Feverish rambling

I mentioned earlier that I'm getting sick, and it's seriously impacting my ability to string thoughts together.  So, I figure, what better time to rant about my views on language? I've been trying for a while to think of a way to explain this point, but every metaphor I come up with sucks, so bear with me:  People tend to think of the act of speech as being a sort of telepathic transmission.  Obviously, nobody believes that out loud, but it's how almost everyone assumes speech works when they're not thinking about it. You think, "I know what this sentence means.  That is WHAT THIS SENTENCE MEANS. Other interpretations of this sentence are invalid."

In reality, words and sentences don't work at all like that.  It's less like telepathy, and more like throwing darts.  Each word hopefully lights up the right areas in the other person's brain, to illuminate the shape of the idea you hope to transmit.  You're not using words to impart knowledge -- you're taking your wordless concept, and using words as tools to attempt to sculpt that wordless concept in the consciousness of another human being.

This works great for close friends, family, people from similar regions or socioeconomic backgrounds or cultures.  But it seriously breaks down when talking to people who are in any way part of a different group than the speaker, because more often than not, suddenly the speaker is in a position where they have no idea what each word is going to do in the mind of their conversation partner.

But because people assume speech is like telepathy, nobody likes the idea that they're using words wrong -- that the words they're choosing are either outright incorrect, or wrong for this situation, or that a word can mean totally different things when presented in different contexts.  (Fun fact:  All words ALWAYS mean different things in different contexts.  Words don't have meanings, they have effects on perception of meaning.)

This breakdown doesn't cause many problems, but it's one of the hugest barriers in the way of solving the massive intercultural problems that exist everywhere in the world, all over the place.

I'm going to go drink fluids, take pills, and try to sleep.  Best wishes.