ADVICE/OPINION

You Say Potato….

I re-learned a pretty valuable lesson last week. Some things are not worth arguing or debating about because they are just a matter of semantics.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines semantics as the interpretation of the meaning of a word, sentence, or other language form.

I used to argue a lot…go back and forth about what I think and the importance of my point. I realized that there is no standard dictionary that people use and reference when trying to articulate their thoughts. We each have our own dictionary in our minds, one that is made up of the definitions we got from Webster’s (or our favorite dictionary), the things that we learned growing up, our experiences, the lessons from school, what our parents taught us, and the emotional meaning we place on words.

During this past week there were a few examples of my meaning of a word being different from someone else’s. A friend and I were discussing an upcoming date. I told him that I had a special date coming up, and he called it a “hot date.” We began to go back and forth about the fact that I was having a date, but I would not call it a “hot date.” A few minutes into our mini debate I ask the million dollar question. What does it mean to you to have a “hot date?” We both realized that instead of debating about who was “right,” we discovered that actually we were disagreeing because our definitions were different. By his definition I WAS going to have a hot date, by mine I was NOT.

The other example from last week involved the word “ignorant.” The word “ignorant” is a word that was used around me growing up. It is a word that I learned from my father and it simply meant lacking knowledge in a particular area or being unaware. I also learned that no one knows everything. We are all “ignorant” to something. I am ignorant to the principles of calculus (sorry, math is not my thing).

The word “ignorant” seemed to get people’s panties/underwear in a bunch last week. I used it in my blog ONLY in reference to the man in which I had the encounter at my training, but yet I was misunderstood (in meaning and context). He and anyone else that decides to be rude to me is ignorant (lacking knowledge about me/unaware) of the fact that rudeness toward me is unacceptable and I will not remain silent.

I will continue to use the word “ignorant” the way I was taught, but I will be mindful (and always ready to clarify) when I use it because I know that some people believe it has a negative connotation.

Truth be told…one of the best communication tools is to get clear on your definitions before moving on with a discussion.

Although I don’t like to argue, I still love to debate the hot topics and have dialogue about everything and anything. I do believe that it’s important to be clear and make sure I am on the same page with the people who I have dialogue with. So at the beginning of a discussion I often ask, “What does that word mean to you?” If a person becomes offended by a word that I use, I get clear about my intention and tell them exactly what I mean.

The next time you have a disagreement with someone or you feel offended by something that someone says, take it as an opportunity to clarify the intention and meaning behind words before reacting. You may discover that sometimes there is nothing to debate or argue about…It’s just a matter of semantics.

Remember, it’s always Love.

ReNina Minter is a former elementary school teacher who followed her passion and earned a Masters in Clinical Psychology. Minter is now a Certified Life Coach. Check out her website at www.CoachReNina.com. Her editorials are exclusive to Urban Thought Collective.


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Comments

May 29th, 2008 at 7:12 am chica22 says:

lol

May 29th, 2008 at 8:06 am Maziar Fanon says:

I don’t know what this was about since I missed last week, but, calling somebody ignorant is a diss in my book.

May 29th, 2008 at 8:27 am Ashley says:

I agree with you about clarifying definitions. It helps in having clear communication with someone. Having the wrong definition of one simple word can cause a lot of trouble.

May 29th, 2008 at 9:26 am heatmizer says:

So what IS your definition of a hot date then?

May 29th, 2008 at 10:32 am culturepop says:

You seem a little tense young lady

May 29th, 2008 at 11:20 am dollsdaughter says:

dang what’d i miss?

May 29th, 2008 at 11:32 am dollsdaughter says:

Just read last week’s exchange on the blogs page. Ouch. Not sure of this week had some kind of apology encoded in it but I hope its accepted by the offended folks.

May 29th, 2008 at 11:46 am Tina says:

The best lesson I have learned is not everything is for everybody. If your opinion is not right for everyone it doesn’t make it wrong it just makes it not right for those who do not agree with it.

