Quotes of the Day for 2 January 2005 – Words
Last week I started the introduction of the issue on waves by saying "On Sunday the planet behaved in a most awesome way". A reader responded that this was "very inappropriate and just wrong" to say such a thing. It took a while, but I think I know what happened. There are people out there that have no clue what the word "awesome" means and use it as a generic positive comment like groovy, neat, cool, rad, boss, or any number of other words that have been appropriated. It pains me to admit it, but I've been known to use the wrong word from time to time. However, I do cherish words and am not likely to fall into any trendy patterns that abuse definitions. If nothing else, having no TV and little connection with "popular culture" there's a good chance I don't even know about such usage! Here are some comments from others that take words seriously.
How often misused words generate misleading thoughts.
- Herbert Spencer, 1820 - 1903
I consider looseness with words no less of a defect than looseness of the bowels.
- John Calvin, 1509 - 1564
Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination.
- Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations
Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.
- Francis of Assisi, 1182 - 1226
All our work, our whole life is a matter of semantics, because words are the tools with which we work, the material out of which laws are made, out of which the Constitution was written. Everything depends on our understanding of them.
- Felix Frankfurter, 1882 - 1965
Words mean what they're generally believed to mean. When Charles II saw Christopher Wren's St. Paul's Cathedral for the first time, he called it "awful, pompous, and artificial." Meaning roughly: Awesome, majestic, and ingenious.
- S. M. Stirling
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