Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Words That Have No Meaning

Hi there!

Dave-El here and welcome to my blog, I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, now with more (fill in the blank) than ever before!

Yeah, I'm THAT fried. "Fill in the blank"...geez!

Anyway, I'm knee deep in prepping for an exam on Wednesday in the fine art of Risk Management (Oh. Joy.) so I'm reaching into the ol' word document file for yet another Toastmasters speech.

After the exam, my brain will be free to once again roam the metaphorical countryside of the internet to resume my usual reign of goofballiness. Or something like that.


Today, I want to talk about how we as a society frequently are just saying things.  I want to talk about words that have no meaning.

That sounds counter-intuitive to what we do here in Toastmasters.  What we do is make speeches or tell stories to convey a message or make a point or illustrate an idea.   And the building blocks that we use for our speeches and stories are words.  And if our speeches and stories are to mean something, then each...word...has...to...mean...something!

But there are words that have no meaning. 

Some words never had any meaning.  They are silly words made up out of thin air.   Like from the film Mary Poppins: 


It goes something like this:


Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious

If you use it long enough, you'll often sound precocious


Now that's a big word with lots of syllables and consonants so it must be important but what does it really mean? 

Maybe a little bit of everything? Certainly a lot of nothing.  It's the word you use when you do not know what word to use.

But while Supercalifragilisticexpealidous is a made up word from the fanciful world of Mary Poppins, in the real world there are words that, thru overuse and misuse, have lost most or all of their meaning and have become words we use when we don't know what words to use, particularly in the area of political discourse. 

Here are two (some of you with delicate dispositions may wish to cover your ears): 


Oh my goodness, when I'm done here, I may have to wash my mouth out with soap.

Now I have no illusions that there was ever a point sometime in the past that liberals and conservatives skipped happily hand in hand across grass fields dotted with daffodils under an azure sky dappled by a golden sun while they sang songs about have much they love each other.  After all, liberal and conservative points of view differ greatly on the approach to commerce, society and the role of government. 

But in a democratic nation, both conservatives and liberals have their functions.  But political debate has become so calcified, so stringent, the very words "liberal" and "conservative" have moved from words that define different ways of approaching government to handy insults to hurl at the opposition, even if the opposition has not taken a partisan position.  One might say that "The sky is blue."  The response may well be, "There you go pushing that liberal sky agenda" or "that's just more of that conservative clap trap about the color blue". 

"Liberal" and "conservative" have become words to use when we don't know what words to use.

"Facism" and "Socialism" are two words we've heard bandied about of late.  These are words that conjure up dreary images of  brutal repressive regimes like communist Russia and Nazi Germany.  But when someone calls someone else a "fascist AND a socialist", it is important to remember that these are conflicting political views and that Hitler's fascist Germany sought to defeat Stalin's socialist Soviet Union during WWII.  These are words used in anger and in fear  BUT without any understanding of their meaning. Words to use when we don't know what words to use.

Some times words are small but potentially very powerful, words as diametrically opposite as "evil" and "hero".  But these words have been so overused as to erode their meaning, to take away their true impact.  For some, every grievance, any opposing view not matter how big or how petty, becomes an act of evil.  A person who attempts to be of help, whether successful or not, is called a hero just for showing up and trying.   Sometimes, horrifically, we are reminded of the true meaning of the word "evil" such as when Al Qaeda flew planes into buildings at the cost of many innocent lives.  Sometimes, wonderfully, we are reminded of the true meaning of the word "hero" when Chesley Burnett Sullenberger III  safely landed his plane in the Hudson River and, in defiance of all the odds, saving the lives of everyone on board,  And it is times like these that we need words to mean something, to give voice to our pain in the face of tragedy and to our joy in the presence of a miracle.  When words have no meaning, we have no voice for our pain or our joy, it is all just noise. We're just...saying things. 

To misuse or overuse words to the point that all meaning is eroded is, to me, quite atrocious.

And it does not make us sound at all precocious.

All we have done is reduced communication to nothing more than just...just....just....

Doctor Who: The Second Half of Series 11

Back on November 10th, I posted a walk back through the first half of Doctor Who Series 11 .    Today, we take a look at the 2nd half of S...