The Meaning Of…..
The first major assignment in COMM 100W required that you write a paper consisting entirely of statements of fact. This second major assignment will also include statements of fact, but the goal of the essay is to establish something that cannot be empirically verified: the meaning of a word.
As you may have experienced when composing the Fact Paper, our ability to make an argument is limited when we cannot appeal to values. Contrary to the belief that values diminish the validity of an argument by rendering it mere opinion, values are a necessary part of argument. Indeed, they are the very heart of argument. This is the case in part because evaluative terms are notoriously difficult to define.
To establish what is meant by any evaluative word, we must rely on precedent and context. We can refer to authoritative sources such as dictionaries, but we must also take into account common usage and intent. In the case of words like hot, cold, short, or tall, there may be specific temperatures or heights that we can all agree define that term. There is no such widespread agreement for other evaluative terms, especially cultural values.
Cultural values are key terms to which we appeal again and again when deciding a course of action. They are values that most people would agree are fundamental to our society, even if we cannot agree on their definition. Examples of cultural values are: freedom, happiness, efficiency, maturity, ingenuity, independence, health, security, life, criminality, responsibility, and sustainability.
This assignment is designed to give you practice in another technique of persuasive writing, that of defining a cultural value or other key term in such a way that seems credible to your reader. Your ability to credibly define your terms will help you to contribute to a range of public discourse in influential ways.
Identify an instance in a document, broadcast, or conversation in which the meaning an author assigns to a word is debatable. You are not looking for an instance in which someone uses a term incorrectly, such as using the word “antidote” to refer to a short story. Rather, you are looking for an instance in which a person applies a word to an object or situation and you disagree with the person’s evaluation of that object or situation.
When you have your example, then answer for yourself the following question: Why is it important to dispute the meaning of that word? Your answer to that question will eventually become the thesis of your paper.
Begin your essay by summarizing your example, presenting your thesis, and previewing your definition of the disputed word. Following your introduction, present your research on your word that supports the usage for which you advocate.
There are a number of ways to establish a precedent for a preferred meaning of a term, including reference to a dictionary, though that reference should not be limited to Merriam Webster’s.
You can trace the etymology of your word in the Oxford English Dictionary, which is available electronically via the university library: http://catalog.sjlibrary.org/record=b1879016~S1 (Links to an external site.)
Other dictionaries you can search include:
Another way to establish the meaning of a term is to show how others use it, even if that usage is common only to a certain group of people. To do this, you will need to compile examples of others using your word in the manner for which you advocate. This research might include reference to the term’s equivalent in other languages.
A third strategy for establishing the meaning of a term is to define related terms. For instance, if you are establishing the meaning of maturity, you may also want to define experienced, responsible, and established.
After establishing a precedent for your preferred meaning, explain the difference it will make to use that meaning over another. In this section of the paper, you will want to provide specific examples of how the word’s meaning can or will influence decision-making and social action.
Conclude your paper with a brief summary of your argument and re-statement of your thesis.
You paper should be 1500 words in length not including endnotes and bibliography. Please include no fewer than seven references and no more than ten. Drafts and final paper must be typed, double-spaced with one-inch margins, and stapled. Do not fold the corners of your paper in lieu of a staple. Use 12 pt. font, preferably Times New Roman. Please do not include a title page or my name. Simply include your name, the semester, and the assignment (single-spaced) at the top of the first page. Citations should be formatted in accordance with either MLA or APA guidelines. Those guidelines can be found in The Pocket Wadsworth Handbook and the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL): http://owl.english.purdue.edu/ (Links to an external site.) . Even when you reference a dictionary available online, be sure to provide a complete citation for the text, including the names of editors and publishers.
When grading your paper, I will be looking for the following:
1) a compelling thesis that gives reason for disputing the meaning of a word;
2) well-organized and thorough research that lends credibility to your preferred meaning;
3) successful organization of your research into easily readable sections;
4) no fewer than seven and no more than ten reliable sources;
5) adherence to the formatting guidelines detailed above, including complete and correct citations for all your sources;
6) careful attention to grammar, spelling, and paragraph construction.
Someone once said that you never know true loyalty until you’re faced with the decision to choose who you are truly loyal to. Whether it is between family and friends, red and blue, or coffee and tea, the idea of where your loyalty stands are often questioned on how it is interpreted and the commitment one has once the chosen side has been made. Sitting in my car on a windy Sunday night, music playing on my radio station with the song “Loyalty” by Kendrick Lamar with Rihanna being a feature is blasting, the loaded questions defining the word itself had me thinking of what loyalty truly means. To be loyal, Lamar raps in his song, can be focused on things such as money, fame, or “power in your name” (Lamar, 2017). He puts the definitions of what he believes loyalty stands for in the song, posing them as questions towards whoever listens to the idea of interpreting it in their own way of what the word really means. This becomes problematic to me, finding that the definition of the word causes one to create a specific field of what loyalty can mean to someone. The definition of loyalty has always been symbolized in one’s own way of how they performed the word. We as a society, and as individuals, gave the meaning to the word itself, airing out any specifics to what the word would be stated in stone as. With this, loyalty can have a multitude of interpretations and definitions as long as you stay loyal to your own meaning of it.
