The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

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84                    THE HUMANITY OF WORDS
Fact1957 may not he fact1958, etc. Opinion1957 may not be opinion1958, etc.
Today, even a child knows that nothing is static. From the terrifying field inside the atom to the universal a whole, nothing is static. Everything moves.
But our senses help us to stabilize our moving, changing world. We cannot see the bacteria that dance in the water we drink. We have no realization, through our senses, of the process that is called a rock, a statue, a skyscraper, a mountain. Our senses spare us. Our senses compress time so that light-years become a mere blink of the eye. Our senses compress mass and motion so that vast spinning constellations appear as mere specks, stationary in the midnight blue. "Stars," we call them; and, by so calling, fix them in time and space. The limitations of our senses help us to forget about incessant process and constant transformation.
Our language, too, stabilizes our moving, changing world. We can designate the conglomeration of dancing atoms as a desk, a chair, a church, a barn, a tree by the use of words that ignore motion and changes in time. The word "desk" is as stable, as fixed, as unchanging as the "substantial object" that holds my typewriter, my books, my papers, etc. When time and process and change are not relevant to our interests, we can ignore them. And our words will help us do this. This is good. We may safely talk about a desk, a chair, a slab of stone, without regard to process and change.
But words that stop time and process and change may be obstacles to communication. The course of human events involves changes in time that cannot be ignored. When this is so, our words must, somehow, contain and com-