He Who Defines, Wins

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I really like words. That's one of the reasons I share "Words of the Day" with you when I stumble across them:

Word of the Day
Autochthonous:* indigenous; originating where it is found

Brought to you by
Milton Gaither

Definitions are important because, without them, we lose meaning and the ability to communicate. In debate they say that "he who defines, wins" because if your definition is accepted you can direct the conversation where you want it to go. A few examples:

  • Is abortion a medical procedure or murder?
  • Is swatting your child's hand training or abuse?
  • Is evolution a scientific fact or a godless lie?
  • Is homeschooling selfish and vile or a wonderful opportunity?
  • Is eating meat productive or immoral?
  • Is the use of "he" instead of gender neutral pronouns acceptable or chauvinistic?
  • Is this blog fantastic of lame?
  • Is Luke Holzmann a ninny or brilliant?

Ultimately, much like the last two, neither answer is entirely accurate--or, perhaps more accurately, both answers contain a certain level of truth. Logicians call what I gave above a false dichotomy. But the point remains: If you can convince people to accept your definition, you are more likely to sway them to your side.

The difficulty, then, is determining what definitions are correct. And when there is disagreement, discover what drives the two sides. Why do they define it that way? And what's influencing that definition?

Are you a parent or a teacher? Are your offspring your children or your students? And what in the world is a Core or an Instructor's Guide anyway?

I spent some time today working on a lexicon for a potential new Sonlight product. It was amazing to me how difficult it is to find words that will be wildly recognizable without leading to wrong impressions or confusion. Schedule or Calendar? Asset or Resource? Teachers Manual or Lesson Plan? Course or Program or Study Unit?

May the words you use today be edifying and understood by those around and closest to you.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Surrogate Father

*Yep, I had to look up the pronunciation too.

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  1. Michelle

    That's quite the word, Luke. I have never run across it before.

    And, I am the parent and the teacher. Especially when my 11yo protests the way I started devotions this morning.

    I looked at him and said, "I am the teacher, and we will do this my way."

    I guess I could have said "the parent," but somehow 'teacher' fit the moment better.

    May you find the right words for your project!

  2. mareserinitatis

    The antonym is allochthonous, and both words are used often in geology to describe rocks. Were they found in the place where they were created or did they somehow end up moving?

    If you'll allow me, I think the biggest dichotomy was the one you started with: that someone must win or lose. I think that everyone loses when we adhere to a definition without trying to understand the perspective of the other side or finding common ground. And I think this is something that is so often wrong with much of the public dialogue you see anymore.

  3. Luke

    Thanks, Michelle. And may you do well in your roll as both parent and teacher <smile>.

    Cherish, great point. I think you're very much onto something there. That whole, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood" thing. <smile> Totally.


  4. Amy @ Raising Arrows

    Hmmm...think I like indigenous better! Glad you added the pronunciation!

    And thanks for the link in the sidebar!

  5. Luke

    I'm with you, Amy: "Indigenous" is easier to say. But if I could remember how to pronounce that word, I'd sure appear a lot smarter <smile>. And I'm always glad to link to Other Posts of Note like yours!


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