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  #111  
Old Aug 11th 2010, 11:07 AM
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Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

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Originally Posted by Michael View Post
Amber definition #5 seems rather appropriate!

As always, definitions of "Michael" are always flattering. Can't go wrong when one's name "He who is like God!"
Aww..shucks

Too bad the grammar isn't better I am flattered that you recognize my ability to be a bitch
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  #112  
Old Aug 11th 2010, 11:19 AM
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Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

Gee, you guys are slow.

I have always enjoyed choice terms such as Swedish Rodeo, Dutch Oven, and the famous Hungarian Stew.

Nice changing the subject btw- oh wait, we are talking about urban dictionary, the finest source for scientific evidence on the internet.
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  #113  
Old Aug 13th 2010, 09:05 AM
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Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

Speaking of dictionaries, the OED always describes the origin and evolution of the meanings of any given word in the English language. Some English words have meanings that are categorically opposite to what the word meant one hundred or three hundred years ago.

If words had a 'scientific' character of precision that is intrinsic to the word itself, I don't see how it is possible for such words to 'evolve' over time.
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  #114  
Old Aug 15th 2010, 01:54 PM
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Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

Do you remember the first time you experienced letters in math? What a fantastic new concept! "n" represents a number and a number is a physical value concept. "Let 'a' represent...." is usually where children begin to struggle with mathematics.

Mathematical symbols are no different than words in the way they are used to represent things or concepts. When letters are used in math, students must unlearn what they know about letters. Up to this point, letters were parts of words and usually had no meaning alone. They were phonemes (individual sounds in a word).

Suddenly, a letter represented something else - a complete concept. What's worse, it represented a concept that was not completely defined but could be with some effort.

Language is the same- representations of things or concepts or even thoughts.

The better we understand and use the language, the better we think. The more words we use and the better crafted our system of language, the better we think. We are appropriating tools for ever more sophisticated and subtle concepts. Do you think it is possible to even think of thinking without words used to represent concepts - words used as place holders in our minds like mathematical symbols are placeholders for scaffolding ever greater equations.

Focusing on how we use language is literally focusing on using the best tools for the best outcome. Why would we wish for anything less?

Did anyone bring up Finnegans Wake yet?
I know a lot of people think this is a book of nonsense but think about what Joyce achieves. I'm going to a random page for the following quote:
Quote:
Nuvoletta in her lightdress, spunn of sisteen shimmers, was looking down on them, leaning over the bannistars and listening all she childishly could. How she was brightened when Shouldrups in his glaubering hochskied his welkinstuck and how she was overclused when Kneesknobs on his zwvvel was makeacting such a paulse of himshelp!
What? 628 pages in my copy. One has to work very, hard to achieve understanding. The language is different and the concepts are unexpected. Like being introduced to algebra.

So what is the purpose of Finnegans Wake? Perhaps just that - an exercise in using word tools to expand consciousness. Was Shakespeare different? I don't think so.

But, working up to Joyce and Shakespeare is like working up to calculus in math. When people throw words around without regard to the concepts those words represent, they are not achieving anything. This is where I side with Margot.

My oldest sister was married to a man that liked words. He liked the way they sounded and he liked the way people respected him when he used them. The problem was that he didn't know how to use them. Anyone that did know how to use them thought he was a fool and anyone that didn't know how to use them were fools just like him. What does that achieve? Foolishness.
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  #115  
Old Aug 15th 2010, 02:08 PM
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Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

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Originally Posted by Michael View Post
Speaking of dictionaries, the OED always describes the origin and evolution of the meanings of any given word in the English language. Some English words have meanings that are categorically opposite to what the word meant one hundred or three hundred years ago.

If words had a 'scientific' character of precision that is intrinsic to the word itself, I don't see how it is possible for such words to 'evolve' over time.
Oh I do. For the same reason that people think that their chances of winning the lottery are better if they play the same number every week. Simple ignorance. I will be blunt: language changes because people are ignorant.

Clearly, if this is true, then we communicate less well when we are forced to dumb down in order to be understood by those who refuse to wise up.

Too harsh?
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  #116  
Old Aug 15th 2010, 02:25 PM
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Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

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Originally Posted by JHC View Post
Oh I do. For the same reason that people think that their chances of winning the lottery are better if they play the same number every week. Simple ignorance. I will be blunt: language changes because people are ignorant.

Clearly, if this is true, then we communicate less well when we are forced to dumb down in order to be understood by those who refuse to wise up.

Too harsh?
THANK YOU!

I'm probably the only girl who went through her teen years adding "except for my mommy" to the classic "no one understands me!"
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  #117  
Old Aug 15th 2010, 02:29 PM
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Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

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Originally Posted by Mind's Eye View Post
Of course I expect a reaction !
What that reaction is, however, remains beyond my control.

Our labware is contaminated simply by our having individual & unique experiences which shaped us into who we are. That cannot be undone.

Those experiences shape how we interpret stimuli.
I think I disagree. You may not be able to guarantee the response but there is high probability that you will receive a response within certain boundaries. Why? because it is understood as part of our system of communication.

All labware is contaminated. All experiments are imperfect. All conclusions are probabilities.

I think the point Margot is making is that just because you can not expect perfection doesn't mean you can't learn anything and should just give up trying. I might be wrong about that.

