Words Have Meaning, Part 1

The next time you read or hear something in the news, I want you to think of the particular words being used.  What type of meaning is the person trying to portray and does that meaning match the problem or issue at hand.  Words do have meaning and when they are not used correctly, can be part of the problem.

Here are two examples:

The War on Drugs
Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Both of these phrases have been used to describe societal efforts to solve a problem.  Both of the campaigns have involved a tremendous amount of time and resources.  The effort to curtail ‘Drunk Driving’ has seen some success, while the ‘War on Drugs’ has seen much less success.  The links at the bottom of this post show statistics for both problems.

So, why do we need to examine the words used to describe these two campaigns?  The ‘War on Drugs’, if taken literally, is a war on an object, a thing.  First, not all drugs are bad, so from the beginning the title of this effort does not make sense.  No one is trying to take down a Crestor or aspirin cartel.  But more importantly, drugs are the symptom of a larger, complex pattern of behavior that includes addiction, mental health, poverty, gangs and money, to name a few areas.  To say we are going to spend time and money to fight an inanimate thing and not focus on the root behavior and problems that lead people to abuse drugs, does not make sense and does not appear to have led to any real results.

On the other hand, the fight against ‘drunk driving’ targets a specific behavior.  It is not a war against cars, it is not a war against alcohol, it is not a fight against driving.  It is a focused effort on one kind of dangerous and criminal behavior.  And from the statistics, the rates of drunk driving incidents have been decreasing.  I am not trying to imply that drunk driving is decreasing simply because of the phrase used to describe the effort against it, but I do think there is some value in ensuring that we focus resources on finding and fighting real problems and not symptoms.  We can only do that we properly define and describe the problem in the first place.

After describing how the words we choose to describe a problem are important, the next post on this topic will look at events and problems that are clearly in the spotlight now and examine the words used to describe them.  In the meantime, think about how the idea of how we use words in our everyday lives can affect the outcome.  Do you just “go to the gym”, or do you conduct well-planned strength training?  Did you just “get a degree”, or did you gain a valuable education when you went to school?  Do you “make a quick phone call” to a loved one, or have a meaningful conversation with someone?

http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/monitoring-future/trends-in-prevalence-various-drugs

Advertisements

About voxlogicae
Using logic and reason to examine current events.

One Response to Words Have Meaning, Part 1

  1. Pingback: Words Have Meaning, Part 2 | voxlogicae

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: