The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

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94                    THE HUMANITY OF WORDS
farmers, or laborers, or mechanics, or doctorsor any group, any classwe can't throw them into sacks and label them like potatoes and forget about the differences left out. Every human being in the whole world is unique. No two are exactly alike. At most, there is similarity, never identity. No two members of the same class are identical.
Strictly, the only thing we can say about all Hungarians is that they were born in Hungary (or are of Hungarian nationality); the only thing we can say about all Jews, again speaking strictly, is that they are human beings who subscribe to the Judaic faith; the only thing we can say about all Negroes is that they are human beings who are members of the Negro "race"; the only thing we can say about all farmers is that they are human beings who own or run farms.
I once heard Robert Hutchins (then) Chancellor of the University of Chicago say: "This is tautological, therefore true." I didn't know what he meant at the time but it makes a lot of sense to me now. If you call a boy "a boy," this is tautological (repetitious), and therefore true. When you say Boys will be boys you can't go wrong! No truer words were ever said. And there is very little more you can say about all boys and speak the truth!
Again, Korzybski suggests that we let this semantic device of indexing get under our skins. This should help us in two ways:
i* Our perceptions and conceptions of similarities in different persons, things, incidents, situations, etc., should be sharpened* As a result of this, we should choose our words more precisely for their utility in transmitting similarity.
Every word is a class word, of course. But some class