Oct. 12, 2010
More on words and language. I love talking about words and language, and am fortunate that I get to talk about it in class tomorrow. Words define us, words scare us and words stir emotions in us. “Woman,” “cancer,” “fallen soldier.”
The denotative meaning of a word is its dictionary meaning, or the “official” meaning, and the connotative meaning is the emotional meaning attached to a word. Think about the words “mother,” “death,” “love” and “patriotism.” They all mean different things to different people. I once asked my class to define “feminism,” and got as many different answers as I had students in the class.
Words are symbols, and meanings are in people, not the words themselves. Even a simple word like “cat,” has a denotative meaning and a connotative meaning. A cat is a furry, four-legged domestic feline that meows and purrs. Most people would agree with that statement. But how we feel about cats, well, that’s another story. Maybe you love cats, and have seven or eight of them waiting for us when we get home from work each day. Or maybe someone you know and love has a cat that terrorizes you whenever you visit.
Enrich your writing with words that strengthen your characters and plots. Define your terms, and explain their importance to help us understand your characters and what makes them tick.