Since Mercury went into Capricorn I’ve been thinking (Mercury) about the precise (Capricorn/Saturn) definitions of words (Mercury). I have Mercury in Pisces and I see words as the mundane representation of higher concepts. It aspects my Capricorn so I’m more traditional about it than I might be otherwise. If you want to communicate a specific idea precisely you must choose the words that most closely mirror your concepts. This requires having static definitions for the words, or you will end up having to use more words to explain your choice. Sometimes there’s a more precise word than the one in common usage, less generalized, and this would be a more ideal choice.
Unfortunately, using more precise word choices has come to be associated with pretension. Being in tune with the common has become the norm and using “ten dollar words” can get you pegged an elitist. I posit that if we “dumb down” our language we become stupider, because we lose access to the finer tools of language, the tools we need to understand each other.
Western romance languages are derived from Latin. They are based on common definitions and if you break down each word into its parts, prefix, root and suffix, you can compare them to the Latin and figure out what they mean. Unfortunately, with our imprecise usage of language that is no longer the case. It’s said that language evolves and we codify that evolution into our official definitions. In English if slang hangs around long enough it becomes an official word, recognized in the dictionary. That’s fine with me as long as there aren’t already better, more descriptive words, words that literally harken back to the Latin.
I’m not militant about it. I just hate to see us lose familiarity with fantastic, more descriptive, older words in favor of less descriptive ones. I think that what muddies our language muddies our thinking. Ginormous was just accepted into the English language dictionary. I don’t think it’s a huge deal but I find it goofy. It’s slang. It doesn’t add to understanding. It’s a blending of two perfectly good words, giant and enormous. Why did we need this?
I just used the word goofy, which is codified slang. Clearly I’m flexible on this point, but I think we should address it consciously.
Last week I used “nonplussed” in a blog. There are now two accepted definitions for nonplussed and they are completely opposite in meaning. People misunderstood and misused it for long enough that the opposite meaning became an official, concomitant definition. I meant the traditional meaning, the Latin-derived meaning. How would you know that? How can you know what I meant without asking for clarification?
What do you think about the evolution of language? Can you see it in your Mercury placement?