Words 1: Definitions

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, June 5, 2020 1 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

Words have meaning.
This is such a simple statement that every child can understand, and yet the more “educated” someone gets, there is a tendency for them to completely disregard it. A very common fallacy I’ve seen made in science, politics, and even in Christianity at times, is equivocation. The fallacy of equivocation is when someone starts with one definition for a term and mid-sentence or mid-argument changes the definition being used. One of the classic examples is “evolution.” A friend of mine asked me to help him examine a common college textbook. As I expected, the initial definition of ‘evolution’ given was “changes in allele frequencies,” then just a page or two later began talking about “universal common descent.” Many evolutionists think they are one and the same, but why? Because the textbooks have ‘brainwashed’ them into thinking that. I’m going to explain this idea of brainwashing as I go through this series on words. Words have meaning, and we must be careful which words we are using and be consistent in how we use them.

Words have multiple meanings.
Go through the dictionary. You will be hard-pressed to find a word with just a single use or definition. The definitions come from how society in general has used those terms. But for the most part, all it takes to know which definition is being used is in the context how it is being used. The word “day” has three major meanings: 1) a 12-hour period, or daylight hours, 2) 24 hours or sunrise to sunrise/ sunset to sunset, and 3) a period of time. Most people reading this will understand which definitions are being used in this statement: “In my father’s day, every 4th day, he took a day-long trip.” I used all three definitions in one sentence, and very few people would argue over which use definition of “day” is being used in each instance. Words will have multiple meanings, so if we are going to give a clear message, we must be careful in what word choices we use and why. We also must take the extra time and space to define our terms, because not everyone will get the same message.

Words can change meaning over time.
As time progresses, words can change their meaning as they get used or misused. At the time many Christmas carols were written, “gay” simply meant “happy,” while today it means “homosexual.” But how did that happen? I’ll describe it in a word: brainwashing. We as a society and as a culture were brainwashed to associate the word “gay” which meant happy to now mean homosexual. There isn’t any going back at this point. Even the word “suffer” has changed. In the Elizabethan English during which the KJV was written, “suffer” meant to allow to pass, or to not hinder. Today, it means “suffering,” pain, hurt, discomfort, etc. Words can and do change meaning over time, but even so, the context the word is being used in will indicate which meaning is actually being used.

Words have images associated with them.
This is an interesting aspect. When you hear a word, we generally think of an object or an action that is associated with that word. When you hear or read the word “chicken” you may think of the animal known as a chicken. Or “cat” you may think of a house cat. When you think of a “car” very often, you tend to think of the cars you have ridden in or driven. Though car people will readily ask, “Make? Model? Year?” because they want to exactly what kind of car. This is a very important detail for what I am about to get into. I mentioned how we were brainwashed into changing the meaning of the word “gay,” and this is the very aspect of how that was done. The homosexual movement had an agenda, and so they started to associate the term “gay” with their people and behavior and little by little, people began to use those two images together. Today, it is used so much in that way that no one uses the term “gay” to mean “happy” at all except when talking about older English literature/songs. When we use a word, we need to think of not just how we think of the word, but also how our target audience will think of that word. If I want to make a clear message to you, my reader, I need to describe my thoughts with words that you can understand and so you will picture what I am trying to describe.

Words convey a message.
Language is a very interesting thing. It is how we are able to take an abstract thing and package it in such a way that someone else can “read” our thoughts. You are able to see what is going on in my head by reading this post. This process works this way: I have a thought and I want to send it to you. So, I “encode” this thought into a word based on the vocabulary that I know. When I send my “word” to you, you understand that code, because you obviously have been trained in how to read the English language, and you translate that code into a thought that you have. To convey a message, I need to use the correct words, images, and idioms that will convey my message.

Words can be misread.
If someone does not have a particular word in their vocabulary, they may entirely miss the point of the message. Sometimes idioms can be used to convey a message, and someone might miss that it is an idiom. In the decoding process, if you misread a noun and take it as a verb, it changes what message is received. Now sometimes, the missed message is the fault of the receiver, by being unable to pick up all the clues in the code. Sometimes it is the fault of the sender, by not packaging the message well. If the sender has an image or idea he wants to send and uses a word that gives him that image, but the reader had a totally different image associated with that same word, then miscommunication occurs. This happens all the time, which is why it is critical for us to define our terms because it’s not always clear that the image we think a term means is the image we are giving.

Words can be deceptive.
Lawyers, politicians, and spokespersons are masters of language. Their job is to break down thoughts into their core parts and put them together in such a way that their intended audience can receive them. This can be used for good or for evil. When someone wants to get an agenda through that they know will not be well-received by the people if they knew what it really was, they will use words and phrases that will appeal to the senses that their audience likes to describe it. Sometimes all it takes is take the explicit truth and put into a question form. That’s what the serpent did to Eve. Words can be used to make an evil thing look good, or a good thing look evil. The media and politicians are VERY good at this.

Words can save a life.
There are no words which can describe the relief someone experiences when the right words are used in a given situation. I’m not talking about platitudes and “pat you on the back” words, but words of life and hope. These words can act as a guard rail to protect us from going off a cliff, turn us to go a new direction where we need to go, or even act as a shield against accusations and temptations or false teachings.

Where I am going with this? I made a few comments about how words have been used to brainwash us, to make us think in the way that certain people want us to think. This has taken us away from actually being able to protect ourselves from very dangerous ideas and make a defense for the good. The common cliché is that ideas have consequences. When those ideas are packaged into words and people believe those words, those ideas begin to take root. Remember my post from two weeks ago about the Spiral of Defeat? If we take in the wrong ideas from cleverly designed word choices, we’ll end up in a place we don’t want to be. But if we take in the Word of God, the message from God, and apply that in our hearts, then we will be protected. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to explain what’s happening with words and how society has been brainwashed with them to believe utter lies without knowing it. Then I’ll share how we answer those charges by standing on the Words of Life.

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Unknown said...

Great introduction to the topic. It indicates good things will follow.