The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

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52                     THE HUMANITY OF WORDS
of such people. The head is crammed with thoughtsto burstingbut with little, if any, relation to the real world of people and things.
This inattention to the outside world needs to be emphasized because so many intelligent people withdraw from the world. They find it crass, harsh, unpleasant ... I am remembering now a brilliant young woman who took top honors in a graduate school of social science. After taking her degree, she was assigned to an excellent position in the field, but she was utterly incapable of relating her theoretical knowledgethe words and the thoughtsto the things that confronted her: the squalor, the poverty, the starvation, the sickness, the drunkenness, etc. The last time I saw her, she was in a cubicle in the underground stacks of a university library translating articles in foreign periodicals. And she was happy. Here was a girl who had no conception of the humanity of words.
The "triangle" of meaning alerts us to the fact that the circuit is not completed until words are referredthrough thoughtsto things.
18. The private life of words
We are interested now in the thoughtful fellow I have put at the peak of the "triangle." Notice that he comes between the words and the things they refer to out there in the world. This is precisely where you stood when you read the word "satellite" in these pages. Something happened in your nervous system before you could refer that word to the moon, or perhaps a man-made object, up there.
To repeat:
Always: There is no direct relation between the word and the thing! A human being who has lived his own per-