Next Up: Word Distinction

Nice weather we’re having…or is that nice climate we’re having…?

In that particular case, the word distinction between “weather” and “climate” is easy.  When we have a stretch of nice weather, it’s just that – a stretch of nice weather. But in other cases, the distinction between the two words might not be as clear-cut. For instance, for those of us who live in San Diego, are we the happy recipients of good weather or good climate?

In a fast paced world, not only does our sense of time blur – so do our words. Their meaning might seem perfectly clear one day, only to have new words, new issues, new technologies, new needs crop up around them that morph the meaning they had into something new. Sometimes, the word is so close in sound and spelling to another word, it’s meaning was never all that clear to begin with.

And when the words are important – such as the example at the beginning of this post between “climate” and “weather” – the distinction can change our understanding about important issues and solutions and how we frame the issue to begin with – is it climate change or global warming?

An Inconvenient Truth

Whether we know it or not, we grapple with word distinction every day. A site called A Blog for English Lovers, for instance, produces a number of posts about word distinction. Here’s one that starts from the ground up on the distinction between “Earth,” “land,” “soil,” “ground” and “floor.”

How important is distinguishing words? Well, it goes the heart of what type of country we live in. Is it a nation? A democracy? Or a republic? And what does it mean to combine the three? Here’s one opinion.

To get more personal, do you have a career or a job? Well, in this post the writer argues that it’s important to teach younger people about the difference, so they realize a career offers better long-term financial security. While the difference might be well-known to adults in the working force, it may not be to people just starting out.

Over the coming weeks, we will provide expert opinion on the distinctions of a number of powerful words. These will be words we see nearly everyday. Yet, their meaning is blurred. These words play an important role in our lives and in communications that are directed at us.

We’ll cover some significant territory in the upcoming month. We’ll do some globe trotting in interviews about “climate” and “weather.” We’ll see whether our purchasing power is “clean” or “green.” We’ll look into whether our phones, ipads and future robot are smarter than we are – “smart” and “intelligent.” And we’ll end on a satisfying feast of thoughts about the food we put in our bellies – whether it be “organic,” “natural,” and “real.”

Mr. Clean Logo

Our guest interviewees range from a NASA scientist to the surfboard recycler to a university’s Sustainability Program Manager to a former Editor of PC World Magazine.

Stay tuned for more.

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