What’s in a Word?

I just saw a headline that said something like “Isis Rocks Iraq” and misinterpreted entirely, for a second, because of two diametrically opposed definitions of the word ‘to rock.’

A Rock

A Rock

There is the positive sense, like “The band was awesome.  They totally rocked the house.”  And that’s the way I read it at first.

Then there is the negative sense, like bombing and shooting shit up.

It’s not surprising it’s a word with many meanings.  I remember a B.C. comic, one of the under-rated classics of comic history, in which the psychic said he could guess what the guy was thinking of and the guy says O.K., go ahead and try and he says “a rock,” and that was it, because as was explained via thought balloon in the last panel, ‘what else is there.’

So, a rock is a stone, and to rock can mean to affect positively, or negatively.  To rock is also a motion, something you do in a rocking chair, or to a baby in a cradle.  From our very first days upon this earth, we rock.

It is a bit of cocaine, perhaps a diamond, or a person who is a tower of strength.

The amazing thing about a word that means dozens of different things like that is that the meanings almost never get confused.  Sure, it would be possible to contrive an ambiguous sentence, which is why puns tend to depend upon extremely contrived sentences and situations.  But, in almost all cases, the context is clear.

The world we live in is made up of so many disparate worlds, different cultures, that no two conversations are ever identical, but meanings remain distinct.

If any of that made sense.  Good night.


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