Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: meaning

Where Do The Words Come From . . . ?

If you’re new to this blog, you might want to read this post first

Oh, my, I hope I didn’t lose any readers because the title of this post ends with a preposition

It’s really ok to do it—honest :-)

Words are slippery critters, for readers, writers, and publishers.

Words are metaphysical entities, even if they point to non-metaphysical things.

Words can seem to appear on the screen or page but they live in our minds and hearts.

My absolutely favorite word is “Word” :-)

So where do they come from?

If, in fact, they are metaphysical, they live in a non-physical realm. (Was that a too obvious sentence?)

Some folks may be cringing at my use of the word metaphysical but I should point out that there are many things besides souls, epic emotions, dreams, prayers, and words that are well accepted as existing though they’re not physical; like gravity, magnetism, numbers, and the whole field of mathematics.

So, if words come from and actually exist in a non-physical realm, what are these things I’m typing into this blog post?

These things, like this very word << are the physical representations of Real Words. Perhaps an example will help the explanation:

“Jack took his time thinking over Joyce’s proposition. If he agreed, his life would change, irrevocably—jumping off a nine-story building had its risks. If he didn’t agree, Joyce would leave him—again, a choice with risks

What happened in your mind as you were reading that? What did you see? Did you feel anything about Jack or Joyce?

Every word-symbol in that example pointed to Real Words in your mind. The meaning of the word-symbols on the screen and the meaning of the Real Words in your mind are different. In fact, the word-symbols have no meaning until your mind assigns meaning to them

Words are so slippery that humanity has a thriving industry of creating dictionaries–full of complicated word-symbols–just so we humans can have a modicum of agreement on what Real Words mean–yet, the Real Words keep changing on us–evolving and even cozying up with each other to breed new words

So, there’s my theory (truncated, to be sure) of where words come from.

What do you think?

Oh, I know, I haven’t, yet, clearly described that metaphysical realm where words hang out but I will; oh, yes, I will :-)

Come on, I dare ya–what do you think about words as metaphysical entities???
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Be Real ~ Especially If You’re Writing Fiction . . .

If we look at the common definitions of “Fiction”, we find:

1. A literary work based on the imagination and not necessarily on fact

2. A deliberately false or improbable account

3. The creation of something in the mind

If we venture into the history of the word “Fiction”, we find meanings like: “something invented”, “dissimulation, ruse, invention”, “to shape, form, devise, feign”, and, ultimately, “to knead, form out of clay”.

The meaning of words depends, to a certain degree, on their history: #3 above is similar to “forming out of clay” but #2 is like “dissimulation, ruse”.

How do we decide which meaning of a word is the right one?

Where the word is used, or its context, is a strong determinant of what it means.

So is writing fiction all about just making things up?

Is there any need to adhere to reality when creating fiction?

Can fictional writing convey truth?

There was a man, important in American letters, who was an inspiration for Henry Thoreau and Walt Whitman.

That man was Ralph Waldo Emerson and it was said of him: “…the brilliant genius of Emerson rose in the winter nights, and hung over Boston, drawing the eyes of ingenuous young people to look up to that great new star, a beauty and a mystery, which charmed for the moment, while it gave also perennial inspiration, as it led them forward along new paths, and towards new hopes.”

Emerson didn’t write fiction but I think his statement about it might help resolve some of those definitions up there:

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.”

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Rewriting While You Read ~ We All Do It …

What? We all rewrite what we’re reading? How in the world can I propose such an idea?

Matter of fact, I proposed it in two posts on my old blog: ReadWriteReadWriteReadWrite… & What’s It Like Inside When You Read A Book?.

In the second post just mentioned, I gave a little formula to help explain what I mean:

“Reading is to Writing as Hearing is to Speaking.”

Then, I asked a question:

“Do we always hear exactly what the other person’s saying?”

So, when we read, do we always get the meaning the author intended when they wrote the words?

In the case where we don’t hear what the other person’s saying, there are quite a few factors that can change the meaning as it travels from their mouth to our brain; one of the strongest being our own brain. We capture words with our ears and our brain reaches in and adds its own interpretation.

Sometimes, the change from spoken word to perceived meaning is as great as what the person at the end of the circle of whispered words says—almost always completely different from what the first person said…

Whether spoken or written, words are some of the slipperiest entities humans deal with.

As far as written words go, there is the common rewriting we can do when the book is old and the language has grown in a new direction.

But, what about a book written not long ago? Why would a reader’s brain insist on reinterpreting the meaning the author intended?

[My muse insisted I insert this sentence: “I certainly don’t mean that a reader can never understand anything about what the writer has written…”]

I wrote this post mostly to get you thinking and I’ll end it with a statement you may completely disagree with:

I think the reader’s rewriting of the book the author has written is totally natural and our world would be boring as hell if it didn’t happen :-)

What do you think?
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