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Redefinition

 

Techniques > Use of language > Modifying meaning > Redefinition

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Method

Change the meaning of a word. Take a current word and stretch or constrain its meaning. Apply it to new contexts. Assert it as truth. As appropriate, define the meaning explicitly.

Challenge the meaning of words used by others. When they use a word for a particular effect, challenge their use of the word. Reach for the dictionary. Assert a wider, smaller or different meaning.

Example

When I say 'this is a warning' I mean this is your last chance.

Truth is the last refuge of the unimaginative.

What do you mean by 'helpful'. I didn't feel helped. In fact I rather thought you were trying to coerce me.

In the 1988 US Election, George Bush promised that there would be 'no net loss' of wetland. He then sought to redefine the term 'wetland' more strictly such that less land could be officially covered by the definition, allowing developers to encroach onto previously protected lands.

Discussion

If you can control the meaning of words, you have control over the meaning of the whole communication. Redefined meaning can also cause confusion and gain the user the upper hand whilst the other person struggles to work out the meaning.

Arguments can easily occur when the meaning of words are interpreted differently by different parties. This often happens subconsciously by both parties. When it becomes conscious, the argument changes to what the words really mean.

Lawyers have long challenged the definition of emotive and punitive terms such as 'murder' and 'rape'.

See also

Put His Thesis Into Some Odious Category

 

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