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Old Jul 6th 2010, 10:52 AM
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dilettante dilettante is offline
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Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

I don't really have a stake in the definition of "atheism" debate (and I don't understand the three posts above mine), but I'd like to respond to this:

Originally Posted by Margot View Post
I’ve been thinking a lot about words. It’s what I do. To me, words are a science. Communication is a science. I say one thing, and I can get this reaction. I say another and I can get a different reaction. Each word is like an atom, each sentence is a molecule, and each reaction is real, definable, and profound. Changing one word is changing the entire equation. This is why I love words. This is why I love writing.
Literal isn’t lazy. Words are not nearly as gooey as people think they are. They are the absolute most solid creations the human mind has brought forth. More importantly, word meanings aren’t as gooey as people think they are. Literal isn’t lazy. Yet, the more simple the word, the more implications we associate with them. The more Latin we speak, the dumber we become.
I sympathize with your love of words and writings, but oddly enough that very affection makes me recoil from the notion of words as 'science'. In fact, one of my favorite things about words and language is how "gooey" they can be, especially in fiction and poetry. One of my favorite poems is ee cumming's "anyone lived in a pretty how town." I love the way it conveys meaning and emotion, and even tells a recognizable story, almost entirely through nonsensical phrases. If you read all the words and phrases literally, it's a meaningless jumble, but if you're willing to let the language be flexible, to let it be "gooey," than it's quite beautiful.

Furthermore, I love the way that poem can mean different things to different people, or even mean different things to me at different times. Scientific experiments are supposed to be repeatable. If Force=Mass*Acceleration is true today than it had darn well better be true tomorrow. But the meaning of words changes with place, time and individual person. The same word can mean something different today than it did 200 years ago, or than it does 200 miles away. The adaptability of language is at times confusing, but its also wonderful in its way.

Anyway, I agree with you that "literal isn't lazy"; sometimes it's absolutely essential. But there's so much more to language, to words, than just their literal meaning, and I'd hate to see that belittled.
kyrie eleison

Last edited by dilettante; Jul 6th 2010 at 11:01 AM.
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