A Clarification on Definitions and an Introduction to Verbal Engineering

BY ROBERT F. BEAUDINE

Let’s Make Our Culture Great Again! – Lesson 2

Every word you add to your vocabulary increases your awareness.

If you’ve never heard of the oceans and never saw one, you would be unaware of their existence.

When you learn the definition, you suddenly have an understanding of something you previously were unaware of, and when you see an ocean, your understanding broadens.

Likewise, every scientific term, every theological term, every philosophical term, every scholarly term you add to your vocabulary from any branch of knowledge increases your awareness. Every historical name and event you add to your vocabulary broadens your awareness of the past and the present.

Now, does increased awareness increase understanding? It should, but sometimes it leads to a misunderstanding for a variety of reasons.

For one, concrete words like “ocean” rarely change in meaning, but abstract words and scholarly terms often evolve over time and acquire new meanings. They have a history, which begins when they were coined and spans their evolution into today’s meaning.

Etymology is the history of any linguistic form, and it is important knowledge that is often neglected today.

Most people learn a definition and then read articles and commentaries for more information, and they skip the critical second step. After you learn the definition of any abstract word, you must learn its etymology, especially if there were major changes in its definition.

When was the word coined and by whom? What was its original definition? What is its current definition? And how has it changed?

The definition gives a superficial understanding. The etymology enhances understanding, broadens your perspective, and gives you some discernment as you learn more. And with abstract words, there is always more to learn.

For example, take a word like “socialism.” You can read hundreds of thousands of books about it. There are multiple definitions and countless interpretations. There’s its historical development and the history-makers who wrote the original works.

Then there’s today’s scholarship on socialism, which is another long and dreary story.

Then there’s today’s students, young and old, who read popular histories and commentaries on the original works, and they believe everything they read is true, because the author is a scholar with a PhD, and the scholars know a lot more about the subject than you or I.

Yet, histories and commentaries must be read with discernment, because contrary to their appearance as expert analyses, they are subjective. Most scholars are not as independent or as objective as you might think. Most scholars are associated with a school of thought, which has a framework built upon a worldview, which makes it biased, because every worldview is biased by definition. Everyone with a worldview views the world through a lens biased by their beliefs, including me.

Histories are always interpretations, for a number of reasons. There are often unknown causes of the events in history. Yet, more often the causes of the effects described in history cannot be ascertained with precision and are often in dispute. The effects are established historical facts, but the causes are interpretations based on the author’s worldview, which is usually backed by a school of thought.

A Darwinist historian will sift through the material of history and produce a much different interpretation than a Christian historian. A Darwinist will provide a human or natural explanation as the cause of every event. They do not perceive the hand of God in any world event and explain biblical history entirely different than what is written in its records. In other words, Moses did not part the Red Sea, et cetera, because there are no miracles.

Their interpretations might be right, or they could be wrong, but without a fundamental point of view, their history would be inconsistent. As historians sift through the facts and all the related historical materials, they make judgments about the causes based on their worldview. What they produce are interpretations. Even readers perceive history through a lens framed by their worldview.

Few authors alert their readers to the subjective nature of their work, but historian Peter Gay boldly titled his monumental history, “The Enlightenment: an Interpretation.” He later received a lifetime distinction award from the American Historical Association in 2004. In 2007, the New York Times called him America’s pre-eminent cultural historian.

He has impressive credentials. So, you can read his interpretation of the Enlightenment, or you can read the sources he studied and arrive at your own interpretation. The second approach is a lengthy process, but it is necessary if you want to understand a particular history.

Using my earlier example, to better understand socialism and its history, you must study the original works of the pioneers like Karl Marx, and the works of later reformers like Georg Lukacs, or any of the Frankfurt School alumni. As you begin to think for yourself and formulate your own opinions, your understanding broadens.

Or you can skip it. Those who do not study economics will be missing an entire vocabulary and remain limited in their thinking. Likewise, those who do not study philosophy, theology, history, and science will have little understanding of today’s world, because their vocabulary is missing hundreds of words necessary to gain an understanding.

In part two, I’ll introduce some developments in our language that are the result of a process called “verbal engineering,” which is used to change our language. If you’ve never heard the term and think our language evolves naturally, then you’re unaware of the process and unaware that it is taking place.

Verbal engineering is a powerful process perfected by social engineers, which is another term that increases your understanding, because social engineers work behind the scenes. Most Americans are unaware of their existence, which makes their job easier to manipulate our language and our thinking.

***

In his book, Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: When Word Games Take Lives, sociologist Dr William Brennan, wrote, “The power of language to color one’s view of reality is profound … Words can … act as a force for justice or a weapon of repression, an instrument of enlightenment or a source of darkness.”

