Semantics for Romantics

Not wildly earth-shattering information but important nevertheless on a basic level. Once recognised, these ubiquitous linguistic anachronisms will loose their ability to disempower the user.

I have been pointing out this anomaly for forever to friends and foes alike and the reaction is always similar ( except where the person is awake, aware and open-minded as I assume you are – current reader!) It is brushed aside as unimportant.

Its the notion that the injunction ‘dont’ or ‘do not’ or any form of this negative placed in a command will create the desired action/reaction.

This, in fact,  has no effect on the positive element inherent in the command.

Obvious examples are ” Do not think of an elephant”  or “Don’t think of the colour blue” etc.

Only the positive element is construed by our brain so we have to think of the elephant or the colour blue. How about telling your child ” don’t touch the fire”? there are hundreds of other commands in this linguistic tradition with which we commonly address our children. Studies have shown that a high percentage of words spoken to children contain some derivation or variation of the words ‘do not’.

Here are the Ten Commandments  –  the central philosophical tenets of Christianity and Judaism.

Seven of these commandments are written in the negative actually reinforcing the opposite ie.the positive statement in brackets below.  This makes me wonder why there is such universal, paradoxical, insane behaviour being played out all around us. There are many other factors involved but surely this is something to do with it

1 I am the Lord thy God

2 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image  (thou shalt make unto thee any graven image viz: Pyramid with all-seeing eye, Masonic imagery, Statues of Moloch, Obilisks, etc.)

3 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain – (Thou shalt take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.)
4 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy
5 Honour thy father and thy mother
6 Thou shalt not kill – (Thou shalt kill)
7 Thou shalt not commit adultery. (Thou shalt commit adultery)
8 Thou shalt not steal (Thou shalt steal)
9 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. (Thou shalt bear false witness against thy neighbour)
10 Thou shalt not covet (neighbour’s house) ( covert everything your neighbour has -it’s ok)
10 Thou shalt not covet (neighbour’s wife)
10 Thou shalt not covet (neighbour’s servants, animals, or anything else)

There is a way to deal easily with this……

Listen to yourself and if you find yourself using negative phraseology then construct sentences that are creative and reflect what you would like to see happen.

Perhaps instead of saying ” don’t touch the fire” rephrase to ” stay away from the fire” or “keep a safe distance from the fire” would be more effective. Try it and see for yourself. It takes time and a certain commitment to make such changes to ingrained habits but it seems worth the effort to me.

Here endeth chapter 1 of Semantics for pedantic Romantics! – next we will look at the use of the ‘you’ pronoun when we really are referring to ourselves. A very annoying and commonplace habit.


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