Homonyms are under attack!! For everyone’s sake, I suggest that we all drop our armor! There is no need to wage figurative and literal wars over words! We can always make new words. For the time being, it is probably best that we just accept that it’s okay that homonyms exist.
In case you need a grammar recap, homonyms are words that are both spelled and pronounced the same as each other, yet have different meanings. Maybe I’m giving our education system too much credit but I think that for the most part, people do understand that homonyms are a thing. They know there is a difference between a bear (an animal) and bear (to withstand or hold up). Unfortunately, this has not been extended to words and phrases like feminism, black lives matter, or the use of gender pronouns. It’s almost as if people forget that there is a such thing as homonyms. Something inside them just goes
People strive to preserve the meaning of words. They cling to its meaning like a three-month old clings to their pacifier. The idea behind the words soothes them. The idea pacifies any uncertainties about their identity, beliefs, and desires. When people propose new meanings for words it’s like the world is tilted off its axis. They feel like something just isn’t right. Ascribing new meanings to words that already have a set meaning just isn't right!
My theory is that people are protective over beliefs. I don’t know how but I think somehow this translates to being possessive over a set of syllabus crushed together. I would like to think that it’s not that people are simply resistant to the idea of homonyms in it of itself (because wtf).
Instead, they may be protective over the existence of ideas. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the issue is that people base their value off being intelligent or off being right. Perhaps our need to prove ourselves incapacitates our ability to listen. I don’t know. I don’t know what it is. I just know that miscommunication over words and ideas are rarely ever thought of as a miscommunication. It almost always feels like misunderstandings are due to someone else being ignorant, a bigot, or disconnected from reality.
Let's look at a few examples.
It feels like there are 6,000 definitions but everyone only knows 1 definition and they think that they've got it right.
Academics define it differently. Mainstream media defines it differently. Regular everyday folks define it differently. So many people talk about it but who really knows what others mean when they critique it?Feminism means a lot of different things to different people. For some it means the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men. For others people feminism is a phrase that lesbians and ugly women use to try to emasculate men. It could also mean female empowerment.
2. Black Lives Matter
Much like feminism, Black Lives Matter got heat before people knew what it was. Why? Because of its name.
I'd like to think that BLM consists of a group of people working to rebuild the Black liberation movement. However, because of how the phrase is worded, many people think it's about advancing black people over white people. Of course not all disagreements about BLM have to do with its name. A lot of people think it's about fighting against police brutality. A lot of people think its a knock off version of The Black Panthers. It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
3. Gender pronouns
Let's talk about the use of they and ze. Some gender non-forming and transgender people use they to identity with. However, the term they could also be an identifier to refer to multiple groups of people. A lot of people have issues with gender pronouns because they are trans-phobic. I don't want to talk about those people. I want to talk about the people who want to dismantle our grande patriarchy. Gender pronouns can be hella confusing for us. I've wished numerous times that we could fast-forward to when people had it "right." I wish the whole ze/they debacle was settled or that we didn't have to worry about it because somebody somewhere had already "de-gendered" language (made it less sexist). As of right now, some gender non-forming and transgender people use they to identity with. However, the term they could also be an identifier to refer to multiple groups of people.
At the end of the day, a fixed and static language really boils down to a stagnant culture. This homonym war we’ve got going on is really just reflective of a clash between peoples and ideas. It’s reflective of a culture war that can only be measured by time, not ethics or some other meaningful philosophical bs. There is no true exchange of ideas in this war that we wage. We're just sending little monologues into the ether like collective consciousness prayers. Our agitation at the thought of change, of difference, is keeping us from progressing into the kind of world I want to live in. So please stop. Stop being so emotionally attached to words. We have to let language evolve. We need our language to evolve so that meaningful discourse can take place.