Christian Theological/Philosophical Book Club discussion

Dungeon of Illusion (Tales of Vantoria #3)
This topic is about Dungeon of Illusion
The Cafe - Open Discussion > Is word definition democratic?

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by R.J. (last edited Feb 05, 2017 02:49PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

R.J. Gilbert (rjagilbert) | 93 comments The comparisons between reality and my last TOV book, Dungeon of Illusion, are frighteningly many—although I didn’t intend for any of them to be represented so well in our current political situation. Nevertheless, I would like to bring up one of the main points I tried to make, which is the way in which words change in a society so that their original meanings are completely obscured.

I’ve noticed this kind of thing happen before this. Words like “mistress”, or “emergent”, or “queer” or even “demagogue” get used inappropriately until they become ingrained in society with two different—often contradictory meanings. “Mistress”, for example, used to indicate an honorable woman in a position of authority—now it means pretty much the opposite. “Demagogue” used to mean one who uses fear to control the people, whereas now it seems to indicate the object that the masses are told to be afraid of (the source of this fear-propaganda, it seems, now needs a new word to describe it). This weekend I noticed that the definition of “Fascism” has also changed. I don’t think most people noticed, or even if they care, but it is alarming to see how it has been changed.

The original word comes from a Latin symbol of authority, the fasces. In Latin and medieval times, it was an axe surrounded by a bundle of sticks, carried by the local magistrate and used to illustrate their authority to both punish (with the sticks) and even to execute those if the death penalty became necessary (with the axe). We all know that the Nazis used this word to describe their use of authority. What is interesting is that this symbol, the fasces, is still used on local law enforcement logos even in the United States because of its original meaning. You’d think, after WWII, the symbol might be kind of awkward, but now, the way the government opposition is using it, it’s down-right confusing.

This past month, the word has been used for yet another meaning—to describe the Presidency of Donald Trump. Though there is no comparison to the Nazi regime, propagandists are trying to make one. What has resulted is that academic authorities like the Oxford Dictionary have changed the definition of the word to more accurately represent how it is being used "by the majority". The problem is that it is being used for political purposes, which change on the whims of the politicians, the politically-motivated television personalities, and the editorial commentaries of a thousand newspapers all working together to depose the current government. I find this frightening.

We live in a world where legal decisions hinge on interpretation of the word. You would think that an adherence to some sort of standard for word definition would be in order. After all, was not the Tower of Babel brought down simply by an inability to communicate? How much more chaos might ensue when words change meaning based on the whims of the wordsmiths who choose to use them as weapons—weapons of motivation for the kind of chaos we are already seeing in our world?

Unfortunately, as I illustrated in my Tales of Vantoria series, this is not just a political problem. Bible interpretation can also be a matter of life and death. My question is this: In this age of pseudo-educated demagogues in control of the media and our information industries, do we really want to let a definition of a word be decided by the whims of an unintelligent, emotionally-motivated, and uninformed (whether they know it or not) majority?

R.J. Gilbert (rjagilbert) | 93 comments Another wonderful example of definitions being changed to suit an agenda is the word “flu.” The original word is a shortening of the word “Influenza”, which is a particular kind of illness that can be quite deadly—like “Spanish Influenza” or “Bird Flu”. Unfortunately, when “flu shots” came out about ten years ago, most people did not notice that the pharmacy companies had changed the meaning of the word. The pharmaceutical companies actually stated that the term “flu” identified a vast collection of viral illnesses that caused similar symptoms. In essence, their definition of the word “flu” became what we used to call the common cold. These “flu” shots were actually vaccinations not for the deadly influenza, but for a collection of viral strains that caused basic, non-threatening illnesses.

Here’s another one: Emergent. This one was also used inaccurately in the medical industry. The original word is used often in landscaping and agriculture to indicate two similar meanings. “Emergent” wetland is the official designation for wetland marshes where grass and shrubs “emerge” from the water. In agriculture, it has also been used to describe the stage of plant life where leaves and blossoms are “emergent” on the branch. Unfortunately, somewhere in the medical industry, some half-educated medical professional assumed the word meant “urgent” (which is only two syllables to “emergent’s” three) and used it proficiently. By the time people started to question its usage, the word had become so widely used that I’ve even found it printed in government medical regulations. The interpretation, unfortunately, can go both ways. One Medicaid handbook instructed patients to only use the emergency room for “emergent” needs; which could just as easily mean a splinter showing above the skin or other health problems that, like emergent blossoms on the branch, are just beginning to show.

Biblically, I’ve found words like “Hell” and “Heaven” to be two very important examples where the original definitions should be sought. Most folks just like to stick with the definition they picked up in Sunday school without ever coming to realize that those meanings are probably a lot younger than the Gospels. Has anybody else noticed that there might be other, possibly older, meanings?

back to top