Despite my typical laid-back demeanor, I’ve been accused of being too rigid regarding word choice in a conversation. It’s true. Many a debate has begun over whether a word “can” be used to mean something outside it’s textbook definition.
But for all practical purposes, the masses dictate the meaning of words. If a million people use the word “sweet” to mean “awesome” or “stylish”, then that’s an acceptable and meaningful definition of the word “sweet”. It may not be what the dictionary says it means, but in order to communicate in this world, you should know how to understand the world and speak its language.
And that’s fine for fluffy, superficial conversations. But when we’re delving into deeper waters – making ourselves emotionally vulnerable, discussing our personal philosophies, or pondering the purpose of our lives – precision and specificity win every time.
We can’t debate the meaning of life or one’s interpretation of Scripture without a precise meaning of words. A single definition change can completely alter the meaning of a statement. And those nuances have a potent impact upon how we choose to live.
So while it’s true that words objectively have specific and static meaning, they also have subjective and popular meanings, and those matter too.
Bottom line: Don’t be one of those rigid people who ruins dinner parties and holiday gatherings because you’re too stubborn to acknowledge the popular meaning of words. And don’t be afraid to adopt their specific, static meanings, either.