Untitled Musing #1

I've come to realize semantics is really the god behind all conflicts.

In politics, politicians often use carefully crafted press to frame issues in a way that fits their agenda. E.g, a policy that cuts funding for social programs may be well described as "welfare reform" by its proponents, while opponents might call it "balancing the budget on the backs of the poor."

In advertising, companies use semantics to make their products seem more appealing or to downplay potential impediments. For example a food product is labeled as "all-natural," which sounds healthy at first glance, but that term has no legal definition if you think of it and could be applied to any product that's far from healthy. Analogously, a car manufacturer might tout a vehicle as "fuel-efficient," but that's a vague claim. Because a car uses less fuel doesn't guarantee it's eco-friendly or low on emissions.

In relationships, the instance one party interprets a statement or question might be quite different from what was intended. For example, a partner says, “I need some space” it could mean they want a few hours alone, or it could be a euphemism for wanting to end the relationship. Without clear communication and a shared understanding of what words mean in context, semantics will create confusion and hurt feelings.

In religion we have folks worshipping the same God but calling him different names and following different holy books fervently. Wars have been fought, blood has been shed all because people wouldn’t come to an agreement on what to call the “Big Man” upstairs.

Interesting enough, I’ve thought about this and I don’t believe there is or should a single comprehensive solution to the challenges posed by semantics because:

  • Language is inherently complex
  • There are correct and incorrect ways to use language.
  • Words we use are far more than just their dictionary definitions. They also carry the baggage of our lived experiences, unconscious biases, and underlying goals.

I think instead of seeking solutions, a more rewarding approach would be to promote linguistic awareness and adaptability. Teaching critical thinking skills would also do a lot of wonders to help people navigate the complexities of language, as well as foster empathy and a willingness to clarify and negotiate meaning in communication.

”Misunderstandings comes from not just from what is communicated, but from what is perceived and interpreted”

/- Great