Monday, June 08, 2015

Too Many Choices

Freedom of choice
is what you've got
Freedom from choice
is what you want
- DEVO, "Freedom of Choice"
When I was a kid, I used to ask for a Band-Aid if I fell down and got a scrape. When I needed to blow my nose, I asked for a Kleenex. When I got to high school and took a course called Semantics, my teacher instructed me that I had been brainwashed by popular culture and advertising. These weren't necessarily Band-Aids. They could have been Curads. All those Kleenex in the trashcan could have been mixed with Puffs. I was caught up in a brand-name vortex, and I needed to be clear about my meaning. I really meant "adhesive strips" and "facial tissue." Someone else had slapped a catchy name on these products and caused me to line up in vague allegiance to a particular manufacturer because of the limited hard drive space I had for storing such information. After that class, my eyes were opened, and I wasn't going to be forced into arbitrary distinctions by popular culture or the media. It didn't occur to me at the time to ask if the course I was taking was really "Semantics" or was it "Semiotics?"
Words and their meaning have fascinated me for the time I have been using them. Before I went to high school to be taught about brand-name recognition and subliminal images in advertising, I took German. This is where I learned more about the mechanics of words and language than I ever imagined. It is also where I first encountered the notion of masculine, feminine and neuter. Like many languages, German nouns are given the distinction of being one of those three. Nurse, for example, is feminine: Die Krankenschwester. Doctor is der Doktor. Masculine. When constructing their culture, the Germans decided to apply sex roles to certain occupations. Things are generally neuter, or das with their article. Except for words like der Spiegel, or "mirror" in English. The thought process behind making a mirror masculine must have been an interesting one. Gender, according to articles, seems to make for more confusion than less.
Labels do that sometimes. Labels are limits. They do a very nice job of making a fence around a person, place or thing. Der, die, das. He, she, it. Pronoun trouble. That's what I've been thinking about lately. Those three don't seem to offer enough room for all the choices that exist out there. Some have taken to using "they" when describing oneself. Singular. Not first person but third person. It does have that clue about multiple spirits inside one person, but I prefer instead to borrow a trademark name from another company: Wii. First person plural with two "I's." For now, let us consider this a Band-Aid for our personal pronouns.

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