May 29th, 2008 at 11:52 am Stephanie says:

Good way to resolve a conflict..get out a dictionary! If defining the words don’t work you can always throw it! LOL!

May 29th, 2008 at 11:57 am thelma says:

I really agree with this ain’t no need of drama when you can put it all out on the table

May 29th, 2008 at 2:30 pm pmatters says:

Can’t we all just get along

May 29th, 2008 at 3:32 pm AfroDaddy says:

If you truly want to be heard you should always speak to sompebody’s “listening”. In the hood, speak slang. At the office, use professional lingo, etc. By the way a hot date is: she is hot, you are really attracted to her, and when you order dinner nobody asks “do you want fries with that?”.

May 29th, 2008 at 6:44 pm highalove says:

This is true - get ya facts straight and relationships last longer and friends don’t get into fights! LOL

May 29th, 2008 at 6:51 pm seenbelieve says:

Communication what a concept. Get wit it people!

May 29th, 2008 at 7:54 pm ReNina Minter says:

I am starting to re-think my definition of a “hot date”. The men are typically hot, but I would only call the date hot if there was going to be some passionate kissing involved (not how I usually get down on the first date).

May 29th, 2008 at 7:57 pm ReNina Minter says:

culturepop…”you seem a little tense young lady”. What is your definition of tense…lol : ) Maybe I should go get a message.

May 29th, 2008 at 7:58 pm ReNina Minter says:

sorry…massage

May 29th, 2008 at 8:33 pm blkbutta says:

PLUUEEZE BROTHAS DON’T CARE

May 30th, 2008 at 7:44 pm justus says:

hot can be you just excited about it not what gonna happen

May 31st, 2008 at 12:51 am Queen says:

I couldn’t agree with you more. I notice a lot of words in today’s conversations are inappropriately. People accept it as that without researching. I think we are all “ignoring” the abuse of the English language

May 31st, 2008 at 9:17 pm Destah Owens says:

Let me take kind of a different slant on this discussion as my current “20″ (lingo for location for those of you with CB radios) is in a spanish speaking country in South America. I like to tell people that I speak enough spanish to get where I need to go and order food. I’m being modest, of course, but you get the point. I’m far from fluent and this week have been lost in several conversations. By the puzzled looks I’ve had from people, I know I’ve said some things that probably didn’t convey what I was trying to say. I love languages and get a kick out of being able to communciate with people in some language other than english. However, I find myself delighting in the same types of conversations when I’m speaking english with english speaking folks be they from Brooklyn, Biloxi, Bakersfield, or Great Britain. It’s neat to hear how people can say the same things and mean them in a totally different way. We can waste time getting offended and misunderstanding, but, as ReNina is saying (at least as I understand it when I read it) its probably an order of magnitude more effective to find out if you’ve got your facts straight before you fly off the handle. For instance, I went to Ireland a few years ago to visit my company’s European office. On that trip, I had dinner with co-workers and their wives, one of which asked me, upon my explaining that I was from a place called Oakland near San Francisco, “How’s the crack in Oakland?” NOw, I’ve gotta tell ya that being the only brotha in town at that moment, I started to get offended and was about to go off because of what seemed to be her buying into a stereotype that all black americans smoked crack. I chose to take a deep breath and allow her to react to the puzzled look on my face. She and her husband proceeded to explain that in Ireland, “how’s the crack?” is like saying “what’s crackin’” or “what up?” or “what da dealio/what’s good?/peace god, what’s the science?…and on and on and on. Of course, this put me at ease and we all had a nice dinner.

I too just went back and read last week’s comments. I think that we all ought to give ReNina the benefit of the doubt and applaud her for taking a chance and attempting to articulate her thoughts on so public a forum. Well done, ReNina.

July 27th, 2008 at 7:23 am chivalrouswon says:

In it’s literal sense Ms. Minter you have applied the term correctly. I think the confusion arises in the reader’s minds when the coloquial sense of the word kicks in. In that sense it equates to being an a$$ plain and simple. Not knocking you for your use of it just hopefully an attempt at spreading light on both sides.

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