Wednesday, April 25, 2012

They're Not on the Level

I want to originate a new word. I think I still have the right to do that in this country. Try though they do, the forces of dictatorship have not yet completely suspended my right of free speech.

When I taught junior high English, I wanted the students to understand the difference between denotation versus connotation, because dictators are clever in the way they initiate a bloodless coup: They can simply insist that a word’s connotation becomes its denotation.

Denotation is the real or literal meaning of a word: “Charles, oldest son of the Queen of England, is a prince.” The word “prince” is denoting his royal title, so it’s literally true.

If, on the other hand I said, “My grandfather was a real prince,” I’d be using the connotation of the word prince, meaning my grandfather was a nice guy, since he held no royal title.

But the new word I want to introduce is fallotation, meaning, the exact opposite of what a word or phrase truly implies. Nothing symbolic; nothing literal. Actually, just a plain lie! Ergo, a fallacious statement.

What entices me to inaugurate this new word is the popularity of the phrase, “Level the playing field.” How many times have you heard someone say that in an attempt to gain an advantage for themselves?

Do they really want the playing field leveled, that is, their opponent starting from the same position as they do, running through the same barriers, overcoming the same obstacles?

Actually, they do not. What they actually want is an advantage. They want to be running downhill while their opponent runs uphill. So they don’t want the playing field level—they want the opposite—they want the playing field skewed or slanted in their favor.

And whenever I hear anyone use that phrase—level the playing field—I assume that they just could not compete on a level playing field. That’s why they want (or need) the field slanted in their favor. They don’t want it level at all. They want it skewed.

So in my new definition, when someone says they want the playing field leveled, they don’t mean the denotation or literal meaning of that phrase. Nor do they want a symbolic image of a level, therefore impartial playing field, which would be the connotation of the phrase.

No, they want the fallotation of the phrase—the reverse; the lie: the fallacious meaning—a skewed playing field.

But when you skew the playing field in anyone’s favor—everyone then loses. And what they lose first is the truth. And I mean truth in the literal sense—not it’s connotation, and certainly not it’s fallotation, but its denotation.

                So the next time you hear someone say, “Let’s level the playing field,” ask them if that’s what they really want—for everyone to start from the same position. My bet is they’re looking for an advantage.

                They’re not on the level.

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