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Thread: When one term can have two completely different meanings

  1. #1
    Satyavrata Maciamo's Avatar
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    Post When one term can have two completely different meanings



    One way I understand that language still has a long way to evolve is when misunderstandings occur with someone simply because words can have totally different meanings in a scholarly and everyday context. Let's take a few examples.

    - Materialism : a very common word, that usually means "consumerism" for ordinary people, but that also refers to the philosophical belief that the only thing that exists is matter. I often described myself as an materialist atheist when asked about my beliefs, but 99% of the people would think that I put value in consumerist products, which I don't.

    - Epicurean : the common usage has become "devoted to the pursuit of sensual pleasure, especially to the enjoyment of good food and comfort". However, true Epicureanism, in the philosophical sense, has the opposite meaning. It preaches to live modestly, in the indifference of wealth, pleasures and luxury. Epicureans seek happiness by attaining a state of inner tranquillity and freedom from fear, as well as absence of bodily pain. Epicurus advocated to lead a simple life, reducing one's desires, verging on asceticism. In that regard it is very close to (true) Buddhism. How likely am I to be understood by the man in the street if I say that Buddhists are in many ways similar to Epicureans ?

    - Germanic : may refer to 1) ancient Germanic tribes, 2) people of dominant Germanic descent (Scandinavians, Dutch, North Germans), 3) all the people speaking a Germanic language (including people who are not of dominant Germanic descent like the Austrians, Swiss, Scots, Welsh or Irish), or 4) modern German people. I personally tend to avoid the 4th usage at all costs as it is confusing (if you mean German just say German).


    There are many more examples, but that's all I have time for now.
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  2. #2
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    So, why did you write this:

    ""or "Anglo-Saxon" as the French stupidly insist on saying, although the Anglo-Saxon where an ancient tribe from North Germany/Netherlands, not any modern group of humans ; that is a term that annoys me every time I hear it""

    The term "Anglo-saxon" can't have 2 different meanings?

  3. #3
    Satyavrata Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gavroche View Post
    So, why did you write this:

    ""or "Anglo-Saxon" as the French stupidly insist on saying, although the Anglo-Saxon where an ancient tribe from North Germany/Netherlands, not any modern group of humans ; that is a term that annoys me every time I hear it""

    The term "Anglo-saxon" can't have 2 different meanings?
    Not in English.

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