Obtaining a kind of precision in expression has previously been the purview of mathematicians, logicians, statisticians, and those who use symbols to express the barest minimum of relationships amongst the most pure of concepts. Ambiguous words are (or should be, as a professional matter) as foreign, and as luxurious as the sweetest Dulce de Leche ice cream served at a zero depth pool in a hidden Bali mountain is for us.
But precision of expression is more important than most people think and precision varies enormously by form. When someone says, “The Gators won the football game,” the meaning is different than when someone writes it on a piece of paper. These two prior forms are still different from when it is typed and sent over email and these three prior forms are yet different from those words when painted on a canvas, or spray painted on a wall. The meanings are not so different that we cannot fathom the gaps, so I don’t mean to belabor the point. Rather, I merely want to point out that form matters. I’ll say more about this later.
My goal in this short series of posts will be to lay out a method for articulating differences in meaning, as well as comparing meanings, distinguishing levels of ambiguity in meaning, and why all these things are important. Finally, I will summarize what all of this means for the always growing, always diminishing set of cultural information we use as humans.