Struggling with Loaded Statements?
Have you ever had a conversation with someone before and someone says some obscure idiom you have never heard nor understood? How about a statement that could possibly have two meanings? You know the ones, a double entendre. Or have you ever heard those questions that can back you into the corner? You know these too, a loaded question. There seem to be statements that have more meaning than at first glance.
See, these statements don’t back anyone into a corner per se. These statements can tend to leave us in confusion, clarity, or simply attempting to find the deeper meaning of the sentence. These, as I would like to call them, are loaded statements. Statements that leave us scratching our heads, asking ourselves: what did they just mean? The goal is to find out some factors about these statements; to help us consider what is really meant by people, to further our ability to ask good questions, and to seek for ourselves a better understanding in our conversations.
Loaded statements are sentences or sayings that have deeper meanings for the conversation, but whose meanings could be easily missed by the listener. The statements themselves are given meanings by the individual, but the listener(s), either through context or other means, take whatever is accessible to them in order to understand what was said through the statement.
Take for example the loaded question: “have you finally stopped cheating on your exams?” It’s loaded because it implies that you were cheating beforehand. In the same instance, loaded statements can act in a similar manner: “New York is the greatest city ever!” The claim is that New York is the greatest city; however, the claim implies that New York is, in fact, a city. Take another example: “Jeremy is one of the smelliest guys I know.” Man, that really does suck, but who the heck is Jeremy? The meaning of the statement is clear, but the subject can be obscured. The loaded statement can imply subjects for the listener that aren’t necessarily grasped in the statement alone. However, every loaded statement doesn’t primarily act in this manner.
Take a look at idioms. I am as snug as a bug in a rug; once in a blue moon; butterflies in my stomach. These are all familiar sayings to us as Americans, yet for the average person who is seeking to learn the English language (or any other language), idioms don’t make too much sense. For idioms, they are never to be taken literally. Rather, they are to be understood to describe an event. Snug as a bug? A person is comfortable. A blue moon? Something rarely occurs. Butterflies? Someone’s nervous.
However, if there isn’t some preconceived knowledge of the event, or if taken outside of their context, the listener wouldn’t understand what the idiom means. Meaning that not every idiom is easily knowable. Context limits the idiom’s usage. Outside of the context (or having a lack of understanding of the meaning), a bug in a rug being snug only evokes confusion. It is best to take note of what is happening around the person who states the idiom or ask questions about its usage. Then, the meaning will be revealed.
Our whole society is full of references now. From The Office all the way to Avengers, our society is riddled with them. These references can be, and are, used in our everyday contexts. “Dwight, you ignorant slut!” has become one of the more notable lines from The Office. People use its original meaning to their own advantage with their friends or family. Now the line has a new range of meanings from calling someone a, sometimes literal, “slut” to remembering a funny line with friends. The line could be taken to the extremes, modified, and paralleled in all kinds of manners. The original is always alluded to in those manners; yet, some listeners may not understand the reference. People can induce their own meaning into the sentence within their context; a person makes it their own and gives it a new meaning.
This induced meaning can also be certainly found outside of reference. Movies, literature, music, etc., have found ways to induce meaning within their own contexts. In Castaway, Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks), loses Wilson (his volleyball with a handprint on it) to the open ocean. As Noland loses the ball, he begins to scream “I’m sorry Wilson!” This loaded statement summarizes Chuck’s life and even lets him begin a new one. But none of the audience would know this from the statement alone.
They must understand where Noland has come from before understanding the statement. And even then, the statement, taken by itself, isn’t a cut and dry exposition of who Noland is and where his character is going. No, it leaves the audience the ability to deepen their understanding of the statement. Consequently, it isn’t the statement alone that becomes understood. The character and context are given a new light when the statement is interpreted to find the greater meaning.
Personally, one of my favorite lines comes from the movie Saving Private Ryan (yep, another film with Tom Hanks). “Fubar.” In the movie, Captain Miller’s battalion comes across a pilot and his wrecked plane when searching for Ryan. When the pilot discusses how the plane came down to the battalion, all of the men replied, “fubar.” Within the context of the men and the situation they were discussing, the plane came down because of a steel plate, killing twenty-two men. The steel plate was all for the protection of one man, a general; the meaning of the statement becomes quite clear. And in my personal Oklahoman terminology, it means, “what a load of horse-shit.”
During, Corporal Upham stupidly states he “can’t find ‘fubar’ in the dictionary.” “Upham, you ignorant slut!” would be an appropriate time to use that phrase. Here’s the deal with Upham; we want to be observant in our contextual situations. We ought to know when to ask the right questions at the right time. Practically, nobody wants to look like an “ignorant slut.” More importantly, we want to partake in the conversation with our peers. Observing the situation before saying something becomes incredibly valuable.
In the end, the term “loaded statements” is simply philosophical jargon for common sense and intuition. The term is not an argument for subjectivism: “let your meaning be your meaning, while my meaning is mine.” It is simply the practical study of wanting to understand what statements mean. While having the ability to know the deeper meaning of the other individual and their context.
“‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”