Find out what certain words mean to them

Find out what certain words mean to them

"To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge." - Socrates

One time, when I was ten, my mother told me to wash the dishes. So I washed the dishes. An hour later, Mother found me in the living room reading and asked me why I had not washed the dishes as instructed. I told that I had in fact washed the dishes to which she responded, “then why is the trash still in the kitchen?”

Dumbstruck, I stood there silently and just looked at her. She must have noticed my confusion because she then proceeded to inform me that “in this house ‘wash the dishes’ means washing the dishes, wiping the counters, the table and the stove; sweeping the floor and taking out the trash.” That was my first lesson in term definition.  “Wash the dishes” didn’t mean clean the utensils used when eating. It was code for a whole bunch of other things that Mother expected.

Growing up, I found the same dynamic in dating. There was “talking”, “going together”, “dating”, “seeing each other” and a host of other terms that all referred to some type of interaction between two people. Every term was different but the common thread in all of them was the meaning and expectations associated with the term was defined by the two people using it.

Later, in college I was introduced to I.A. Richards and his ideas regarding words and their lack of meaning. To summarize simply, words are meaningless. It’s all about the ideas and images they trigger. If I say “dog” one might think about their pet while another might think about a former lover while a third might think of DMX. It’s all contextual. It was after my discovery of Richards, that I became a rival of titles and a stickler for the “what do you mean by that?” conversation.

Titles are an extension of behavioral code. The one who manages is the manager. And those titles often times come with expectations.  I don’t know for sure that the manager at Staples knows the color of the resume paper I’m trying to describe but I expect him to know because he bears the title “manager.” I believe the same thing happens in relationships. Once one bears a title, there could be a host of expectations that are associated with that title that may not be associated with the person. And I have found that most people expect the person to live up to the title rather than the title live up to the person. I myself have heard in the past, “but you’re supposed to do A, B and C. You’re my boyfriend.”

While I am a huge supporter of life without expectations, the truth is expectations are eternal. Knowing that, I almost always suggest that when codes and titles appear there is an immediate discussion as to the meanings and expectations of those codes and titles. Taking for granted that you know what these terms mean is a fail. Words are meaningless. Meaning has meaning. Know the meaning.

Remember. No always. No never.

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