Naylor-Meanings of a Word

Naylor-Meanings of a Word - The Meanings of a Word by...

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“The Meanings of a Word” by Gloria Naylor source: http://faculty.ucc.edu/english-chewning/naylor.htm Language is the subject. It is the written form with which I’ve managed to keep the wolf away from the door and, in diaries, to keep my sanity. In spite of this, I consider the written word inferior to the spoken, and much of the frustration experienced by novelists is the awareness that whatever we manage to capture in even the most transcendent passages falls far short of the richness of life. Dialogue achieves its power in the dynamics of a fleeting moment of sight, sound, smell, and touch. (1) I’m not going to enter the debate here about whether it is language that shapes reality or vice versa. That battle is doomed to be waged whenever we seek intermittent reprieve from the chicken and egg dispute. I will simply take the position that the spoken word, like the written word, amounts to a nonsensical arrangement of sounds or letters without a consensus that assigns “meaning.” And building from the meanings of what we hear, we order reality. Words themselves are innocuous; it is the consensus that gives them true power. (2) I remember the first time I heard the word nigger . In my third-grade class, our math tests were being passed down the rows, and as I handed the papers to a little boy in back of me, I remarked that once again he had received a much lower mark than I did. He snatched his test from me and spit out that word. Had he called me a nymphomaniac or a necrophiliac, I couldn’t have been more puzzled. I didn’t know what a nigger was, but I knew that whatever it meant, it was something he shouldn’t have called me. This was verified when I raised my hand, and in a loud voice repeated what he had said and watched the teacher scold him for using a “bad” word. I was later to go home and ask
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This note was uploaded on 01/06/2010 for the course ENGL 305 taught by Professor Sawiki during the Fall '09 term at CSU Fullerton.

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Naylor-Meanings of a Word - The Meanings of a Word by...

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