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Who owns words?

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by Satya, Jul 18, 2010.

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  1. Satya

    Satya C'est la vie
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    Many of the words in our society have significant meaning. There are those who feel they are entitled to be the guardians of the meaning of those words. By what right or basis are they entitled to defend that meaning? Who should ultimately determine the meaning of words? Should the meaning of words be allowed to change over time or should society do its best to retain their meaning? What justification is there to changing the meaning of a word?
     
  2. TinyBubbles

    TinyBubbles anarchist

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    There are those who feel they are entitled to be the guardians of the meaning of those words.

    who thinks they own words?
     
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  3. Shai Gar

    Shai Gar Guest

    copyright law
    I own words. All words. You owe me 900,000,000GBP in royalties you word pirate.
     
  4. Detective Conan

    Detective Conan Doesn't Cast Shadows

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    Plenty of people do. It's called copyright. Here in Idaho, no one is allowed to use the word "Idaho" in conjunction with any word related to potatoes (spuds, fries, I'm sure there are others) because that general structure is under a copyright. It sucked for a business around here because they were forced to change their name, decorations, and anything else that used the term "Idaho Fry Company". Here's a link to the story if you want to read up on it; gotta love the Potato Commission!

    This thread kind of reminds me of George Carlin:
    ashij kahiklop fluujupick :D
     
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  5. acd

    acd Well-known member

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    I'm imagining a world where words are tightly controlled and regulated... it would kind of be like the way books were regarded in Fahrenheit 451.


    Now try to imagine a world where nobody cared about maintaining the same reality through using the same words in the same contexts and with the same definition. What would cause that to come about? At what point or what would have to happen for people to give up co-creating and co-maintaining reality?
     
  6. Flavus Aquila

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    I can't imagine people who guard the meaning of words... perhaps some examples might enlighten the situation. (Quoted examples from these people, not assertions about people).

    In any case, I think some people will continue using a word a certain way, even if the primary meaning shifts. For example, I have noticed that some brittish people continue calling cigarettes 'fags'. There's nothing wrong with people using words their own way.
     
  7. TinyBubbles

    TinyBubbles anarchist

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    Copyright only applies to commercial applications - you can still say any word or combination of words at your own discretion if you're acting as an individual, unless I'm mistaken.
     
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  8. OP
    Satya

    Satya C'est la vie
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    Oh, I'm sure there is a word or two that you are just dying to preserve from corruption in the interest of divine moral law. We wouldn't have much to debate about if you didn't.
     
    #8 Satya, Jul 18, 2010
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2010
  9. Detective Conan

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    As far as I know, that's correct. However, I recall some public access program here got shut down for using words copyrighted for the Winter Olympics. As far as I know, public access isn't commercial, but I could be wrong there.

    However, there are words that certain individuals may not use for the sake of polite behavior.
     
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  10. athenian200

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    Oxford University, I would assume.

    Even as an American, I would have to concede that English Academics have the most right to officially decide how words should be used. It's technically their language, as it always has been, and that university has historically been the source of standards for it.
     
    #10 athenian200, Jul 18, 2010
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2010
  11. under skies

    under skies Community Member

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    Or like Newspeak in 1984?

    "It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words."
     
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  12. arbygil

    arbygil Passing through

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    Any linguist worth her/his salt will tell you that language evolves. Slang is the quickest known evolution of language, and we see that happening every day. There are certain words you don't use in polite company, because the word has become insulting, or conveys a different meaning than what you'd like it to say.

    Language is actually the right of the culture. As culture changes, so does language.
     
  13. Jonathan

    Jonathan Community Member

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    I realize that this idea is extreme, but this thread made me think about what it would be like if everyone changed the meaning of words however they wanted. Things would likely get pretty confusing; maybe even to the point where English would have to be split up into more complicated dialects. English is already one of the most complex languages in terms of how liberal it is. New words are added every day. Wouldn't it be better to just come up with new words and use them however you want than to change the meaning of a perfectly good word currently in existence?
    I don't think anyone owns words, but maybe it's a good thing to protect some of them. There are many words that we could be using today that have become obsolete due to underuse and/ or misuse. Otherwise, I guess we're continually just changing our language to fit with contemporary culture. Problem is, it's getting increasingly more difficult to keep up with our rapidly changing culture, so if words keep changing as we do, it could become very difficult for people to learn English, and also hard to keep up with it ourselves.
    Basically, it would mean that words would probably begin to go through phases and trends as English speaking society changes. I'd rather have people protecting words than having them fall into chaos.

    I guess I'm just a crazy word conservationalist :)
     
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  14. TinyBubbles

    TinyBubbles anarchist

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    Of course, but that's a cultural imposition, rather than a legal one.
     
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  15. TinyBubbles

    TinyBubbles anarchist

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    I wonder if the culture changes because the language changes? If certain words start to mean other than what they used to mean, that has to affect how you percieve certain ideas, and thus, what kind of actions you're willing to take on the basis of those ideas.
     
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  16. arbygil

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    That's a good question, and it seems more like "which came first; the chicken or the egg." The culture's attitudes and habits usually have to change first, which promotes the changes of the words. The culture has to first accept the word's evolution in order for the word to become popular. Once the word becomes popular, then it changes the majority of the culture. I'd say a minority begins changing the culture...then as more people accept the change, it becomes common place within the culture.

    Like, we didn't have the word "twitter" before the internet, because the concept for it didn't exist. Usually the concept has to occur, and has to become part of popular culture, before language changes. "Office" used to be an idea, but later it (incorrectly) became a verb: "Do you office there?". But now "office" as a verb isn't used very often, that I know of. The culture as a whole didn't accept it as common place, and it didn't "stick" with the majority.

    It may end up coming back around as a verb, but I doubt it. But who knows? Language is constantly evolving.
     
  17. TheLastMohican

    TheLastMohican Captain Obvious
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    Do you mean that there's nothing wrong with them using such words in their locales, where old-fashioned usage is understood, or do you mean that it's okay for them to use such words anywhere and everywhere, regardless of how people elsewhere interpret them?
     
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  18. Flavus Aquila

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    If you're trolling, I'm not biting.
    Sorry.

    I think it's ok for people to use their own dialect if they wish to do so. If either they or a listener wishes to make clarification, that's an opportunity for light conversation.

    For instance, when I lived in the U.S. I always used the word 'biscuit' to refer to what Americans refer to as 'crunchy cookies'; I also used the word 'scone' to refer to what Americans refer to as 'biscuits'. Everyone knew what I meant and we kind of had fun with our linguistic differences. In fact, when I occasionally would use the U.S. term, such as 'gas' instead of 'petrol' people always suspected I was teasing.

    Good times.
     
  19. Shai Gar

    Shai Gar Guest

    Most words, if not all, already have a set meaning, and using that word for another meaning, when there's already a word which has the meaning you require... Well that stinks of stupidity and walking down a path to the world of idiocracy.

    Schadenfreude. What's the english equivalent?
     
  20. DefectiveCreative

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