Re: Selfish meme?

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Fri Jan 25 2002 - 03:46:54 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Selfish meme?
    Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2002 19:46:54 -0800
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    >On Thursday, January 24, 2002, at 10:13 , Grant Callaghan wrote:
    >>A word means whatever you use it to 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.'
    >- Wade
    Lewis Carroll was ahead of the curve on a lot of subjects. There was some
    serious intent behind the humor of his books. He knew what he was doing.
    Now his ideas have a life of their own while he is dead and burried.

    To belabor the point, I used to get questions from my ESL students that went
    like this:

    "What does 'book' mean?"

    "What part of speech is it?

    And I had to say again and again, "Until it's used in a sentence, it has no


    1. I read a book.

    2. I'm going to book a room at the hotel.

    3. I bought a book at the book store.

    4. book

    In the first sentence, book is a noun. In the second, book is a verb and
    describes an action. In the third, book is both a noun and an adjective.
    In the fourth line, it's only four letters used to describe a sound.

    As far as meaning is concerned, words used as examples have no meaning
    because they are not being used to say anything. In the example above, I am
    not really saying I read a book yesterday. I'm just using the sentence to
    display the relationship between a word and its position in a sentence.
    Position determines the part of speech, not the word itself. You wouldn't
    know what part it is without the words that preceed and follow it. So what
    meaning it has is wholely dependent on how I use it.

    Humpty Dumpty was right. I am the master of its meaning.

    Does anyone see a similarity here between words and memes?

    Grant ;-)>

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