Wednesday 21 July 2010

More semantics

Considering the difficulty most of us have in commuicating accurately with one another, it continues to amaze me how closely related but diametrically opposed, (nearly typed "diabolically") some words, or the use of them, can be. On the other hand, it may be the meaning with which we imbue the words that is the challenge. Example: recently, I was charged with the sin of vanity. Heaven forbid; I assure you, I have no grounds whatsoever on which to base vanity. What is really going on when I show over-concern for my appearance or curse the wind which has blown my entire morning's work in to a haystack, is a lack of confidence. I do feel more confident tackling a challenging world with tidy hair, don't you? When I put this to the Guru, who was detained on one occasion behind my despairing clutch of the mirror at the front door, he was generous enough to admit that this was the case for him, too. Now, those of you who have been kind enough to keep up, may remember that I was rushed out of A and E and on to a ward at the local hospital because his exceeding good looks were distracting the busy A and E nurses. He has much to be vain about. However, this is not how he sees himself. One example does not constitute a thesis, I know, but think about it. Real vanity must involve a degree of confidence that over-rides all doubt. It may even go against the view of the rest of the world with regard to the attributes of the vainglorious. That makes me think of pride. It must be permissable to have pride, even in one's appearance, without being vain. Mind you, no-one can be held responsible for his/her looks. Surely, they are a gift of Nature, or whatever you happen to believe in. You can take pride in keeping things in the best condition you can manage, but is that vanity? As it happens, I can see that I am vain in retrospect. I promise this was not the case at the time, but, now, I am vain about the figure I lost too many years ago. Dear Readers, as we speak, I am 'D' shaped. I am much the same shape I was carrying the last - and the other - of my children. Well, there you are. Next time you disparage someone for vanity, look and see whether or not he/she is afraid of the dark, addressing a meeting or going to a party made up largely of strangers. If so, you are very probably looking at a lack of confidence.

Similarly, (is it?), I am exercised by minding one's own business. How do you feel when you have been asked a question that seems intrusive or impertinent? Affronted, you may well respond: yes, indeed. But, a big but, what if your interlocutor's interest in you was a loving and concerned interest, not at all prurient ? You have to see that there is an essential difference. For instance, were I to ask a young woman of my acquaintance whether or not she, herself, had had too much to drink at a party she had described as totally out of control and 'neighbour-call-the-police' debauched, she may well reply it was none of my business, angry with it. The situation could be diffused if I were to point out that the question in no way sprang from judgementalism but from a loving concern in her well-being and an interest in how she lived her life. It is still none of my business? No doubt many people would agree with you. Subtly though, the shades of semantic difference are what makes for good relating: Prurience and judgement are not the same as benevolent interest. "Life's too short", I hear in the ether. Life is never too short for a precise and varied use of language. What do you think?

No comments: