Friday, April 21, 2006


I thought about titling this post "Semantics". But no, that's too high-brow. Or I could have titled it "Labels" which may be more to the point. A point which may be transparent already.

Words are powerful. They are used to spin, relate, persuade; used in propaganda, lobbying, white papers. They are the meta-currency in which our society deals. All the more reason to speak a little louder, a little more insistently, and hopefully escalate the actual word count. At least, that's the line of thinking I suspect pervades... all the more reason sophistry irritates the hell out of me. There are plenty who seem to believe, subconsciously or not, that the end justifies the means.

To be clear, this blog is metaphorically the journey of a young man with same-sex attraction who belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Or, less precisely, a gay Mormon journey. The church prefers not to be called Mormon, and prefers its members not to self-reference as gay. This is understandable considering the vagueness of these terms. The church, in a word, prefers precision over succinctness. I, on the other hand, usually prefer to be brief, and that's why you will find me frequently self-referring as "gay" while I have no internal confusion over the distinction between same gender attraction and participating in intimate gay relations. Maybe it's my laziness, I don't know. The problem is when this brevity results in misunderstanding. Hell, that's been a big problem with society at large for millennia.

Take, for example the words "homophobe" and "pervert". The line of comments on this post led me to consider them together. Neither are words I care for because of their vagueness. Either can be used to correctly describe something horrible, but frequently they are used to vilify something that is less than horrible... probably misunderstood. They are used to remove all question by turning it into something horrible. I don't think this is always deliberate. But it's always regrettable.

May our words always reflect respect, charity, and consideration even when we feel them most powerfully.


Foxx said...

"He who controls language controls the world."

If we consistently seek to understand others, small differences in how we define the words we use -- like gay, homophobe, and pervert -- become insignificant. Communication involves effort on the part of the communicator and the communicatee to be effective.

I like that words can have different meanings to different people. As long as we keep it that way, tyrants can't come along and change our language and rule our world.

-L- said...

I'm not sure I understand your last point, but it sounds beautiful. And that's something I've come to expect from you, Foxx. Your words are almost poetic--occasionally taking advantage of ambiguity to provoke internal deliberations and careful consideration.

I suppose it depends on the purpose. (And it occurs to me that this probably coincides with our differing views on relativism.) I think I prefer concise language when a fine point is being discussed, but I'm willing to move through with plenty of abbreviations and ambiguous language most of the time (this must be the MD coming through--there are more abbreviations and acronyms in a day than words sometimes!).