So What Does It Mean?


“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

This famously unbalanced egg-head’s hubris led to his equally famous fall leaving “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” the unpleasant task of bearing off his scrambled remains. It is astounding that it came down to words and their meaning. Humpty’s closing statement is quite telling, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

In an equally tragic, though much less fictitious, act of hubris, a committee of 9 decided for all under their jurisdiction just what particular words would mean, namely, “marriage.” Humpty’s question of who will be master has been answered for us and we are left with a swirling morass to be be sorted out with no clear understanding of just what words now mean. Already a Montana man has petitioned for the right to “marry” his second wife without severing his relationship with his first wife. It is a curious, if dreadful, thing to watch a society cast off from it’s foundational moorings trying to steer the ship with neither compass nor rudder.

Words have meanings and yes, those meanings often change and evolve. However, those words which seek to grapple with core issues of existence have a surprisingly stubborn and “sticky” sense about them. “Marriage” has been, and I suspect, will continue to be, one of those words. I have read with great interest the various attempts to discredit the notion of “traditional marriage” (an unfortunate pairing of words). All have pointed out the wide variety of familial arrangements throughout history, yet without exception they fail to acknowledge that the basic, and most widely entered into, relationship of EVERY society in the history of mankind has centered around the pairing of one man and one woman.

All of which leads me to offer you, my reader, a brief exercise utilizing a simple internet search. Using your preferred search engine seek out the relationship between the Greek concepts of hubris and nemesis (two of those “sticky” words that have found their way into our vocabulary). Yes, words have meaning, even if we have difficulty discerning just what it is they mean. As Alice tells Humpty after reading his marvelous poem, Jabberwocky,

“It seems very pretty,” she said when she had finished it, “but it’s rather hard to understand!” (You see she didn’t like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn’t make it out at all.) “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that’s clear, at any rate.”

Yes, Alice, “somebody killed something” but it remains to be seen just what that something was. Here’s to “all the king’s men” who are tasked with cleaning up the unfortunate mess.




One thought on “So What Does It Mean?

  1. I sometimes do wonder too, about the term “traditional marriage”. Isn’t marriage simply, marriage? As if there’s a “new-age marriage”. Oh wait. There already is.


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