Getting to the Truth of the Matter

Where Would We Be Without Words?

The key to our communications with each other are words. Words can come from many languages. They can also have a lot of different meanings.

You might think there isn’t a lot of variation in the meanings, but there are words with hundreds of definitions. The word “set” has 464 definitions in the Oxford Dictionary. There are many words with hundreds of definitions.

In fact, there are words that have opposite definitions. The word ‘dust’ can mean to put a layer of dust on something. It can also mean removing a layer of dust.

Concrete and Abstract Words

Concrete words are those that have a real object associated with them. Words like dog, cat, tree. There might be a lot of variation, but the general characteristics are understood.

Abstract words are those naming concepts, things that don’t have a physical existence. Words like truth, justice, democracy.

Admittedly, many concrete words have definitions that include abstract concepts. You can feel blue, a situation may be called gold. In these situations emotional qualities have been associated with some characteristic of the object

Context Is Key

Normally the context will let us know what the intended meaning is, but not always.
Sometimes, all meanings have relevance, even the opposites. The key to understanding a statement is to know what the person saying it means.

This makes critical thinking much more difficult, but of the utmost importance.

Choosing the Right Definition

Do we even know the definitions? Is the definition that we choose the same one the speaker means? Is the speaker aware of different interpretations? Is the speaker trying to confuse the issue by using words with fuzzy meanings?

If we are hearing something in person, we can ask. If it’s second hand or written, we don’t have that option.

Color My Words With Emotion

Another problem with words is they can change meaning according to the tone of voice and how they are emphasized. They can also be emphasized to make us subconsciously assume one meaning when the structure of the sentence implies something different.

Words, quite often, get charged with emotions and then the meanings are biased.

With proper emphasis, our minds will assign a totally wrong meaning to a word without even realizing it. This is used all too often in propaganda and selling propositions. It is the unscrupulous side of rhetoric and persuasive speaking.

Back to Definitions

The inflections and such are covered under the persuasion topic, and the truth of statements depending on the grammar is covered in the logic section.

One word that is being used by politicians today is ‘transparency’. The word it replaced is ‘honesty’. Let’s compare the definitions and see why they made the switch.

The definition of honesty is the quality of being honest, so we’ll start with ‘honest’.

1. free of deceit and untruthfulness; sincere. 2. morally correct or virtuous. 3. fairly earned, especially through hard work. 4. (of an action) blameless or well intentioned even if unsuccessful or misguided. 5. simple, unpretentious, and unsophisticated.

1. (of a material or article) allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen. 2. easy to perceive or detect. 3. having thoughts, feelings, or motives that are easily perceived. 4. PHYSICS – transmitting heat or other electromagnetic rays without distortion. 5. COMPUTING – (of a process or interface) functioning without the user being aware of its presence.

When a politician says we need transparency in our government, what do they really mean? When they used to say we needed honesty in government it was easy to understand. Now, there is no understanding but people assume they mean the same as honesty. If this was the case, then they would use the word honesty. They only want us to believe they mean honesty while meaning something else.

If we look at definition 5, they could be saying the government needs to keep the people from being aware of what it is doing. If we use the first definition, it may mean the government needs to be unseen so we see everything but the government? Remember, if they wanted to be honest, they would still be using the word honest.

Every time I hear a politician use the word transparency I know they are lying, trying to hide something. Every time.

Words Have Meanings

If we want to mean something else, we use a different word. If someone else uses a different word, they mean something else. If they deny this, they are lying, or stupid. I see very little stupidity that extreme. People who are that stupid are in institutions.

Wikipedia offers ‘The term transparency has a very different meaning in information security where it is used to describe security mechanisms that are intentionally in-detectable or hidden from view.

Wikipedia also states that transparency in government is accountability. Then why not use the word accountable? What is being hidden?

To become a critical thinker, we need to explore the meanings of words. We need to understand why one word is used instead of another.

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