Shards of Consciousness

Words Mean Things

Words mean things. A few days ago Liz Strauss at wrote an article on names, discussing how to put a label on what you do, the role that you perceive yourself as having, and how to come up with a good name. She makes the point that

Humans are by nature curious. We like to know things about each other. If we don�t find out. We tend to make up stuff to fill in gaps.

Words mean things. When we name a thing, when we put a label on it, many of us stop thinking. We begin to identify the label with the thing, and think the label explains it.Without a good name, without a good label, you create confusion or encourage perceptions that have nothing to do with what you meant by the name.

The problem, and the promise, of words is they compress a universe of meaning in a few short sounds. Look in a dictionary. Almost any word you pick out will require several other words to explain it. Then if you follow up with a search of the thesaurus, you'll find many other words listed that are supposed synonyms for the same thing, but they each have subtly, and sometimes blatantly different meanings, tones, and associations.

Words mean things. Names and labels are important. They are verbal symbols we use to understand and create our world. When you are talking to other people, choose the right words. They will understand you better and won't have to "make up stuff to fill in gaps". When you are talking to yourself, choose the right words. You will build the world closer to your heart.

2 Responses to Words Mean Things

  • I'm challenged when putting what I do into words and more imprecise than I'd like to me. Thanks for expanding on Liz's topic. You make excellent points - and I need to do more thinking about this.

  • Thank you for coming in, Susan. We're all challenged by this. One thing I like about writing is you have more time to choose the right words to say what you mean, and if you get it wrong you can go back and change it before anyone else sees it.

    On the other hand, you loose a lot of the other cues that you have in verbal communication - intonation, accent, expression and so on, not to mention the physical cues that you have in face-to-face conversations.

    There are probably few of us that are completely happy with how we describe what we do. It's a line between being accurate and being more verbose than we want to be.

    Stop in again sometime! I like to hear from you and your opinions.

    #261 | Comment by Rick on July 27, 2006 1:57am

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