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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

What is literal?


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, InFrogmation

Photo license: CC BY 2.5


What is literal? Here is my definition:


Literal is according to the primary meaning of language


I believe that almost every word in the English language has multiple meanings. For example, the word 'argument' could mean a verbal disagreement between two people or it could mean a set of reasons to support a belief. Another example, the word 'time' could mean a specific occasion or it could mean the entire phenomena of past, present and future.


I also believe issue becomes bigger when we consider the most basic words. For example, the word 'for' could indicate a length of time or an occasion in a series. Another example, the word 'in' could mean that something is surrounded by something else or refer to a condition.


These examples show that being perfectly literal is somewhat of an elusive task. For most words, it's not clear what the primary meaning is. In this regard, we can only subjectively choose what we believe is most literal meaning.


When I write, I try to be as literal as possible to minimize the chance of being misunderstood. I believe its important to be clear and make writing easy to read. I don't want people to read my writing and ask, "What does he mean here?" Instead, I want the meaning to be clearly represented. Although I can never fully accomplish this goal, I believe it's a good thing to aim for.



License: CC BY-SA 4.0