Names that mean more than descriptions

I heard someone talking on RNZ yesterday (I don’t know who it was, that doesn’t matter for now) who said that the names of some places need no description. In fact the are difficult to describe with works adequately, given a loss to the All Blacks can be described as shock, disaster, catastrophe, crisis.

He said this in particular applied to places associated with the First World War, like:

  • Sarajevo
  • Gallipoli
  • The Somme
  • Passchendaele

Those of us who have been around for a while and know history reasonably well may forget some of the details but those names mean a lot more to us than a single word.

The same can also apply to the Second World War:

  • Normandy
  • Auschwitz
  • Guadalcanal
  • Hiroshima

And even to Vietnam:

  • My Lai

Also to some people’s names (or even initials):

  • Hitler
  • Stalin
  • Pol Pot
  • JFK

There are big stories around all of these words, but we don’t need them explained or described in detail to understand the enormity of what they represent.

And there are words used for things that also mean a lot without any explanation needed, like Holocaust, Cultural Revolution, McCarthyism.

Single words can mean much more than a small bunch of hieroglyphs can portray.

 

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11 Comments

  1. duperez

     /  January 29, 2017

    Single words can mean much more than a small bunch of hieroglyphs can portray.

    Some words come into the vernacular and become trendy, which while the users of them may have a clear image of what they mean, can have myriad meanings, are cheap and easy to use but are just as hieroglyphical.

    “PC,” “right,” “left” and the latest, “snowflake”, are some. Like the lists above they too evoke emotional responses.

    • duperez

       /  January 29, 2017

      Elicit rather than evoke.

      • Gezza

         /  January 29, 2017

        Both are correct. The first usually prompts the second.

    • Kevin

       /  January 29, 2017

      One of the interesting things about the term “snowflake” is that while it comes from the book and movie “Fight Club”, as in “you are not a special little snowflake”, I doubt that many know this.

      In other words it’s an example of popular culture adding a new meaning to a word, the new meaning sticking, and people forgetting what it was that added the new meaning in the first place.

      • Anonymous Coward

         /  January 29, 2017

        Like ‘Meme’.

      • Anonymous Coward

         /  January 29, 2017

        And ‘Troll’.
        In fact any word the internet takes to heart usually goes through a period of fluid interpretation until it finally settles far from it’s original meaning.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  January 29, 2017

          These are hardly in the same league. Anyone who has known Auschwitz survivors or been to places like Ypres would know this.

          • Anonymous Coward

             /  January 29, 2017

            This is a tangental discussion,either save your moral indignation or make a comment that has some relevance to those it precedes..

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  January 29, 2017

              Tangential doesn’t begin to describe the idea that snowflake has the same impact as the Somme and Auschwitz, All of the words in the lists at the beginning will be powerful long after the few faddy internet ones have sunk without trace.

            • Anonymous Coward

               /  January 29, 2017

              Are you still here?

  2. Indeed…. like: Rotherham