By Veronica U.-K.
Rhetoric. We all learned about it in high school. I was taught it is language that is designed to have a sort of persuasive effect on its audience. But really, what is it? Is it the way we speak? the hidden intentions behind our words? One thing I’ve learned in these past few months: many words have multiple definitions and it’s thanks to technology, such as texting, that they have become more and more indecipherable.
In one of my mandatory, fist semester college classes, we were asked multiple times to define the word “monster.” Having just read Mary Shelly’s novel, Frankenstein, my first definition resembled that of one who is physically hideous. After watching Edward Scissorhands, Apocalypse Now, and Breaking Bad (I know this was an awesome class) I surmised it is one who is rejected by society because of the individual’s lack of ability to or because of society’s refusal to allow a reevaluation of acceptance.
But it’s not just definitions of words that have changed and continue to change. Connotations change. Word associations develop with time. Two years ago swag would have been thought of as the fabric of a curtain or stolen goods, not the demeanor of an individual. This change seems to have come from a loss of an emphasis on tradition and a focus on persuasion and pathos.
An analysis of our current psychological understanding of words may be just what we need to decode this ethereal, but very present language that lives among all languages.
I could probably write a novel on this topic ranting, but if you would like to learn more, even if your interest is simply peeked, I’d suggest a novel by Nancy S. Struever. Her direction of rhetoric and language through history (with a focus on the Renaissance), politics, poetry, ethics, and the human consciousness.
Be careful of what (and how) you speak.
After all, to quote Plato, “Rhetoric is the art of ruling men.”