|A funny misuse of words, which, if taken literally, would be quite nonsensical,
unless it referred to two people named “Pizza” and “Burger”.
Pay no heed to people’s words,
But listen deep, underground,
Intuit the stirrings of the soul,
Behind the spewing of a sound.
I sometimes feel like it is not so much the idiosyncratic form of the word that counts as much as the underlying intention. Think for a moment about how different everyone’s semantic networks must be. Words can imply vastly different connotations to people hailing from different countries, generations, cultures, etc. Even within a given group, the meanings people attach to words must vary substantially on account of the large degree of variation in the experiences people have that collectively structure the formation of this web of associations between words and sense-objects.
Body language, facial expressions, intonation, and other subliminal cues form a holistic ‘aura’ that we feel when people say certain things. I care infinitely more about this than about specifics of word choice. Since we each inhabit our own semantic universe, communication is bound to be hazardous and imperfect – rife with misunderstandings and ambiguities. Therefore, I relegate myself to subliminal interaction; words and their associations are loosened from the grip of exactitude in order to allow the free flow of poetic license. My words are always going to be variably interpretable, no matter what degree of rigor I measure them up against, as I have no control over the associations people make to them based on the unique set of experiences they may have had.
Over and above the context of social interaction, I put far greater weight in my judgments of people on their overall patterns of behavior. I feel that this offers a much more direct window into their intentions and underlying character than merely what words they happen to say at a given time in a given context – both of which can have dramatically powerful effects on our utterances, and which may bias us to say something we don’t really mean or believe. I pay attention to a person’s automatic reactions, the unconscious mind’s immediate response to a situation. This seems to me to shed far greater light on the personality and predispositions that make up a unique individual.
Finally, even actions can be misleading, especially those that flow from a great deal of deliberation and forethought as opposed to the automatic and spontaneous kind just described. Where conscious intent is involved, actions can have dramatically different consequences than those intended. Yet still, when we have insight into someone’s character, as when inferred from the knowledge accrued over the course of the relationship or otherwise via our intuitions, we judge people by their intentions rather than the consequences of their actions, as in the common expressions: “he had good intentions” or “she meant well”.
So, let’s loosen our grip on the ‘literal’-holed sieve we pass all words through and allow more connections and meanings, surveying the entire space of possible referents of an utterance, coming to terms with the ambiguity inherent to language, and speaking freely and spontaneously, and listening deeply and intuitively.