Whilst upon the subject of language, words, and usages it is perhaps as good a time as any to discuss layered understanding and inference, particularly the real and insidious dangers of the ‘layman’s knowledge’, the ‘working understanding’, indeed the general and wholly unfortunate consideration that to cherry pick information is in any way a substitute for a consistent and constant growing relationship with specificity and related yet not necessarily congruous material.
Take as an example the synonyms understanding, comprehension, grasp, grip, command and mastery, all words interchangeable with the noun knowledge in differing circumstances, the key part of the the statement of fact being ‘differing circumstances’. Each of the given synonyms have differing and separate meanings in their own right, as well as often being a possible alternative for other unrelated nouns. Language is a spider’s web of interlaced spiders’ webs, a multilayered construct that over time takes on an ever-increasing complexity yet with a repetitively familiar form not dissimilarly to mathematical fractals appearing initially to seem random or chaotic but in actuality universally similar.
I am ever concerned that well-meaning and eager enquiring minds are inclined to see a word in print or hear in conversation and immediately proceed to the internet or lexicon for a precise meaning. Such an action makes perfect sense if always contextualized, if care is taken that the usage and situation in the written and spoken text aligns exactly with the referenced definition. Language can be purposefully vague, allowing for as wide a catch net as possible, the original thinkers not wishing to constantly revisit the same or extremely similar situations allow leeway, shading, space for inference, wiggle room. Also remember that much technical jargon, in both the humanities and sciences can at first glance appear almost exactly similar but can have exactly the opposite meaning or inflection, symptomatic and asymptomatic being an apt and momentarily very poignant example.
Well-constructed and assuredly literate discourse can be as easily constructed with one and two syllable words as with four of five, and in truth the former is inclined to be generally more informative and effective than the later. Simple yet compelling messaging is the art form that drives commerce, from the sale of potato chips and bread to automobiles and mansions. Without question the most effective communicators are much to all political and ministerial chagrin advertising copy writers.
When confronted with a new and exciting word I am inclined to make note of its usage and seeming sense, taking careful note of the apparent flavor and scent of the shape, then attempt to find further examples both supportive and elucidating before filing it away in mine own personal mind palace.
Be ever aware of the red herring, that strange disposition designated as poetic license that allows a writer or raconteur to use quite purposefully the wrong word for effect comical, tragical, confusing, or just for downright irascibility. A fault for which, milord, I am obliged to plead guilty as charged.