Friday, March 14, 2008

Pointless Literally!

Language helps us communicate and express ourselves. We use words which help convey the meaning in the best way possible. But most of the times, as I have observed and as many others might also have, that words are not good enough to express oneself completely. We consciously or sub-consciously use body language, facial expressions, voice tone to convey ourselves in a better way. A smile may not always mean happiness or good feeling, it can also be a sarcastic one, which might mean something bitter!
The word "Pointless" is made of "Point" and "Less" but the role of "less" in "pointless" changes from reducing the effect to nullifying the effect... the meaning changed but what if we take it literally? (Hindi does it better here).

The interesting part here is,
what if we don't any choice of using body language, facial expression, tone of voice?
What if the only thing we have is our words and the knowledge of language to express ourselves?
Yes, that's right. I'm talking about going for literal meaning rather than intuitively judging the context and mood for learning the meaning completely.
Tough, aint' it? But more than that, I guess it would be irritating!
Our usage of language has been a careless one, wherein we use figurative things sometimes. Yesterday one of my batch-mate said that he could convert a C# code to a java code within a second. Of course he meant "figuratively" but then I took it literally (my sole purpose was to irritate him!) and said, "not possible". He tried to defend himself by saying that he has a software which directly does that work. I again said that software might also take more than 1 second. He started cursing me and abusing me but I was rather amused :D He said that one should use one's mind and intuition to judge the meaning rather than taking things literally...
Also, we keep some short phrases for conveying long messages which replaces the long messages over a period of time. Language evolves, but we still use it in an ambiguous manner!
We've really become careless with our usage of language. Mixing hindi and english and using hinglish is still fine, but not conveying the precise meaning is what makes it worse!
My friend could have used the phrase, "in a short period of time" instead of "within a second".
Anyways, all my views are my own, and I don't expect anyone to agree with it, just wanted to share in on the blogosphere. :)
P.S. - Poll of the day, "Which is deadlier, taking meaning literally or abusing/using bad words against someone?"
P.S. - The easiest way to generate P.J.s or A.J.s (Alternative Jokes) is by taking the usage of language "Literally!"


aniket said...

Really can't take everything literally. But being clear of the literal meaning always helps while expressing something which requires deep thinking on the part of the reader/listener. All our standard textbooks are so precise and literal in their expression!

Having a standard mode of communication would ease our work, but it would also take away much of the spice of life, don't you think so?

Harsh Satya said...

one needs to get beyond words, into the meaning to understand what is being said. most confusion, miscommunication takes place because we get stuck with words. one of my initial posts on communication talks about the same issue.