Do Words Mean What You Decide They Mean?

Orangeville, ON (My Corner Office) “If you want to sell books, you must have a cartel,” writes a blogger. He then links to a writing and marketing course for authors that includes “cartel” in its name.

What an unfortunate word choice! Ask anyone in North America what “cartel” evokes. They will say something like “Colombian drug lords.”

Why do people ignore such associations?

1)They’re uninformed.
Someone called himself “the Grand Poobah of Publicity”. He may not have realized that “poobah”, comes from the comic opera “The Mikado”. It refers to someone with an inflated sense of self-importance.

2)They want to stand out by choosing an unusual word.
In this category are many who tire of using the word “famous”. So they market “notoriety” instead. The latter means developing a negative reputation.

3)They feel their force of will can overcome deep-seated associations in the language.
Anyone in this group needs to read (or reread) Chapter 6 of Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass”. Alice resists Humpty Dumpty’s claim that words mean what he decides they mean. I’m with Alice on that!

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