“Those who control language control thought, and eventually semantic corruption leads to the adulteration of thought itself.”

George Orwell wrote, “If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” He was appalled at the condition of our language in 1946. Imagine his horror, if he were alive today. (From his “Politics and the English Language,” originally published in 1946.)

The childhood ditty that said, “Sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but words can never hurt me” was another childish fairy tale. Throughout history, words have caused great violence, even wars. Prophets and heretics were both executed for their words. Words matter, and when they change, civilizations sometimes thrive or fall because of the changes.

Our vocabulary has evolved over centuries, as words change in meaning, or new words are introduced, or old words are discarded, become archaic, and eventually unspoken.

This process occurs naturally as our culture evolves, but it can also be used by unscrupulous scholars to make artificial changes to our vocabulary. This behind-the-scenes manipulation of language is called verbal engineering, and it’s more effective if it remains hidden.

Verbal engineering is the art of changing the public’s perception by changing the definitions of words or the associations between them. When a word changes in meaning, perceptions will also change, because we think in words, and their definitions shape our perception of reality.

Verbal engineering is also used to narrow the range of public discourse by narrowing the common vocabulary.

Most Americans are unaware that vital words from the old days are missing in our modern conversations, as we discuss what happened last night on TV, or who won a game between a bunch of grown men playing with a ball or a puck.

During the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, our language began to change dramatically, when our psychologists redefined many words that were once vital to our old-fashioned Christian culture, beginning with their new definition of psychology. “Psyche” is a Latin term for the soul. So, psychology originally meant the study of the soul.

The soul is a religious term impossible to define scientifically, which prevented psychology from becoming a science. So our psychologists redefined psychology as the study of the mind.

Most of our early psychologists, especially those trained in Germany, were Darwinists. They believed we evolved from lower forms of life and had no soul. To them, it was meaningless.

Today, the word is more often used as a secular term, and the original term is rarely d discussed. The divine spark that enlivens our minds has little spark when it is neglected or forgotten.

Out of necessity, our psychologists also redefined the words associated with the soul.

God became a myth used in the past to control the masses. Angels and demons were more myths and the fantasies of primitive minds. Evil or wicked lost its spiritual association with the devil – which became another myth – and now means bad or cruel. Sin was meaningless and disappeared from our conversations. Without sin, there was no reason for guilt.

Other vital words lost their spiritual meaning. “Charisma” was a religious term derived from the Greek word “charis,” which means grace from God. According to Webster’s Ninth Dictionary, it was coined in 1641 and originally meant “An extraordinary power (as of healing) given a Christian by the Holy Spirit for the good of the church.”

Over time, it acquired another definition: “A personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure (as a political leader or military commander).” There was a sub-definition: “A special magnetic charm or appeal,” as “the charisma of a popular actor.”

When words change from religious terms into secular terms, they lose their vitality.

You can trace the decline of American spirituality by the changes in our language and our daily conversations. Our words now focus on the material world, while the spiritual world has been squeezed into a tiny sphere that gets ever smaller through increasing neglect.

So, to clarify my words, the definitions I use will be those that preceded the verbal engineering of our modern psychologists. For example, when I use the word “truth,” I mean the definition before truth became relative and a synonym for belief.

Under the old definition, it would be inconceivable for anyone to say everyone has their own truths, which is a common expression and belief today. In the old days, it was common to say everyone has their own beliefs, and their beliefs might be true, or they might be false. And they would never use a term like “absolute truth,” because truth was always absolute.

Psychologists used slick verbal engineering and redefined truth to include beliefs, which made it relative. In my definition, truths are always true and never false, which used to be a common belief so basic no one ever mentioned it.

Psychologists also redefined knowledge and claim beliefs are a form of knowledge. I believe that’s dishonest and will use the original definition. Many people have hundreds of beliefs but little knowledge, and the new definition hides this fact.

I reject the new definitions by our social scientists, because they are based on a godless worldview and not a Godly worldview. I disagree with their assumptions, principles, and methods. I denounce their verbal engineering, which has debased our daily thoughts and conversations. And I condemn our modern psychologists for their contributions to the destruction of our American culture, which is another untold story that will one day be told.

Return to Let’s Make Our Culture Great Again! © Home Page


Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, Robert F. Beaudine thinks deeply, researches thoroughly, and writes persuasively on political philosophy, history, public education, the national debt, the myth of global warming and numerous other subjects. A published novelist as well, Robert Beaudine resides in Greenville, South Carolina.


 

Robert F. Beaudine archives


Your comments