Changing denotation or adding connotation? An interesting conflict!
Yesterday one friend mentioned Kamat’s Potpourri, an old Indian cultural E-mag exploring India. But right at that moment ‘Potpourri’ made me remember ‘pot’ — the new meaning of which is certain kind of narcotics. What if this admirable Kamats start smoking pots now?
Another friend had written an article on how our love for the divine becoming the cause of environmental pollution. But as I saw the title mentioning the word ‘divine’ — I imagined this to be an article on queer rights. What if the person is into institutionalizing queer movements as a radical activism area?
Today someone sent me a poem having title ‘everyone can love’ — a simple love poem, but the word ‘love’ in the title made me imagine this to be a poem of women’s sexual freedom. What if goddess Kali in all women is unleashed while she brings lucrative business potential?
Thus is the power of words. Words — that is a collection of alphabets does not have any worth is not associated to some meaning. And the meaning we associate to a particular set of alphabets do change drastically with changing time.
I felt terrified!
Thing is when I use the word pot, I mean a vessel — earthen pot or tea-pot type. But if a day comes when everyone around me forgets the connotation I use, and as they already would have started using the word to mean narco-product, then I am going to be obsolete; a laughable grandma trying to use an obsolete language!
I remember a Bengali slang meaning hair in Sanskrit. Remember impact of my telling lines of a Sanskrit poem to explain how female beauty was described in classical Sanskrit before my non-Sanskrit knowing friends in college days. No comedian expects laughter in the places where it is not meant to. I learnt people from apparently same socio-linguistic group may be habituated different languages making communication impossible. I rarely spoke in my college days — though I had many friends, from whom I learnt a lot. My American friend made me talk for couple of months — but again came the barrier when one day she asked after a music concert, “Did you have a crush?” I struggled around ten minutes to make her understand that I didn’t crush anyone, any opposition, I never intended to crush the singers even if the song is unfamiliar — in fact I loved the song too much!” Finally learnt the meaning of American “crush” — but she didn’t want to know any longer whether I had it or not!
Adding divine to every persona creates a different scenario — bringing the risk of deifying everyone. This is perfect for people looking forward to become a brand, or those likes to live a solitary life or comfortable only in a small group of deities, refusing communication with people outside the group. In case of ordinary people who are actually looking forward to social life as an individual, this can bring disaster. I use the word “divine” to politely describe people who I find a potential threat or a predator — unfortunately we have to meet some in our road of life. But that person is a non-human entity like film-stars who are always to be kept on deity’s pedestal, seen from a distance, could be observed or worshipped and never to interact with. Do queer people actually want “normals” to avoid them?
Same happened with an apparently innocent word “Cute”. I used this to describe adorable (probably most of the “ignorants” still do it) till I met a Carnegie Mellon funded pundit. He mentioned a dictionary meaning as the true meaning of “Cute” — sexually attractive! US University brands establish power of knowledge and I the deshi language enthusiast remained overpowered. Do not dare using the word any longer even to describe kids knowing that this may express my paedophile intent to the person I am trying to talk to.
In last few years, we have seen meanings and symbols drastically changing. Tagore’s “Sonar Tari” became a frustrated one’s lamentation deviating from its spiritual meaning. Especially as post-globalization impact, we added many connotations to our known words — We can never be sure what connotation the words “crash”, “knock” or “box” brings to the person we are talking to. Using same connotation creates comfort zone — unfamiliar connotation makes the user odd (personally I liked to use the word ‘queer’ for ‘odd’ till the meaning changed these days). Language I had to learn and use some American English slang to make my German software user feel comfortable while talking about SAP application.
Knowledge is something we civilized people seek for. Humans are always in search of knowledge. Knowledge empowers us — we find new meanings of known words with changing time. New connotations sometimes lead us to create new dictionaries — finally change the connotation into denotation of the word. Using words which means the same to a group of people creates camaraderie; forming group is inevitable to explore business opportunities. We constantly create disruption; convert that disruption to opportunity using our knowledge overpowering the old; that’s how civilization makes progress — ignorant one should better shut up!