Merely A Matter of Semantics

I often am accused of arguing “semantics” and am summarily dismissed for doing so. I believe semantics matter. I believe communication is paramount in our daily lives. So, yes, I take it seriously.

This morning, I read an interesting news piece on the effect of semantics on the politics of the environment and there was a quote that was too telling to dismiss:

Science is nothing without precision. You mislabel a larynx as a pharynx, call a nematode a trematode, and your career is done. Political language, on the other hand, is a triumph of misrepresentation. A failure becomes a success when some little crumb of your plan has worked; winning a battle allows claims of victory even as the war slips away.”

This quote, from the article The Semantics of Climate Change, by Richard Black, Environment correspondent, BBC News is an excellent encapsulation of the idea that the reason that the scientists and the people can’t seem to get through to the politicians is “merely” semantics.

Communication as a concept — effective communication — is my passion. Communication is probably the single word that best describes what I consider my most important role – to my family, to my friends, to my fellow citizens, to my clients and even to you, the reader of my blog. So, when an issue of communication is highlighted in this way, it always gives me both pause for additional thought and a moment of validation.

The ability to communicate is as important to individual well-being as food, water and shelter. We cannot bond, we cannot work together, we cannot record our travels, bemoan our failures and celebrate our victories if there is no communication. Visual, verbal, and written — it is communication which binds us together, gives us comfort, provides a common point of reference and makes us companions rather than strangers.