Academic journal article et Cetera

General Semantics: A Compendium of Definitions

Academic journal article et Cetera

General Semantics: A Compendium of Definitions

Article excerpt

SOMEONE WHO has never heard the term "general semantics" is likely to pick up the "semantics" as the study of words and meanings, usually "tricky" meanings, and consider "general semantics" to be a kind of "general" study of words. We compound the confusion further by sometimes using the term "semantics" as an abbreviated form of "general semantics." Suppose someone asks you, "What's general semantics?" You might first consider what kind of answer would be most appropriate in the particular circumstances-an offhand, casual one, a somewhat longer answer, a more comprehensive, even scientific definition.

Short and Simple

Some short and clever definitions that pack a lot into just a few words:

A general semanticist is someone who, upon encountering a person with a beard, would say it was probably a man, but would hold open the possibility that it might be a bearded lady. RICHARD P. MARSH

General semantics is the science and art of understanding and being understood.


General semantics, as seen in terms of its working principles, is designed to help you "get the words out of your eyes." WENDELL JOHNSON

General semantics deals with how we use symbols, and how symbols use us. It stresses the dangers of letting the symbol be confused with the thing it symbolizes.


General semantics is the science of how not to be a damn fool.


General semantics involves talking about ourselves and about the world so that the talk will fit the world. IRVING J. LEE

General semantics is a way to open one's eyes and ears, and to be ready to take in new information. S. I. HAYAKAWA

General semantics is a general theory of how you can act a little more sanely because you talk to yourself a little more sanely. S. I. HAYAKAWA

General semantics is the study of relations between symbol systems and nervous systems as expressed in behavior. ROBERT PULA

General semantics is part of the search for significance that we make in the world around us. WILLIAM PEMBERTON

General semantics helps people to gather information more accurately, evaluate it more clearly, judge it more soundly, and act upon it more successfully.


More Complex

Here are some more thorough definitions:

General semantics is not any "philosophy," or "psychology," or "logic," in the ordinary sense. It is a new extensional discipline which explains and trains us how to use our nervous systems most efficiently. ALFRED KORZYBSKI

General semantics can be viewed as a program of guided awareness, of educated consciousness of what is going on in the world and within ourselves.


General semantics may be regarded as a systematic attempt to formulate the general method of science in such a way that it might be applied not only in a few restricted areas of human experience, but generally in daily life. It is concerned with science as a general method, as a basic orientation, as a generalized way of solving problems.


General semantics is concerned with constructing a science of man, based upon an empirical investigation of the way man's perception of reality is distorted by the screen of language interposed between him and his world.


General semantics is the study of how we "size up" the world and then symbolically relate to it. It is concerned with the total reaction of the individual to the world.


General semantics is a linguistic self-control which teaches how symbols are related to experience so as to make it less likely that we take too seriously the absurd or dangerous nonsense that, within every culture, passes for philosophy, wisdom and political argument. ALDOUS HUXLEY

General semantics is the study of what makes human beings human. In its inquiry into the disorders of symbolism, general semantics is also the study of what makes human beings sometimes less than human. …

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