Words

On my birthday we played a game which included guessing what “Dad” would say. One question was “What irritates Dad?” The winning answer was, “Dad hates to be told what to do or think!” But that’s not entirely true. I hate being manipulated. A clear order can be ignored, dismissed, or agreed. A question posed like, “Do you want to go to the store and pick up a few things?” What am I to do with that? I haven’t been sitting there considering my desires, especially the one where I want to go to the store for something unnamed. And of course I want to be helpful… so, my answer must be yes! And I end up shopping for female sanitary items without knowing that I’ve been thinking about that for several hours.

The phrase “Do you want…” sends me into a deep personal search of my feelings, and whether or not I have been signaling my desires to those around me. Almost like when I was a child, and I was jiggling around in my chair, “Do you want to get down? Do you want to go to the bathroom?” It takes a few moments to run through the analysis, so I never respond quickly. Often I simply respond honestly, “No, I haven’t thought about that, but if you need something I’d be happy to go get it.”

The clerk at the counter asks, “Can you give me your birthdate?”, I say, “Yes, I can!” Trying to be helpful, and proving that I have the ability. Then I realize they actually want me to verbalize it. That wasn’t the question!

I’m bothered by the lazy choice of similar words. Well, they may seem similar but actually at their core they are vastly different, yet they are used as if they are interchangeable.

The first pair is “to yield” and “to surrender”. Both are often used in reference to combat. Surrender has by far the greatest use. It generally means giving up, I am ceasing my action against something. I am surrendering my arms, my army, or my nation. Often the word is accompanied by the modifier “unconditional”. Although I’m at a loss to find a surrender that had conditions, but perhaps there were a few in history. Some armies were allowed to keep their arms, some cities were allowed to vacate citizens. I’m not sure how often these were in the demands of the defeated, but more often were granted by the victors to encourage the surrender. To surrender is to truly give up, but not necessarily as a choice.

To yield is something different, to yield is a choice. Go to any traffic circle and you can see people who choose to yield and some who don’t, even though the sign tells you to yield. Yielding comes from a position of strength and thinking. You could fight on, but something has factored a different decision, so you yield. I love yielding, it isn’t done enough.

Dislike and hatred is a classic parenting mantra. You are constantly telling your kids to not “hate” something, but instead you say you “dislike” it. It’s tough to hate broccoli, or Lima beans. They are innocent victims of emotion. You are even told to hate the sin, but not the sinner. So there are some things to hate, but not as many as we verbalize.. I remember the most impactful understanding I had as a child. I was reading a Superman comic book, and Lex Luther, the arch villain, was addressing Superman, he said “I don’t hate you Superman!”. Good, he was going to slip in a much better, “ I dislike you”, his mother would have been pleased. But then Luther took a turn, “I don’t hate you, Superman, I loath you!” Wow, there is another category I had never heard of. I wondered what things I loathed? Perhaps Lima beans?

Systemic and systematic is a current favorite and misused on a regular basis. Systemic is all pervasive, worthy of completely destroying, no redemption. No matter where you turn the evil pops up, it has surrounded you, and the only option is complete eradication. This is rarely the truth or the only solution. Mote likely is that something is systematically pervasive.

You can impact the specific system. A person has cancer, you attack the cancer, defeat it, and the person lives. A nation has systematic slavery, you have a civil war to end the system of slavery. It still surfaces in sneaky ways. You attack the systems until it’s gone, but you don’t destroy the nation. Instead you realize that the nation is systemically opposed to slavery.

Looking and seeing is all about the awareness factor. Looking at something is a positive step, much better than ignoring. But if you don’t see it after looking at it then nothing is accomplished. There are too many witnesses that rest on the laurels of looking at a problem. You have to see a problem in order to fix a problem.

Listening and hearing is another issue that is the same as looking and seeing. A microphone listens, a person hears and hopefully takes action.

Speaking and talking is all about intent. Weirdly I’ve never heard a person say, “I was just speaking to myself”. Too much talk, not enough speak.

Wishing and hoping is a great line in an old song, and it even reverses the words, implying that it still makes sense. I get “hope”, it is constantly with us. Wishing is much more fuzzy. I’m not sure that wishing is helpful.

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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5 Responses to Words

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful thoughts. I laughed a lot. I think listening is the more attentive version oh hearing though. Imo.

    • johndiestler – Lafayette, California – Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
      johndiestler says:

      Hmm, well you’re wrong.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Continuing my previous comment, I hear someone talking but I listen to them speaking. What do you think?

    • johndiestler – Lafayette, California – Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
      johndiestler says:

      Hmm, well, I guess I’m wrong.

    • johndiestler – Lafayette, California – Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
      johndiestler says:

      You are right, listening can seem to be more pro-active, but that just means it’s sneaky. Remember listening devices are hidden. People with ears hear. There is hope with people. Listening devices can go to tape recorders. But listening sounds so engaging, hearing sounds in committed. Hmm, maybe it’s my old cryptography coming out. I dislike bugs.

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