Thursday, April 10, 2014

Loaded Words

Some medicinal plants can be both helpful and harmful.  It is a only a matter of correct use.  Likewise, many words that are appropriate and acceptable in one context should be absolutely avoided on other contexts. In other words, they carry a linguistic load that adds an unwanted meaning to the sentence.

One example is the word exploit.  It is clear and socially acceptable that every mine owner wants to exploit the maximum from that mine.  However, should s/he want to exploit the coal miners, it might lead to a strike or bad publicity since the word exploit has become a synonym for abuse when it comes to people.  Instead, an effective manager should try to get the best results from his/her personnel.  The same would apply to collaboration.  Two businesses or people may collaborate, that is work together, to achieve a result, often a highly effective and applauded effort.  By contrast, collaboration in politics implies the stench of working with the enemy and preferring short-term over national interest as many individuals and companies did during World War II under the German occupation.  Political leaders would better choose bipartisan politics.

Similarly, if a person has discriminating taste in wine or food, s/he can detect class and quality, which is quite good.  Should the person discriminate in the matter of people, the matter could end up in a court of law as discrimination in employment is illegal.  It would be better to have a good eye for people.  Likewise, every attorney knows and writes that a given relief does not prejudice any other relief available according to the contract and by law.  This means that just because I kick you out of the apartment for not paying rent does not stop me from demanding damages.  By contrast, an apartment owner that refuses to rent to non-whites shows prejudice, which again may have him/her in court again.

On a less criminal level, lawyers and prostitutes, quite a funny combination, have clients.  Most other businesses have customers precisely to maintain a good reputation.  Who would want to be associated with those professions, even if most people use either or both during their lifetime.  For those people who are careful buyers, If you buy something cheap at a swap meet or 5 & 10 shop, this is okay because expectations of quality are low in any case.  However, if you say that a product is cheap, this refers not only to the price but also to the lack of quality, which is not exactly a complement on your shopping skills.  By contrast, there is nothing wrong with buying inexpensive goods.  Persians and Scots would only admire you.

So, watch out when using these words.  You may end up saying something you did not mean and getting a bad name or worse.  A word to the wise is sufficient.

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