This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Ignorance: a rant.

Gosh, it's hard to know where to start with this one.

Have you heard the story about the talks between British and US diplomats which were held up for more than an hour because of an argument over whether an idea should be tabled or not?

Everyone got very frustrated, especially as everyone seemed to agree with each other about more or less everything.

So what was the problem?

Well, in Britain tabling an idea means putting it forward so it can be acted upon; and in the USA tabling means putting it to one side so it isn't.

So now. Ignorance.

Not long ago, after one of my piano pupils said, desparingly, I'm so stupid! I told her that, on the contrary, her only problem was a tiny amount of easily curable ignorance.

Now to my surprise this upset her very much.

It turned out that in her part of town ignorance means nastiness - and later, when I thought about it, I realised that as a child I'd sometimes heard the word used that way: he's just ignorant, people would say, meaning, he's just a nasty piece of work and all you can do is ignore him.

But, good grief, what chance has any of us got if just a few miles away across town words turn out to have changed their meanings completely?

Ah well. I suppose all we can do is keep on trying.

Word To Use Today: ignorance. This word comes from the Latin ignōrāre, which means not to know, which is itself made up of in, which means not, plus gnārus, knowing.

How ironic that after all these centuries of use people still aren't too sure what it means!

1 comment:

  1. That's fascinating! I think that maybe 'stupid' has acquired a kind of affectionate tinge to it, as in "It's the economy, stupid!" Whereas being ignorant in certain places it seems is still very pejorative. And I love the tabling story. Power of words, yet again!