Have you noticed how words that we once thought had universal or generally understood meanings now seldom stand alone? These words are introduced by adjectives that can reduce or inflate the impact of what we used to think they meant. In effect, adjectives make words endlessly adaptable.
For example, I’ve been struck by the way adjectives transform and mask what we thought we understood about history, friendship, love, information, and truth:
- Honest History, Revisionist History, Pseudo History
- True Friendship, Trustworthy Friendship
- True Love, Unconditional Love
- Real Information, Factual Error, Fake News
- My Truth, Your Truth, Whole Truth
Depending on how language is used, it can enhance, minimize, or even destroy what we might think of as objective reality. And just what is objective reality?
It’s important to take notice of words and adjectives, who is using them, and what the user is trying to achieve. In a world of spin and confusion, look and listen for how language is used to support a particular point of view—whether your own or one that might diverge in part or in whole. Ask who benefits and who is harmed as a result. Be wary of adjectives that obscure reality.