Lets talk about the difference between precision and accuracy using the word atheist as an example:

To be precise only requires that everyone agree that the word atheist means one who believes that God does not exist. This represent a cluster on a bull's eye that is far from the center, maybe not even within the rings but still a tight cluster.

To be accurate is to have a single mark dead center in the bull's eye. The prefix 'a is defined as meaning without. Theist is defined as one who believes in a god or gods. This is a bull's eye.

Only one person needs to be accurate while 20 others may represent precision.

This is to say that 20 attempts missed the mark but there is likely some bias in the experiment that has caused these 20 to be off the mark.
So does this mean that the results are valid? No. It means the experiment has been carried out with built-in error.

Now, think about this mixing of metaphors, (science and language). If we were talking about a real scientific experiment, then continuing with the built-in error leads to misunderstanding of results and, eventually, after much frustration, a breakdown of the entire system.

If science is a decent metaphor, then we might expect the same thing to happen to language if we continue with the built-in error. Has it happened? Do people agree about what the word atheist means? Does it cause frustration? Is there a breakdown of the actual system such that the rules of words don't even apply anymore? Does 'a not longer mean without? Is a theist no longer one who believes in a god or gods? Does putting the two together mean something different in this one case than it does in all other cases?
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  #118  
Old Aug 15th 2010, 02:32 PM
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Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

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Originally Posted by Margot View Post
THANK YOU!

I'm probably the only girl who went through her teen years adding "except for my mommy" to the classic "no one understands me!"


I don't think you're supposed to confess that aloud.
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  #119  
Old Aug 15th 2010, 02:45 PM
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Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

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Originally Posted by Mind's Eye View Post
Yes and yes.

If the identical use of language produces dis-similar results, the material & methods ( input ) must be revised to achieve conforming results. That is the definition of a successful science experiment after all - repeatable results.

And since this " experiment " is being conducted upon humans, I do not believe than any amount of revisions will be able to produce conforming results. Sure, we have tendencies, but nowhere near 100%.
100% or nothing is a false dichotomy. If you order iced tea and there is a communication problem, would you prefer to receive hot tea or a bamboo shoot in the eye?



Quote:
A person's choice of words will, by necessity, change to suit the audience.

Language is akin to a bullit leaving a gun. Once it exits, control is lost. Sure, one knows what was intended but again how an audience receives the input is unknowable to the speaker.

Does one speak to a 3 year old the same as he or she speaks to a 33 year old ? I would hope not.

Does the environment in which one is conversing affect the choice of one's words ? I would hope so.


Language is not only a hammer, and our minds are not only a nail.
It may be unknowable specifically, but it can be expected within certain limits. This is not imprecise! This is precision. To know how to use the tool is exactly what this is all about.

The example of the three year old is a really interesting one. Not until a human is about 6 years old do they have the capacity to connect word concepts. A 3 year old may understand that the man with the beard and blue eyes is Daddy. The same three year old may understand that the room with a toilet is a bathroom. But the 3 year old will not understand that Daddy is in the bathroom when you tell them.

The interesting part of that example is that when they are about 6, children learn both how to connect concepts and how to think about thinking. They will suddenly start to realize that Mommy and Daddy are thinking and things are not random.
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  #120  
Old Aug 15th 2010, 03:38 PM
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Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

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Originally Posted by dilettante View Post
I think this thread is crying out for a shared definition of "literal". What defines the literal meaning of a word or phrase?
What? I can't believe it! To be literal literally means to use the construction or primary meaning. Therefore the literal definition is exactly what Margot said it was. It is both the constructed and primary meaning.

Quote:
Is it the commonly accepted definition?
Is it the official definition given by the language's governing body (or whatever might be closest for languages that don't have one of these)?
Is it the original definition?

If we're to look at the word "atheism", then the commonly accepted definition (at least in the US) is, roughly, one who believes God(s) do(es) not exist; the dictionary definition is either "a disbelief in the existence of deity" or "the doctrine that there is no deity"; and the original definition is akin to "ungodliness" or "wickedness" and, as Michael pointed out, was generally used with regard to some Christians by others.

IMO, all of these are "literal" definitions. As long as you use the word "atheist" in a non-symbolic, non-metaphorical sense, then you're using the word literally.

I can respect Margot's desire to break the word down into its root components, but I suggest that in this case that approach is, at best, arbitrary and open to interpretation.
She breaks it down as 'a'-negative 'theism'-belief in God => "not believing in God". Thus she has the prefix modify the belief, the 'ism'. But it makes at least as much sense to break it down as 'a'-negative 'theo'-God 'ism'-belief => (no God) belief => "the belief in no God." Here the prefix modifies 'theo' rather than 'ism'. That would follow the pattern of "polytheism" (poly-many theo-God ism-belief => (many gods) belief => belief in many gods). If we used Margot's system, we would define polytheism as "many beliefs in God", which clearly isn't right.

Anyway, at the very least, the "literal" definition should never be one that is neither the common, nor the official, nor the original use of a word. In the case of "atheism," Margot's definition is one of the official definitions, but it is not the only one nor is it the original or common usage. As such, I don't see how it has any greater claim to being the "literal" definition than the more common, equally official alternative.
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