Semantic Rationality for Try-Hards

 

The word ‘rationalize’ gets a bad rap.

All too often it’s used to describe a situation wherein someone is justifying their bad decisions with cumbersome arguments that don’t quite add up.

That’s not rationality, that’s back-tracking. Rationality involved applying logic. It’s what makes civilization, technology and all the other bits and bobs we enjoy on a daily basis possible.

Rationalizing is one of the most fulfilling and human activities one can undertake, and yet it’s developed such a negative connotation.

And what about the phrase ‘try-hard’?

The way it’s used these days, try-hard is an insult hurled at people who seem to be showing off or otherwise outpacing those around them.

My question is this: if you aren’t trying hard, what exactly are you doing with your time? And further: why should I care what someone who doesn’t try hard has to say about me or anyone else?

Those who demonize rationality are trying to pull you into a situation where their opinions are all that matter, facts be damned.

There are also those who want to slouch their way through life, getting offended when anyone else makes them look short by standing tall. ‘Try-hard’ is their attempt to make their sloth an honorific and your ambition a scarlet ‘A.’

‘Atheist,’ ‘liberal,’ ‘intellectual,’ ‘French,’ ‘Capitalism,’ ‘moderate,’ ‘immigrant’…these are all words that contain a great deal of meaning, but have been reduced to insults or developed negative associations in recent memory.

It should be noted that each of these words has also been commonly considered a GOOD thing in the past.

So what’s changed? What makes a word bad or good?

There’s public sentiment, of course, but political, religious and corporate spin-machines are what controls public sentiment.

At the end of the day, though, words can’t be put in our mouths if we don’t want them to be there, or at least not words with manipulated meanings.

‘Rationalizing’ can once more mean that you’re thinking logically and reasonably, while ‘try-hard’ can cease to be slung mud and once again be a mark of someone who is striving to reach their goals.

Words have power, but they will cease to if everyone gives the same words a different meaning. This is far from ideal, because when words become powerless, the person with the most guns is the one with all the power.

So let’s avoid more totalitarian regimes, shall we?

Think about what you say; anything else would be irrational.

10 comments

  1. Unfortunately in your post you’re doing just what you accuse others of – putting your own slant on the definition of a word and expecting everyone else to follow suit. If you look up “to rationalize” in a dictionary, the primary meaning listed is often the one you apparently don’t like – apparently meaningful but in fact superficial justification of an action. That’s the case on dictionary.com. I believe all other dictionaries now represent this meaning as at least a recognized usage.

    Unless we want to set up our own totalitarian regime, the only rational way to respond to this evolution of meaning is to accept the definitions supplied by professional authorities: i.e. dictionaries.

    Still, as someone in my 40′s I often find myself wishing things were defined or done as they used to be.

    • On the sentiment of wishing things were done as they used to be, I couldnt agree more. Life was simpler back when. Society has turned our modern conveniences into a much different way of life, and it seems we have gotten away from what made life so great back then.

      But at the same time, life is what you make of it.

  2. haha Miles, you have been quicker than me….i was gonna ask the same question! are Frenchies that bad? I know we have lots of “bad qualities” but i wudn’t have imagined the word “French” had such a bad connotation..sux for me then :(

    • I’m sure colin can tell us what he means? :) – Colin the french community is listening? – I love to put him on the spot! – Caroline nothing to worry, colin loves the french! :)

      • so funny :) you are right, let’s put Colin on the spot! I hope he does – but what bothers me more is the rest of the world though…maybe i might pretend im Belge or Swiss! do you think they would like me more? :P

        • It’s funny the american pretend they are Canadian when they go to France and the French pretend to be swiss – nobody pretends to be from belgium :) – Let’s stop pretending and start accepting each other.

          • so well said, i couldn’t agree more :) Even if “French” has a negative connotation, i wouldnt change it because at the end of the day, i love it. Snobish, sometimes arrogant and proud, eating snails for Christmas, croissant addicted, speaking English with a strong accent, considering that everything is always better in France and that no city can equal Paris…well, i guess that’s part of my DNA :P

  3. One would argue that if left to us to define the meaning of the word, or to independently choose among the predefined meanings of the word, it is a lot easier and comfortable to fall back on the negative connotation rather than the positive one.

Comments are closed.