which is absolute, unqualified, and independent of circumstances; that which has real existence in itself.

At the middle, energy level, the term is used describe an electrical valence. As an attitude, positive can mean either confident or dogmatic. At the surface, positive may mean showing forward progress or increase, making a constructive contribution.

As this one example serves to indicate, it’s extraordinarily difficult to communicate so as to be understood as intended. The “Tower of Babel” factor issue is addressed in Rethinking Survival and Conscience:

Tower of Babel Factor

The gift of language sets humans apart from animals. It provides the building blocks of communication. It’s the foundation of civilizations and the necessary glue of cultural continuity.

That being said, humans are the only creatures who rationalize greed, lie to others about their actions and deceive themselves. . . .

That’s quite the opposite of the language I’d learned to love and respect in high school. There, we were taught to regard language as the premier tool of logic. When used with Sherlock-like diligence, applied with the powers of keen observation and heightened awareness, it can solve mysteries — not only detect the crimes of evil-doers and the nefarious plots of national enemies, but reveal the mysteries of life and the universe.

Turned inwards, used with self-honesty, language is an essential tool of introspection used for cultivating self-awareness. For the truth-seeker, language is the necessary vehicle of information both on the inward quest and on the return journey to share its benefits.

** In Rethinking Survival, I’ve also described the intentional perversion of the English language to which Steven Z alludes. However, it’s outside the limits of this particular piece.