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» The Ornery American Forum » Ornery Writers Workshop » Connotation and clarity rant, and a writing challenge

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Author Topic: Connotation and clarity rant, and a writing challenge
stayne
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Let's get some actualy _writing_ going on here, in addition to critiques. Let's talk and play with _words_.

In another thread here, on the political section of the board, there has been some low level hostility generated by a particular turn of phrase. I've sworn off the political section here, because I find the environment hopelessly biased, but I would like to take up this specific example here in OWW as a commentary on writing and communication, specifically on how people all too often misuse connotation and equivokation to make logically invalid points, or accidentally communicate something they did not intend.

Words have meaning. Using them improperly indicates either ignorance or a deliberate attempt to deceive. It seems to me that many charges of demogoguery boil down to precisely the nit I want to pick at, and it behooves all writers to understand the mechanics. On the one hand, we may want to avoid such things, if we are trying to be very logical and clear. On the other, we may well like to demogogue ourselves, in which case, again, we need to know the tricks. And then, of course, we will _all_ need to create characters who will employ such verbal constructs.

The particular turn of phrase I'm thinking of is where one poster refers to incentives offered by the military as bribes to the poor. On its face, one might be inclined to nod and say, yes, I suppose that could be construed that way. I submit that it is not so, and that the offense some have taken to the phrasing is reasonable.

While one might argue that in a narrow sense, 'bribe' means 'payment', such use strips the word 'bribe' of the negative connotation of corruption, and equates it with just compensation. It renders the word 'bribe' devoid of any real meaning to distinguish it from 'payment', and therefore communicates nothing more than using the more appropriate word 'payment' to begin with. If one _knowingly_ attempts such a bait and switch, he is being deliberately disingenuous. He is attempting to associate the negative connotations of he word 'bribe' with his statement, while forcing the word in such a way as the remove the negative connotions. It's having one's cake and eating it, too. And if he does it accidentally, then he is miscommunicating his position.

The _only_ way to use the term 'bribe' and have it retain its negative connotations is to further assert that military service in and of itself is dishonorable. Then, and _only_ then, would 'bribe' be the proper term, as it would mean a payment offerred to pursuede people to do something unethical.

Astute readers, when reading statements from people who appear to have a good grasp of language, draw the reasonable conclusion: the person making such a stament in fact believes military service is unethical, because that is the only logical reason for the author to choose such phrasing.

There's a brief, mechanical analysis of it. Here is my challenge: find a negative word that can be stretched by using definition #4 (as opposed to #1, the obvious and generally accepted one) in the dictionary to cover an otherwise innocuous activity, and develop a platform to attack that activity. Make it compelling! Make me wonder if we should ban Dasani in your Dodge because drinking and driving is obviously dangerous. Go crazy. I am pretty sure we can come up with several that will make some intersting comedic seeds.

I'll post my own up as soon as I can think up something suitably diabolical. [Wink]

Posts: 593 | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
kenmeer livermaile
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"Astute readers, when reading statements from people who appear to have a good grasp of language, draw the reasonable conclusion: the person making such a stament in fact believes military service is unethical, because that is the only logical reason for the author to choose such phrasing."

War is illogical. Imputing logical inferences is not logically necessary. Military service is often a highly ethical matter (putting aside its ultimate purpose: wholesale slaughter). The means by which one is induced or inducted, however, are often not so ethical as the service into which they lead. Stories of deceptive Army recruiters are rife to the point of folklorehood.

As for bribery, it is loosely defined even in semantic canons:

web definitions for bribe
make illegal payments to in exchange for favors or influence; "This judge can be bought"
www.cogsci.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/webwn2.1 - Definition in context

bribe: Definition, Synonyms and Much More From Answers.com
bribe ( brīb ) n. Something, such as money or a favor, offered or given to a
person in a position of trust to influence that person's views or.
www.answers.com/topic/bribe - 34k - Cached - Similar pages

bribery: Definition and Much More From Answers.com
brib·er·y ( brī ' bə-rē ) n. , pl. -ies . The act or practice of offering, giving,
or taking a bribe.
www.answers.com/topic/bribery - 40k - Cached - Similar pages

bribe - definition of bribe in Encyclopedia
Bribery is the practice of offering a professional money or other favours in
order to circumvent ethics in a variety of professions.
encyclopedia.laborlawtalk.com/bribe - 22k - Cached - Similar pages

Bribe - Dictionary Definition by freesearch
bribe. verb {T}. to try to make someone do something for you by giving them money,
... He was accused of accepting/taking bribes from wealthy businessmen. ...
www.freesearch.co.uk/dictionary/bribe - Similar pages

Definition of bribe - WordReference.com Dictionary
bribe Definition from dictionary. ... 1, bribe, payoff. payment made to a person
in a position of trust to corrupt his judgment. Category Tree:. possession ...
www.wordreference.com/definition/bribe - 9k - Jun 12, 2005 - Cached - Similar pages


This does not "strip the word 'bribe' of the negative connotation of corruption" nor does it make it an under the table kickback inducement to break or bend the law. It does, perhaps, reflect the sentiment expressed in this old Viet Nam era tune:

Some folks are born made to wave the flag,
ooh, they're red, white and blue.
And when the band plays "Hail To The Chief",
oh, they point the cannon at you, Lord,

It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no senator's son,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one, no,

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
Lord, don't they help themselves, oh.
But when the taxman come to the door,
Lord, the house look a like a rummage sale, yes,

It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no millionaire's son.
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one, no.

Yeh, some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
ooh, they send you down to war, Lord,
And when you ask them, how much should we give,
oh, they only answer, more, more, more, yoh,

It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no military son,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one,

It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one, no no no,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate son, no no no,

- John C, Fogerty


A more damning use of the word bribery in context of military inducement/induction would be that of being a son fortunate enough to buy one's way OUT of military service, as was blatantly done during the Civil War to the point of massive riots in NYC during that time, and as is done more subtly now via various college deferrments and similar methods.

Regarding absurdlky twisted semantics, I stumbled on this. It doesn't fir the definition but it deserves a quick snurkle/chorkle/giggle:

http://www.masturbateforpeace.com/

which leads us to this:

http://www.masturbationhorror.com/

Elsewhere, I offer this:
Xtian Masturbation

Somewhere in this search I found this ad:

"Sponsored Links
Free Masturbation Site
The Most Interactive Masturbation
Community Online.
" target="_blank">www.Eroticy.com"[/I]

Free and interactive masturbation... oh brave new world!?!

Posts: 23297 | Registered: Jan 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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