Mercury In Capricorn: Precision In Language

Dexter and DeeDeeSince 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?

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Mercury In Capricorn: Precision In Language — 29 Comments

  1. My Mercury is in Libra 1st and I really love language(s) and words. It squares Mars in Capricorn 4th so I tend to agree with Satori’s take on dumbing down. Luckily, I studied Latin as a teen, as well as French since I was 10, and then Italian at Uni. That certainly helped expand my ability to make informed guesses about word meanings in the Romance languages. But I’ve always loved making up words – my family, and probably yours – did it all the time. And I love madeup shortforms so I was writing the way peeps tweet decades ago.
    I know language evolves and changes but what concerns me is the lack of coherent thought informing so much writing today. I read things nowadays and think perhaps I know what they’re getting at but I’m not always sure and that can be a big problem if you want to be an engineer at NASA or a doctor or even explain something to your lover.

  2. I don’t know, but every time a waitress comes up to me and says “Hey guys!” I want to say–“I am not a guy.”

    My two closest girlfriends introduce me to people as ‘my girlfriend’ and this routinely has us pegged as gay. Which I don’t care about (too much Uranus to care) but I wonder.

    Eg. I was spending time with my Cancer friend and her baby, and she introduced me as her girlfriend to her doctor (who we bumped in to–into?), and then later her doctor emailed: “Nice to meet your partner!” LOL.

    I’ve also noticed a disproportionate number of people with Mercury in Aquarius in love with the etymology of words. I have Mercury/Uranus and I feel compelled to feed their love.

  3. Sorry–Neptune is in my 3rd House right now and everything I read causes my brain to ricochet. In other words: Mercury square Saturn is a reprieve.

  4. I don’t mind ten dollar words. I’m extremely sick of overused corporate lingo like synergy.

    I like to make up words, and my own song lyrics! LOL

  5. “using more precise word choices has come to be associated with pretension”

    How can this serve anyone? Mercury in Capricorn and a BA Jons in English Lang & Lit, and I could talk – and write – on this topic all night – in fact I can ‘bore for England’ on the subject lol.

    I absolutely hate the abuse of language, and its increasing impoverishment due to ignorance and laziness.

    It makes me very angry, the way the educational establishment has downgraded language so that nobody now is expected to use correct grammar and spelling. It’s impossible to think straight, if you don’t have the tools – that is, language – to do it. So it becomes impossible to communicate, or to learn a foreign language.

    It’s a kind of theft, not to teach the proper use of language to the young – how can they advance in life, how can they express themselves or read great literature and learn from the wisdom of the past, with such impoverished linguistic skills?

    I also hate the way academics have developed a whole new and largely incomprehensible critical language which removes their discourse entirely from the language of the educated and literate public. That’s a form of elitism which is truly ugly and undesirable. The same goes for corporate language, as Tam remarks, and for a lot of ‘professional’ language (eg medicine or psychology or even education itself).

    In all these instances, the intention and effect is to create a closed circuit via language – not to communicate but to exclude. Meanwhile TV and the net dumb down everyday discourse relentlessly

  6. I am not a Saturn-Mercury person at all, and generally favor descriptive approaches to modern grammar rather than prescriptive. However, as someone who LOVES words (Mercury conjunct Venus), I can appreciate the concern.

    I especially agree with Blessed Place in regard to the lower quality of language education young people receive. I really feel that it was not until I learned Latin in college that I gained any real understanding and mastery of the English language.

    And Satori, I definitely understand the frustration of being called an elitist for choosing to communicate efficiently and precisely. In fact, this is something I confront on a daily basis. Ultimately, though, the opposition I sometimes face is not remotely powerful enough to change my habits. I simply refuse to be ineffective!

  7. Yes, I can. Even though I have a critical degree mercury in detriment, it is supported by jupiter in Virgo. I do get tongued at times, but I also caveat my statements with, “for lack of a better word” Also I have some knowledge of medical words, and many of them are based on latin, so it is to ascertain a root meaning based on that. But sadly to say even medical terminology is loosing on that front too.
    My per peeve is the use of the word irregardless, sorry folks irregardless is not a proper word. It is a double negative. It’s like saying I am not not going to school today. Give me a break.

  8. Modern language is definitely becoming a bit ” ‘tarded”, like in that movie Idiocracy.

    Neptune and Mercury in Cap 12th house. I’m not really sure.

  9. there’s a barcalounger in that movie with a toilet in it. to me that’s the equivalent of making “ginormous” an official word. I don’t care how cool it is, or funny or if people would actually use it. that’s where we’re going if we don’t save ourselves.

  10. The future of the English language in America according from Snooky of Jersey Shore—–> GRENADE!!! It’s a SHORE THING BABY!

    I don’t know if I would laugh or cry when her book made the New York Times Best Seller List? I can see the frustration of educated, elitist, literate and grammatically correct people.

    I am not a writer nor would like to be one. My forte is math and statistics. Like Luna, I have taken Latin in grade school, which helps me from time to time dissecting “highfalutin” words. I have Mercury in Aquarius.

    My personal preference, whether reading a newspaper, a report or listening to news is a clear and concise form of communication. English is a language that can be easily manipulated and be given a totally different meaning between two native English speakers depending on the intonation how the language was delivered. This often resulted to misunderstandings.

    As what people say and not everyone might agree on me, the easiest way to get from point A to point B is a straight line. It can’t get simpler than that.

    @Blessed Place, when you EXCLUDE, you’re not only excluding other but yourself at the end. Maybe you should contact your constituents so you can be heard. People always complain of need of change but they are too lazy to do something about it. There’s nothing ugly and undesirable than to hear a noisy gong, just my 2 cents.

