Google+ Followers

Monday, March 9, 2009

Words and Meaning I

What is the best analogy for the relationship between a word and its meaning? Perhaps it is the analogy of money to its value.


  1. I ran across this analogy recently and while it would make sense to some, actually what you have said further to me made more sense: that meaning is not a set exchange, but something more closely related to use. And this made me think about the different systems: money versus a barter system. As it was explained by Saussure, the value is not in the metal, as much as it is in the stamp that it carries; regardless of metal, the stamp dictates its placement within the system. I assume that this means more to someone who is not so mathematically challenged. To me, something more like a barter system, whose 'price' is based more upon need than on markets and a government made better sense. Otherwise, there is already a sense of detachment from the coin as opposed to the chicken. I cannot own a coin who pays rightful allegiance to its respective governing class; I can, however, own a chicken and it is mine (in that, I take care that it survives until it serves its purpose). Too, if I exchange a pair of shoes I made for a pelt that someone else made to the best of his craft, there is in this, the notion of meaning for one person being different for another (it shows the barter of meaning and so also, its use). In order for there to be meaning, there must also be ownership. Its use dictates the value, or rather my use of it. And then too, we are more familiar with those we wish to cultivate and are owner of and become a better wielder. But as is with most of my points, perhaps this one distinction is beyond the original mark.

  2. But there are different ways to go beyond, and the comment was meant to be productive of thought, like an aphorisim, so in this case going "beyond" was the point. I was thinking of the false stability, or the illusion of stability in the relationship between a coin and its value. The value of a quarter is always 25cents. That's stable. But the value of 25cents is not stable. Nor is it one thing. If you are very thirsty and the only water is in a vending machine and you are a quarter short, that 25cents has much more value than it would at other times. And it has immediately almost none if you see a water fountain as you're poounding the vending machine.

    Foucault notes in another book that financial transactions only take place in situations of unequal value. Until your chicken is worth less to you than my pelt, you won't bother to trade and vice versa. The two things can't ever be of equal value. Each has to be worth more than the other. All these observaions apply to language.