Of Words and Wizards

When we say something, there might be more meaning behind the words we say than we intend.  The difference between denotation and connotation is often presented as an example supporting this point.  Almost like different shades of color, there are different shades of meaning: wacky doesn’t mean the same thing as downright insane or deranged or kooky or weird.

color gradient
Here’s a graphic for visual stimulation.

Well, the probably are synonyms on Dictionary.com, but they are used in different settings to suggest something about a subject.  However, words aren’t the only things that say something: appearances can also make a big impact on how the world “hears” us.  For example, if I came to class wearing a scowl and somber colored clothes and slouched in my chair, I would give off a different vibe.  Don’t imagine that, that ‘s a horrible outfit for me.

Has anyone ever been worried about what people might think, when they say something that could come off wrong?

Sorry, I had to: the moment was just so right. I guess that was just an example of trying to make my words less blunt right there: I’m not even sorry, but that doesn’t stop me from putting that there. I digress, continue reading.

It’s really hard isn’t it?  It’s hard to decide whether or not you want to tell your friend the truth and how you should say it: should you say it “fast and all at once, like an eyebrow wax,” or should you “break it to [him/] her gently”?  Telling the truth isn’t even a good enough policy to follow, the biggest example of this being Mr. Darcy’s failed proposal to Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice.  Side note, I forbid you to read this example if you have not read Pride and Prejudice; I don’t see you through the screen, but just know I will be very disappointed in you if you do.  Darcy probably loved Elizabeth, but Elizabeth perceives him as a pompous jerk and his speech, which not only offends her family and social and economic position, but also implies that she doesn’t really have any better option and that she should be grateful that he is offering to marry her, only deepens Elizabeth’s hate for Darcy.  He of course, makes it all up in the end when he sends her a letter instead because he is able to gather his thoughts slowly and think about what he is conveying in his words.  He could have been so successful the first time around though had he noticed the growing irritation Elizabeth was hardly containing.

I believe that it is beyond given that direct discourse is a myth, but is indirect discourse a bad thing?  Direct discourse is nice and all, but where’s the fun in saying everything outright?  Where would all the puns go?  Oh the horror of a world without word play and the like!  Though I believe in many circumstances that saying what you mean to say is important, I believe it is also important to sometimes say things in a roundabout manner because there is something to be had in doing so.  In fact, lots of great works of literature are famous and well-loved because they do this enough to make the reader think and be interested, but not too much that they baffle the reader.  In Harry Potter, a lot of the spells actually come from the roots of many languages: Avada Kedavra, otherwise known as the killing curse, actually comes from an Aramaic phrase meaning “let the thing be destroyed.”  Instead of just titling the Killing Curse “the Killing Curse,” JK Rowling gives the phrase more meaning by connecting it to something else and makes it more memorable.

Cedric's Death
Voldemort kills Cedric, enabling him to resurrect as the vampire known as Edward Cullen. Well I wouldn’t say resurrect, his demeanor changes a lot.

This post was a response to “The Myth of Direct Discourse”, by Daniel Coffeen; I felt like I would best response using memes and pictures, so there you have it.

Props to you if you caught the Mean Girls scene and if you caught the quote from Sarah Dessen’s Along the Ride.  

Of Words and Wizards

One thought on “Of Words and Wizards

  1. Great post, Maggie. I really like your metaphor about words being like a spectrum of colors – that’s a great way to think about it!
    A little tip: you don’t need to justify your choice of photos or gifs. Let them speak for themselves, like your writing does! Seeing long captions distracts me from reading. Other than that, great job! Keep blogging 🙂


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