Semantics

I’ve found myself compelled to contribute to a few online discussions recently, both I hate to admit, sparked off by nothing more that my own intolerance. One here and another here.

You see I have this thing about arguments seemingly based on nothing but semantics. It winds me up a treat when people start arguing about the meaning of words and hold up long lists of alternative dictionary definitions as reasons why current terminology needs to be re-defined.

My own industry is full of it. Many of my peers* seem determined to find alternative labels and terminology that more accurately reflect exactly what we mean by Internal Communications and Employee Engagement. In one recent discussion on the Employee Engagement Network, ‘syntropy’ was held up as the contributor’s ‘terminology for the antithesis’ of the ‘malpractice’ of managers and consultants who disengage employees in ‘the Entropic Enterprise’. Make of that what you will. I gave up trying to work out how that would help anyone understand what a disengaged employee looks like after getting bogged down in medical glossaries in search of a spot of clarity.

An article I came across in an in-flight magazine the other day may help to illustrate what I’m somewhat inelegantly trying to say here. The article, which explored the evolution of music, began by defining the word ‘music’ as “an art form with the medium of sound based around vibrations”.

Now what bloody use is that to anyone? Music is music. We all know what it is. We all have our own opinions on what constitutes good and bad music. But it’s still music.

I have to confess I couldn’t be bothered to read the rest of the article. The attempt to define ‘music’ was too big a turn off to draw me any further into the story. I was disengaged.

*Maybe not quite peers. Consultants seem more prone to this activity than in-house practitioners, who I consider to be my true peers.

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