The difference between the definition of a word and its meaning

I’m tempted to use someone else’s words — a quote — to describe how I feel about words. But I have plenty of my own. Might as well use ’em.

Words don’t create meaning. This is a common misconception I’ve found among people who often can’t say what they mean because the meanings of words don’t fit how they think or feel. On the contrary, meaning creates words. Meaning came before words, not the other way around.

Someone breathed and realized that the act of inhaling was a thing. It needed a name. Breathing. To Breathe. I breathe. Before they knew it, the meaning was not just the word “breathe” but also “I” … “I am a thing and I can do something. I breathe.”

Suddenly, I’m a thing, and there are other things I do. And they all need words.

I’m not a linguist, but I hope this is how languages were born:

“When two people love each other very much, and those two people have no clue how to say what they mean, they come up with words that come as close as they can to those shared concepts and agree that those will work.”

This is my evidence that words don’t create meaning. I breathe and you breathe, but we are not the same. I love and you love, but we do not love the same.  Our definitions are similar at best (enough to pass as tools for a society to work) because our individual meanings are unique.  When you don’t have the words to say what you mean, it’s because you’re starting with the meaning of words instead of the meaning of what you think or feel.

Words are given so much power, they are so heavy that we fear our intended meaning is not enough to support them. Love. Hate. Yes. No. Always. Never. But what I meant was …

This means something different to you than it does to me even though we read the same words. It’s not because we don’t agree on what the words mean, but on what I mean when I use them.

I either used 355 words to say something or nothing about words. It depends on what it means to you.

Note: My posts won’t be like this all the time. In fact, this may never happen again. Or it might. I don’t know, I’ve got a lot of words. Sports, politics, arguments that they should change the word “airport” to “plane station” – these all can happen.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s