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STAN HALL: What's The Word?

Many situations in life fall into that all-too-familiar category known as the gray zone. We think that we know what the situation is and what the ramifications of the situation will be, but there is always a little wiggle room that calls for different interpretations. It’s never black or white; it just falls into an area that is a very non-specific shade of gray. We all know that this grayness allows a safety net for those who simply don’t want to fall on the wrong side of these situations and would rather have an out if their original position was wrong. We often see these situations; especially during election season.

But there are still some things that offer complete clarity and gray is not a color that goes with the ensemble. It is found in words. Words can be very difficult; they can be very simple, they can have multiple syllables, but they typically have a very clear and exact definition. It can become a little confusing with words that sound alike but are spelled differently, but once the word is identified, it is as clear as night (not knight) and day as to the meaning and use of the word.

The obvious intent of the word never gets in the way of some who will still try and bend it to their advantage. President Clinton was a master of wordsmithing and would defend his incorrectness to the end. He fought like a warrior over his apparent meanings of the words "the" and "that" and also apparently had his own definition of what the word "sex" actually meant. And, in his indefensible defense of these words, it appears that he did in fact change the meaning of the word sex in some ways for the generation that was coming of age during this unattractive time in our nation's history. I guess that the rest of us have just been wrong all this time.

We are now hearing much debate about the word "transparent" and what it actually means or does not mean. This argument is very confusing. For anyone who has ever had in their hand a roll of tape, you will have a "clear" understanding of the word transparent. If you can see through the tape, you are using transparent tape. If you cannot see through the tape that you are using to try and adhere your muffler back to the frame of your car there is a high likelihood that it is not transparent, but a very clear shade of gray.

An open and transparent government, to some people, means that you can see right through it. But, that clear line of sight is also situational and only at the right time. I have looked at my handy Webster several times and have never seen the word transparent defined as such. You can either see through it all the time or you cannot see through it. Maybe politicians should consider other words to describe their administrations. Words such as cloudy, foggy, muddied, infracted, or maybe... goodness forbid, opaque. It's all still there, you just can't see through it. It may not be the form of government that we want, but at least we know what we have.

It is like going to a restaurant and expecting a very good meal and upon removing the cover of the dish you see a possum all sprawled out and on the plate. It's not very appetizing, but at least you know what it is. In today's culture, there are those who would try and convince you that the dish is actually a rare and scarce type of pork that is considered a delicacy. You know it is a possum, but if you hear "their" interpretation enough; you start to believe it.

Maybe we should stop listening to the actual words that are being said altogether. Maybe we should resort to a little-known and used method referred to as the Pinocchio principle. Even though we have always been taught to look someone in the eye when they are talking to us, this technique requires a slight adjustment to be effective. Once the words in question begin to flow from the mouth in question, lower your gaze just a tad to the facial feature that is located above the mouth and slightly below the eyes. This feature can vary in size according to the orator. As the words are offered, particularly those that are being offered in a context that is in opposition of their actual meaning, watch closely and you might detect a disfiguration in the nostril region.

It may be slight and it may be significant. But, if you ever observe this phenomenon, you can be absolutely sure of one thing. It most certainly will not fall into that gray area. You will know that the speaker is stretching the truth and it will be as clear as the proverbial nose on their face. And yes, there is a word to describe this sensation once you have experienced it: "Priceless!"

We often hear the phrase that "words cannot describe" when someone speaks of a particular situation. Well, in fact, words can describe anything that happens. They can be described in great and fascinating detail. Some words can be very dull and others can be as sharp as the point of a sword. But, what words cannot do is make pork out of possum -- and that, my friends, is the great conundrum that faces even the best of the political word masters. The truth may not always set you free, but through truthful words, they will typically let you know the path to take you there.

If you would like to have Stan speak at your next group event, please send your requests to shallbadgenotes@aol.com. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Stan L. Hall is the former (retired) director of the Victim Witness Program for the Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office.

Comments

Brandon_T 2 years, 3 months ago

I have to disagree about your comment on all words having simple meanings. In all dictionaries, many of the words have multiple meanings. How do you choose the meaning? The context and tone surrounding a conversation usually has more meaning than the words themselves. While prominent figures have used this multiplicity of meanings to wiggle out of trouble in the past, many others have also been pigeon holed into trouble when their words are taken out of context and paraphrased into something with a totally different meaning than was their intent. This is the common frustration in following politics. Many famous people make good money spinning words out of their intended meaning everyday for bias, plain ignorance and simple sensationalism for ratings. If only our words were always perceived exactly how they are meant, we may just all get along after all.

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