Monday, October 23, 2006

Words, words, words

A little while back, I was involved in a debate/argument with someone over the whole "Islam is not a religion of violence" thing (read my thoughts on it here). During the course this debate/argument, one of the things which became increasingly clear was that we were using the same words without speaking the same language.

For the last few weeks, I hadn't really given this debate any further thought. But today I came across an article on which brought it back to mind. This article takes on this problem of language, what Jurgen Habermas might describe as "systematically produced misunderstandings." CNN senior producer Henry Schuster's piece, "Words in War" does a far better job of explaining the problems associated with using the word "jihad" than I was able to. I wish I had this handy during my earlier debate (not that I think that person would have really changed their position, but you never know).

Herbert Spencer once wrote, "How often misused words generate misleading thoughts." After all, words carry with them more power than we often realize and, as such, need to be treated with great care. Once they leave your mouth (or fingers in this case), it becomes hard, if not impossible, to get them back.

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