Defining Terms: Understanding the Bamboozlement 1 of 3

Iphone pictures imported May 1, 2014 458Educated people in the early days of our country spoke the same language because they had a common course of study. They learned from the ancient Greeks and the Roman writers reading them in their own languages of Greek and Latin. These provided the foundation for understanding. Along with them the great Western philosophers and writers whose understandings were formed under the umbrella of a Christian Europe became their teachers.

Many of the educators in these colonial days were members of the clergy who used the Bible as a basic document from which to teach. Because of that men from South Carolina could communicate clearly with men of New Hampshire; men from the states with the best educational resources, Virginia and Massachusetts, would become the leaders. Our country was founded by educated men who put together documents and wrote out their ideas which still govern us today at least 240 years after they first got together for what we now call the Continental Congress.

The academic requirements in the early days of our country to get into Harvard were:  “When any scholar is able to read Tully [Cicero] or such like classical Latin author ex tempore and make and speak true Latin in verse and prose suo (ut aiunt) Marte [by his own power, as they say], and decline perfectly the paradigms of nouns and verbs in the Greek tongue, then may he be admitted into the college, nor shall any claim admission before such qualification.” 

That common education no longer holds. There are few in leadership positions in our country who have received that type of classical education. Other influences have been brought into our colleges and universities for better or worse. Today the words we speak to each other no longer mean the same thing. We speak like ships passing in the night or people talking in different languages.

Words now seem to have no standard meaning where once they did. Latin is called a dead language because it was no longer spoken and its words were not subject to many different interpretations. English is very much alive adding words to the language every day with the meanings of some words continually in flux. That is the difficulty with attempting to grasp the truth of the many situations that have arisen in the Whitey Bulger saga.

In WWII there were posters around many of the ports of our country with the words “Loose lips sink ships.” The German U-boats were waiting off the Eastern seaboard for our ships heading for Europe, German spies lurked outside the ports in the bars and eateries hoping to find out when the ships of our Merchant Marine were heading out with their cargoes. It was a matter of life and death that the schedule of departures be kept secret; thus the warning to all to watch what was said.

Today we should have posted throughout our nation signs saying “Loose words sink understanding” or perhaps even more appropriate “Loose words create confusion.” These words helped immensely in bringing about Boston’s bamboozlement. The words most responsible for this are “corrupt” and its twin “corruption” not to mention terrorize. But sticking with corruption, have you ever paused to think what it means?

Take for instance a sentence that reads in part: “they terrorized and corrupted Boston for a quarter century.” What does that suggest to you was happening in Boston. Were you aware that it was occurring if you lived there?  Or are these just loose words irresponsibly thrown out that mean different things to different people and thus have no real meaning in themselves?

2 thoughts on “Defining Terms: Understanding the Bamboozlement 1 of 3

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  2. The italicized phrase in your final paragraph is in a sentence from some promotional material for a certain fictional, published account of times in Boston. The co-authors of the book, former reporters for a major metropolitan newspaper, clearly didn’t attend high school across the street from their erstwhile employer. At least I _hope_ they didn’t!

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