  11. Lmao at the barcalounger and “ginormous” comparison! That such a hilarious way to equate the two things, because it’s so true.

  12. I hate lazy use of language. Why not take advantage of all the possibilities a language can offer to make your point precisely?
    Languages are so flexible – depends on the situation and the context how to be maximally efficient with your communication.
    Having lived most of my life in foreign cultures I do love the way the cultural meaning of words opens up when you live within that culture.

    I have Mercury at 0 Aries in 9th in tight quintile with exalted Mars in 6th. Also Mercury trine Saturn in 5th trine Uranus in 12th trine Mercury. I think I am my Mercury :).

  13. I’m getting over it, partly because I like compound nouns, but ‘weeknights’, really! Watch out for those little guys on horses attacking your ankles with party picks!

  14. Hear, hear!! Take a bow please Satori 🙂

    I went to a school where Latin was compulsory for everyone for the first three years. I’d be interested to know how much this happens nowadays.

    I love words, love language, and oh the joy of picking up a copy of Dickens and luxuriating in the sheer beauty of the language……don’t get me started, really:)

    Merc in Aquarius 5th.

  15. I recently read a thriller set in journalistic London (‘Fleet Street’ as was) immediately before re-reading Alan Furst’s “The Spies of Warsaw”. The contrast in the use of language was telling – the one plodding and opaque, and an obstacle to enjoyment of the plot – the other scintillating, precise and infinitely rich; wise in its rendering of humanity, and of the particularities of place and culture and period.

    The general standard of language on these boards is high for an internet forum open to all (and some posters are wonderfully inventive with their English), but even here, you get very common confusions of words which hinder understanding. I’m thinking of things like ‘reigns in’ when it should be ‘reins in’ (think of the Queen reigning, and a horse’s reins!) and ‘tow the line’ when it should be ‘toe the line’ – think tennis etc. I could make quite a long list! – and quite often have to bite my cyber-tongue…

    There are other more common mistakes, and all too common mistakes of grammar, which really do slow down understanding or obscure meaning. It’s only an irritation for me, but imo it’s almost a tragedy for those who were never properly taught.

    I sincerely believe that without precision of language there can be no precision of thought: and therefore no clear understanding. We see the effects all around us, including in the media but most of all on the web.

  16. I’m truly not trying to be snarky but English is not a latin or romance rooted language – it’s Germanic. It did get a heavy injection of latin that came from the church, along with french and nordic dialects (via conquest). But it’s been a German-rooted amalgamation for some time. Trying to gauge the “purity” of modern English by looking for the latin root is not always going to work. For some words it does make sense, for others, there never was a latin root, slang or not.

    I strive to be *very* precise in language to the point that I can obsess for hours over one paragraph of a freaking EMAIL! I don’t give a rat’s ass if someone finds it pretentious. Though honestly, I don’t ever get that reaction from people. I’m often complimented for saying something “just so”, and my obsession seems to be appreciated more than scorned.

    Mercury in aquarius 5th conjunct venus.

  17. Satori, thank you to the power of infinity.

    With Mercury in Capricorn and the Moon in Libra, I am constantly and consistently choosing words that are explicitly specific to the matter at hand, and how it relates to everything or everyone involved.

    It’s proven exceedingly difficult as often I find that what I am saying is not exactly as I’m feeling. It’s as though through all the processing, my intent (or emotion) is lost or barey seen, let alone felt.

    Often the response is, “I don’t feel it..” or “Why are you being such a guy?” which more than not comes from men, other Capricorns in particular.

    If only I weren’t so damned concerned with how it’s coming out and what it’s affect or effect will be.

    Regardless, it’s certainly time for a revolution in the name of English. Lead on, Satori!

  18. (((Shannon!))) another Gem with Merc in Taurus..

    I get frustrated when I don’t understand a word and then the person that used it gets annoyed at me if I asked what that particular word means.. therefore I’ve learned to walk around with a dictionary since I don’t have internet on my cell yet. 🙂

  19. shoot, Lisa, you’re totally right. somewhere back when I was taught that and I shouldn’t have been so sloppy. thanks for pointing that out.

    anyway, yikes, I hate it when I have my facts wrong.

  20. English has several roots, depending on which part of the country we are dealing with. It wasn’t until about the C12th that the language became fairly unified and that was because of increasing centralisation, so that the language of the ‘Clerks’ became standardised for the educated. Before that, the various kingdoms with different roots (Celtic, Viking, Roman, Angles & Saxons and so forth) spoke mutually incomprehensible versions of the language. In the Dark Ages, a Northerner or a Welshman would have had a hard job communicating with someone from, say, Kent or Sussex.

    Interestingly Chaucer, who was himself an important government Clerk, was a central figure in the growing unification of language as his own London ‘dialect’ became the standard for the national language.

    The Roman language (in the wake of the conquest and occupation) was indeed very important in the development of English and these Romance language roots were reinforced greatly after the Norman Conquest of 1066, when French became the official language.

    It’s still the case that the roots of vocabulary in the language tend to follow a sort of social pattern – words relating to agriculture, fishing and landscape having their roots further back than the advent of the Romans; whilst words relating to politics and administration, or eg arts and culture are more likely to have Latin/Romance roots.

    It’s also the reason why there are several words to express most things in English – they come from our different roots, whether Germanic, Celtic, Scandinavian, Roman, Norman etc.

    This is a pretty good overview:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_English

  21. Absolutely. I have Mercury in Capricorn in the 6th. Latin was also compulsory in my school and I really appreciate that now, although we all complained at the time!

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