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What Do Words Mean?

It is your job to investigate each word you speak so that you can speak with a full understanding of the words you use. 

Words have literal meanings that you will find in the dictionary. And remember that the meaning of words changes over time. So check when the play / text / copy was written, and look up what the word meant at that time. For centuries old English, the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is a brilliant reference book to use. For contemporary language usage, listen to the society around you and watch and listen to live and reality programming on contemporary channels such as MTV. Channels like MTV will also give you access to both local and international language usage. 

Words can also have implied meanings, hidden value and context value. Do your homework and explore and investigate your text, the author, the politics, the culture, context, the setting of the play, the audience and the culture into which you will perform. Again, the media and the living world around you are right there to use for reference purposes.  

Each of us views the world from our own perspective. Each and every one of us has a subjective view of the world no matter how modern or traditional we are. How you see and experience the world is different to how I see and experience it. So each of us will have an individual relationship to each and every word that exists. This means that every word, although bound by some literal meaning, potentially has 7 billion or more meanings in the minds of everyone alive today. What do the words mean to you? How do they relate to your life and you to them? How does your mood impact on each word? How does the situation you are in change or impact on the word and its implied meaning? And how is your mental picture different to mine? They are without question different to mine, and so I ask you, does this not mean that there can not ever in fact be a correct or a set reading? There can only be a believable or unbelievable one, a personal one informed by your research and your emotions, perspective and imagination. So please don’t try to present us with a ‘correct’ or an ‘expected’ reading. 

(Think for example about the following simple words – sea, holiday, food. At a glance they are seemingly simple words. Seemingly set with obvious meaning. But are they? Think about how you relate to them socially, culturally and personally? Now think about how a stressed person would think about them, or a poor hungry person, and so on. Its amazing how much their meaning suddenly changes, isn’t it? 

© Donald Woodburn

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