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Semantics of language

One part of studying a language is knowing the many meanings of individual words. Here are some examples of words with more than one meaning:

  • A water pill at first glance could be a pill with water in it; but, it is understood to be a diuretic that causes a person to lose water from his body.
  • Crash can mean auto accident, a drop in the Stock Market, to attend a party without being invited, ocean waves hitting the shore or the sound of a cymbals being struck together.
  • A child’s alphabet block could be described as a wooden cube, learning aid, toy or block.
  • Some see the glass half empty and others see the glass half full.
  • A flowering plant could be referred to as a weed or a garden flower.
  • One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
  • Some may consider an X-rated book pornography and others may consider it adult-themed photos.
  • Paying a child for chores may be considered a bribe or simply incentive.
  • A human can be referred to as a male, female, child, adult, baby, bachelor, father or mother.
  • Young can mean a colt, filly, piglet, baby, puppy or kitten.
  • A female animal can be a tigress, ewe, hen, doe, mother, daughter or sister.
  • The verb motion can mean walk, run, fall, plod, hurry or fly.
  • The word create can mean build, make, construct, erect, compose or imagine.
  • A flower may be yellow; but, the hair color would be blonde.
  • A barking dog can be good, especially if he is a guard dog, or can be bad because he is untrained and awakens people.
  • The simple word "on" can have many meanings, such as: on call, on the roof, on cloud nine, on edge, on fire, on purpose, on demand, on top, or on the phone.

Words Without Meanings

Advertisers use certain words, some without any real meaning at all, to convey certain impressions. For example:

  • Cleans like a white tornado
  • Do you have tired blood?
  • Go for the gusto
  • At Birdseye we've got quality in our corner
  • Goodyear radials: made for American cars
  • Chevron gasoline with F-310
  • Pennzoil with Z-7

Words That Are Plays on Words

Words can be a pun, a play on words. Puns use multiple meanings of words and homophones (where the pronunciation is the same but the spelling and meaning are different).

Here are some examples of puns:

  • "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know."-Groucho Marx
  • Let’s talk about rights and lefts. You’re right, so I left.
  • Seen at a pizza shop - 7 days without pizza makes one weak.
  • Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
  • Diet slogan: Are you going the wrong weigh?
  • I fired my masseuse today. She just rubbed me the wrong way.
  • The best way to communicate with a fish is to drop them a line.
  • Two silkworms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
  • A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

Now you can see more about words and how the study of words through semantics provides a better understanding of the meaning of the words.

Do you have a good example to share? Add your example here.

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