The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

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116                  THE HUMANITY OF WORDS
purpose, and, if it seems important to point to the differences left out, ! add an etc. to my definition. This reminds me (and others, if necessary) that I have not told all.
But we have yet another obstacle. Our language is a closed system. We keep going round and round until we get right back where we started. When we use other wrords to define a word, eventually we must come back to the original word in order to define those other words! We are confronted with a collection of synonyms. Take a word like 'loyalty" for instance. Do you know what "loyalty'* means? The dictionary gives us the run-around. It gives us a grand tour from 'loyalty" to "fidelity" to "faithfulness" to "constancy" to "allegiance" to "fealty"and back again to "loyalty." Language is a circular system from which we cannot extricate ourselves by language alone.
As Korzybski points out, just as geometry rests on axioms that must be assumed as true, so the definition of any word rests on other words, other definitions, until, finally, we come to a meaning that must be assumed as known by direct wordless experience. Korzybski points out that we have to start withor end withundefined terms which are labels for direct experience. Did you ever experience "loyally"? Then you know what I mean!
Just so, if the word we are trying to define stands for a thing, we come, at last, to the pointing stage. There is no other way. How, then, can we know what a word stands forwhat it represents? The dictionary definition is a clue, but only the context in which the word is found can help us get closer to its meaning. Remember the word "chair"?
The poor derail goes to the electric chair tonight.
If I had my chair here, I could extract that tooth in short order.