Thursday, October 25, 2012

Perusing Dictionary definitions

I am always having to answer to the fact that "The Dictionary" conflates "anarchy" with "chaos", "destruction", and "disorder".  Or presumably negative concepts to that effect.  And I am not often believed outside the anarchist "community".

People don't seem to like it when I point out that dictionary definitions can be wrong due to common usage being incorrect- eventually if enough people use the word in the wrong way, the dictionary reflects that error.

Such is the case with "anarchy".

Several times I have been asked to give one example of another word that has suffered the same fate, and until now I haven't been able to.

That's right- I said "until now".

I have found another word that the dictionary says means two opposite things.  One word is said to mean both "to examine or consider with attention and in detail" and "to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner".

If you do one, you are not doing the other.  The word is "peruse".

Dictionaries are not infallible, and are subject to accidental errors and intentional manipulation.



  1. I like "Autarchy" vs. "Anarchy". It means "self rule" versus "without ruler". See

  2. But when I have used that, people have pointed out that you can't really "rule" yourself, since that is voluntary, not coercive.

    No matter what word you use, someone will object, so I embrace the word that upsets them the most.

  3. Just call the concept "un-governed" or something. Trying to explain the actual meaning of the term "anarchy" to every one you talk politics with is a massive time waster. That has been my experience anyhow.

  4. I don't bother explaining most of the time. I'll just say "...or whatever you wanna call it when you don't try to control other people and you take responsibility for yourself". Or I'll use whichever description I think will work best in that particular situation.

  5. How about "moot" as in "the point is moot". In any argument/discussion anymore, it is used to nullify the validity of any given point but the word had its European origins in the word "meet"--Ie, a point on which a meeting might be called to discuss a given point's relevance/merit etc.

    No one really pays much attention to definition 2 or 3 of a given word especially when the word--as in the case of anarchy--can have a profound job security impact on the looting class. No sir, those definitions are ALL SCARY--to keep the sheep in the "shear me" line.

    Another favorite: Liberal. Calling oneself Liberal when your agenda has no roots in Liberty whatsoever is pretty damned clever, you have to admit. You gotta hand it to the Statists of ALL "parties" when it comes to the effective use of misnomers in this country. Then again, if car salesmen could "educate" THEIR "customers" we wouldn't be bailing out GM.

    Hey...if you're wearing a tie and holding a gun, it's not'!

    Here's a riff on 'cognitive dissonance' for you: "comical dissonance": when the "PTB" doesn't realize how laughably transparent their BS truly is to the obstinate free thinker.

    "Just keep 'em asking the wrong questions and it doesn't matter what your answers are".

    My point is: call them on their BS--whatever their governmental allegiance may be. IE: "I'm a "little r republican". No. You sir, are a STATIST.

    There is Power in words--and they don't own that power unless you let them and when you do, the "marketplace of ideas" starts looking like a Dollar General.

  6. Look up "income" in an early 20th century dictionary. The definition refers only to the profit of a business or corporation. Compare that to now. Just one more example.

  7. The error is that most people think dictionaries are PREscriptive---that a word means what the dictionary says. But of course, since meaning can only arise in an individual mind, dictionaries are only DEscriptive---a good one will summarize common historical meanings. So naturally it brings in whatever errors have been associated with the concept, like "anarchy" or even clearer IMO, "morality," most commonly associated with how we interact with others, as opposed to how we make our own choices.

    "Livid" is a classic one for a word that's switched. Most people picture "livid with anger" as being beet red and bursting, when historically it meant the opposite..."ashen" or "pale."

    And then of course, there's the great one in your current post---"shall not be infringed" now means "shall be infringed." But that dovetails nicely with "freedom" now meaning "slavery."