The languages we use are a darn pickle turning communication into a jar of sticky jam. Some words have been around for so long that few people still remember their meanings. And even if they do, words have an awkward ability to shift, change and extend their ambiguity depending on circumstances. Many tried to confine them in dictionaries, lexica and thesauri but they came spilling out. Bodies were created to standardize them, but words retaliated with irregularities. Now we stick them into machines which then spit out hashes, arobases and emoticons. Although we do find this madness of tongues entertaining and beneficial to literature, word games or puzzles, I am sure we can unanimously declare that we have all, at least once, found ourselves in a situation in which all attempts to pass information onto another person felt like describing a smartphone in Ancient Egyptian. It’s called an argument. Most of the time arguments do not originate in different opinions, but in misinterpretation. I shall portray this with an archetypal genre scene.
Person XX: “How do I look?”
Person XY: “Stunning, honey.”
Person XX: “Get out!”
Silly and harmless as it may look, matters get more dangerous as the words get more serious. I have recently read a book in which the author, chapter after chapter, misuses, abuses, mis- and over- interprets the word belief causing misinformation and widespread havoc. I then realized how many more people, in different countries, to that every day when they say creer, croire, credere, glauben etc. When a person says “Scientists believe in scientific truths,” like the author did, the reasonable reply would be “What do you mean by believe in truth?” Quickly sourcing in thefreedictionary.com we come to a conclusion that this sentence may mean that they “expect/suppose/assume that a statement/principle are verified and proven correct” or they “have firm faith/confidence/trust that a statement is accepted as true in fidelity/conforming to an original/standard.” One could call it semantical acrobatics. The main problem here is that the words belief and truth have originated thousands of years ago, in a time where our ancestors did not yet know the difference between the reality and the supernatural. These words made sense to them and carried valuable information, but they do that no more. On the contrary, they are useless to us in terms of communication and so are, in fact, most words in use today, because they carry imprecise information and are subject to interpretation. The sentence “I believe in truth” contains more less the same amount of information as “Love is beautiful” or “Morality is good.” Concepts such as love, freedom, justice, life, right, wrong are very hard to define, because they are irrelevant to the place and time we live in. If you ask a group of twenty people to write down a definition of one of these they will most likely come up with twenty different versions. So the next time you hear someone say “I love you” make sure you find out what they mean by that.