Ambiguity (Language)

/ TT / Language /
@ K. 2000 09 22

Ambiguity is in part the inevitable result of any practical lexicon being more finite than the world of things, experience, and ideas.

Additionally, ambiguity is in part the inevitable result of natural language being something evolved, not designed. It’s artificial languages which may reduce if not exclude ambiguity.

Where ambiguity adds to meaning, as in good art, ambiguity is a positive.

Unfortunately the majority of ambiguities are unconscious, undeliberate, and are negative: impede communication.

Disastrously, some negative ambiguities are neither unconscious nor undeliberate. Those are the ones I intend principally to address: the ambiguities of kleptocracy. I shall relate them to magic, where the magician controls illusion via a bag of tricks from misdirection to sleight of hand. Pick a meaning, any meaning … and suddenly the meaning the magician wants you to have is in your hand (or head). You use a word with a politician, and he palms your meaning, substituting his own. Lawyers, salesmen … caveat Homo sapiens [sic] sapiens [sic]Nature has been the chief and the most pregnant word in the terminology of all the normative provinces of thought in the West; and the multiplicity of its meanings has made it easy, and common, to slip more or less insensibly from one connotation to another, and thus in the end to pass from one ethical or aesthetic standard to its very antithesis, while nominally professing the same principles.

Nature as Esthetic Norm

The spirit of this file is also daughter to Teaching/society/social epistemology. It is likewise integral to Macroinformation.

This post treats “ambiguity” in the context of language: I’ll soon resurrect’s Teaching / Thinking Tools / Ambiguity: Tautological.

Hilarious! 2011 08 06 I’m editing Page menus, updating, de-duping, reducing ambiguity, or trying to. And I found umpteen other posts here also titled Ambiguity! All scribbled in different contexts: institutional purpose, thinking tools, language …

Ambiguity Scrapbook

2011 08 18 Last night at the dance the band performed the song with the repeating line, “If I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me?” Around Highlands County here the bands’ repertoire tends to overlap: we hear the same stuff again and again. So, I’m dancing, alert to the beauty of my partner (my friend Carol, Jan up north for a couple of months), but asleep with regard to what we’re dancing to: when suddenly, I, me, the master of ambiguity, hailed as such since 1959 or so by faculty as well as friends, notice an ambiguity in the line for the first time. Is the singer asking his interlocutor – lets assume it’s a male addressing a female – if she would resent his question and punish him for it? Or is he asking that on condition that he ask her that question would she them press her hailed beauty against his body? Years have drowsed past and I’d simply assumed that the poor bastard was trying to compliment a woman likely to punish such familiarity. Believe me, I know plenty such around here. At least that’s how they behave in their seventies, I didn’t know them when they were nubile.

(I have noticed though that if you persist in complimenting them, eventually their hostility, their defensiveness, wears down, barriers erode, gates open.)

2014 02 05 No Pain No Gain

I’m seventy-five and a half, I’m doing crunches nearly every day. My regular thirty went down to twenty, then went back up to thirty. Now it’s more like 40 … 60 … 80 … 100. But not always, not easily. Some mornings my back hurts and stretches don’t altogether fix it. Still: I do them in lots of ten, and with caution. And trainers’ no pain / no gain echoes in my head. And I think things similar to thoughts of the other day about “diet”.

Any athlete understands that you can’t get into good shape if you chicken out at every little pain. Of course the lazy muses resist the recruiting muscles, the body will look for excuses, the mind will find them. The athlete wants the sergeant to win, not the coward. But what if the sergeant is telling you to ignore the pain while in fact your bones are sticking out of your flesh in a compound fracture? No. Then you must listen to the pain and ignore the sergeant.


People talk about dieting: but what they mean by “diet” is “restricted diet”. Basically diet means whatever you eat. If you eat nothing but rice pudding, chocolate fudge, and whipped cream then rice pudding, chocolate fudge, and whipped cream is your diet. It’s not a healthy diet, but health is an additional consideration. So: we all have a diet, whether we’re restricting what we eat or not. What you want isn’t a diet: you want a healthy diet.
Or, maybe you don’t. Go ahead and eat the marshmallows.

Thinking Tools

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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