What's in a Word?
My last post dealt with the marketing of word association regarding political candidates. As with most issues, I find myself torn on the validity of such an exercise. Reducing one's ideas of a candidate down to one concentrated word is both a trifling exercise and, potentially, a profound exercise in linguistics. As a student of language, I understand that the words we use are much more than a temporal utterance. Most of the words in our relatively young language have rich histories and bring with them, through time, a bounty of meaning. I would rather stay away from the nature of language from a philosophical standpoint (though would be happy to entertain any discussion on the matter), and instead look at the two words that emerged as the defining syllables for McCain and Obama. First, Obama:
On the surface, it appears that this word is due to the successful marketing of Obama's campaign team. They have trademarked change, in a way... made it the defining theme of the campaign. However, deeper than simply parroting what you hear in the commercials, read on the bumper stickers, or listening to pundits regurgitating the same prepackaged slogans and rhetoric, is a much more dynamic linkage of the word to the political climate and Barack Obama, himself. He represents a change in the type of person considered for office... young, black, liberal. He has raised an incredible amount of money through small donations. He is both the "anti-candidate" in that people will vote for him as being nearly the polar opposite of George Bush and he is an individual who represents things in the affirmative, not just a change of ideals.
Again, a cursory look at the word strikes us as trivial... a simple, and pejorative description of his physical, chronological age. However, it also describes McCain on a deeper level. He is a traditional candidate, representing a traditional demographic, and following a political arc that has been traversed many times before. He is, in effect, old... the old guard, the old way of doing things, familiar. It's not a negative... we have had a tremendous amount of success following that model... the old model.
So, ok, maybe the poll wasn't as useless as it seemed on the surface.
On a different note, I have had a lot of fun thus far throwing out stuff in Brant's absence. I realize that the fun is intrinsic to one of the basic allures of the internet: the ability to participate. Generating content for a blog is fun. Responding to people in forums and blogs is fun. It is interactive, to an extent... the ability to create dialogue from monologue. On that note, I'd like to play a nerdy word game, since we are on the topic of words. I am going to state a sentence... one that we have all heard countless times, and I would like you to take it apart. Deconstruct it. Strip it down to basic components so as to show how words, absent a certain context, are meaningless... or at least have a flawed meaning. I can identify 4 fundamental flaws in the sentence... and those flaws can be elaborated on further into a couple of faults each. Here you go:
Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492.