A Rose By Any Other Name

First of all,  thanks to everyone who read and commented on yesterday’s post. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did.  Here are some follow up thoughts:

1) I thought everyone kept a respectful tone in their comments, which I appreciate. Because most of us have been greatly influenced by the modern era, we tend to feel that the things we believe are part of our identity.  The modern era placed such a huge emphasis on knowledge and being right, so we tend to take it personally when someone tells us we’re not right or when our long-standing beliefs are challenged.

2) We can all use more practice when it comes to disagreeing with each other in a peaceful way – hopefully yesterday provided that.

3) Words and their meanings change over time, usually subtly, sometimes drastically. I would challenge everyone not to become wed to a particular word in order to convey a concept because, especially these days, the perceived meanings of words are changing all the time, faster than ever.  None of the English words in the Bible are sacred in and of themselves – Jesus did not speak any of them specifically, word for word.  They are simply our best interpretation of what was said in the original language.  If we’re not keeping our finger on a word’s pulse of meaning, if we lose touch with how most people are defining a word, we could very well be conveying a message we don’t want or mean to convey.

4) Communicating a concept requires that the communicator maintain some sort of flexibility depending on the audience and situation.  Jill touched on this in the comments of yesterday’s post – in a foreign country, if you don’t speak the language, you’ve got to come up with creative ways of communicating.  Sometimes, based on our upbringing or background or socioeconomic status, we are speaking “different languages” from other folks, even if we both speak English.  If you are trying to communicate a complex set of ideas (like how to build a nuclear power plant, or what being a Christian means), be prepared to get creative in the language you employ.

What words do you think have lost meaning, or changed their meaning, in our lifetime?

7 Replies to “A Rose By Any Other Name”

  1. The word I have been thinking about a lot lately is “Hate”. I think that it has lost it’s meaning/intensity over time. Is it fair to say that you feel the same way about guacamole that God feels about sin? That’s a pretty bold claim. The word “Hate” is used to much in scenarios where dislike or even apathy would be the more correct emotion.

    1. “I hate when that happens,” said after stubbing a toe or breaking a nail or ice cream starts to melt. That’s a good one.

  2. A word that has become revoltingly common, and separated from its actual meaning (at least to those who use it carelessly), is “rape.” My PTSD and I are bracing for a round of comments from first-year college students talking about how they just paid for textbooks, and how their bank account or credit card “got raped.” How about no! It’s the same reason Holocaust comparisons fail: nothing is like rape except rape.

    1. I agree whole-heartedly. Too many guys, watching a sports figure get taken to the ground, call that out.

  3. i don’t like what we’ve done with the word “religion.” we’ve made it into a bad word. don’t get me wrong… Jesus spoke a great deal against the “religion of the pharisees,” but he wasn’t speaking against religion in general. james does a good job of explaining what religion looks like at its best: taking care of widows and orphans.

    i’m thinking the word should mean something like “the way in which one (or a group) relates to their god.” you can do that well, or you can do it properly.

    but we’ve decided we’d prefer to make religion the bad guy, so we can pit it against love and social justice. i think it’s a mistake.

    1. You know, that’s a good point. I read somewhere recently that the original meaning of the word when broken down is “hold together.” Can words be reclaimed by educating people of their true meaning, or once a word is misused repeatedly and takes on a new meaning is it too late?

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