Social Keywords

Some words – usually referred to as „synonyms“ – have essentially the same or at least very similar meanings. While I fee there is no such thing as a perfect synonym (in the sense that the words would mean exactly the same thing), many words are used quite liberally interchangeably by people who seem to not really be completely familiar with their more exact meaning.

This post is not about that.

What I want to address here is that some words seem like they could be used interchangeably – if not for the „minimal difference“ in the „social“ meaning. It appears as though these words could be applied to the same situations, except they say something different about those particular situations.

Let me present you with a couple examples of some such cases which have recently crossed my mind.

Ignore vs. Neglect: I recently wrote about the rationality of ignorance. Ignorance and neglect differ not so much in what the activity is, but rather more with respect to what are the activity’s results (in the eyes of the speaker [or author / writer]). The result of ignorance is that the subject is less well off. With neglect, the object of the verb is less well off.

Change vs. Disrupt: Change is relatively neutral or even positive. In contrast, disrupt is usually considered to be negative to at least someone (or something). If something is negative (shocking, etc.) to many, then one might consider it to be revolutionary.

Hence, many words which mean almost the same thing, differ in a „value judgement“ sort of way – and such value judgements usually rely on something like some kind of social mores, social values, etc.

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