Firstly, a broad example of this idea of loyalty and the multiple definitions that surround it would be how one would define their loyalty to the country they live in. Many have been put in the retrospect that having loyalty to our nation would be following the orders of the President of the United States. One can be loyal to their nation but go against everything the President stands for. Another can be loyal to the President and fight for what is inhumane, such as the Muslim Ban or the idea of Mexicans being considered as rapists. In the article, “Saved by the Stars and Stripes? Images of Protest, Salience of Threat, and Immigration Attitudes”, authors Matthew Wright and Jack Citrin focus on their studies on an experiment on symbolic representations and national identities towards immigration. Wright and Citrin use the idea of finding where loyalty lies when they displayed the American flag or the Mexican flag. Wright and Citrin were expecting “responses to protestors waving American flags as a display of [their] loyalty should be less hostile than responses to protestors waving Mexican flags” (Wright and Citrin, 1). Though their hypothesis came out with a positive correlation, the idea of loyalty towards their flags and the policies of immigration did not lessen or give way to denouncing what they represented. Following that study, the question of what loyalty truly is in a country as divided as we are now pops up more than ever. In a magazine article titled “What Is Loyalty To America”, author Ellen Reiss poses the question of what it truly means to be loyal to America. Reiss states that “the horrible mistake people make about loyalty—whether to a person or a nation—is to make loyalty equivalent to going along with whatever the person, or whatever those running the nation, want us to do” (Reiss, 1). Reiss goes on to explain that to be loyal is to be true to one’s self and whoever it is we are loyal to, which means to have that ability to be able to agree to disagree. Reiss goes on to explain that loyalty can go hand in hand with how we define and interpret what liberty and justice are, which shows that everyone has a different meaning for each word.
Secondly, we can find loyalty to have various definitions when referring to the idea of loyalty towards our own personal relationships. In my own personal relationship, the meaning of loyalty is to be fully dedicated to someone through thick and thin. From other perspectives, their views of what loyalty could be different in their own terms of their personal relationships. Stephen Nixon, an SJSU student in the Communication Studies major and a classmate of mine, considers loyalty to be a misused word. Nixon states that “while the idea of loyalty lies along the lines of honesty and integrity, it’s usage tends to imply blind following (…) If we are truly being loyal to someone, should we be enabling certain faults?” (personal communication, March 21, 2018). The idea of unconditional devotion that Nixon speaks of, however, shows more of the idea in ignoring certain aspects of a person or the relationships one has built with whatever it is they are loyal to. Though I do agree with Nixon on the idea that the assumed definition in today’s society has changed a lot, I also believe that the idea of what loyalty means still lies within what he presumes to be misused. I also believe that when it comes to loyalty in personal relationships, it can mean blind devotion to some people and something completely different to others. Another San Jose State student, Maria Ochoa, states that “the type of loyalty one has towards a friend is different than that of a spouse. However, if we remain loyal to humanity, loyalty may find a brand new meaning” (personal communication, March 21, 2018). Ochoa’s definition on what she sees loyalty to be in society and her own personal relationships shows that not everyone has the same opinion in the idea of loyalty to be driven by ignorance and unconditional devotion, as Nixon believed to be. Though both ideals are not wrong, they show that the meaning of loyalty is versatile and continues to be as the years go on. Nixon’s ideas on what loyalty means derive from his own personal experiences with his family members on their idea of blindly following whoever it is they are loyal to, which he finds himself disagreeing with it. Ochoa, on the other hand, expresses her loyalty to her family and personal relationships to be more free-willing and versatile, stating that their definitions may be different but their roots stay the same.
Lastly, the meaning of loyalty comes first and foremost from our own selves. We as individuals give the meaning to the word by learning what is it we believe shows those actions. In order to give loyalty, we must find what loyalty means to us. In the article, “Explaining Lifelong Loyalty: The Role of Identity Fusion and Self-Shaping Group Events”, authors Martha Newson, Michael Buhrmester, and Harvey Whitehouse explain that the lifelong loyalty one finds committed to in either group events or games derives deep within the social identity on the individual and their intake of where they are within the group. Though the article mainly focuses on the loyalty to group events and lifelong commitments, Newson and the other authors give a brief explanation that in order for those to find that sense of commitment to the group and the lifelong loyalty shown consistently from them is mainly due to the impact of what it is the individual believes loyalty is all about. Those who define loyalty as a loose word find committing to a group event harder than those who have a deep connection to what they believe is the meaning of loyalty to one’s self. I believe that our connection and meaning to the word has a lot to do with the loyalty we give and get back in our lives, but it starts first with the loyalty we have with ourselves. In today’s society, the act on being loyal has been tested time and time again with politics, relationships, entertainment, social media and more that we forget to remind ourselves to find what makes us loyal, to begin with. According to the article, “5 Ways to be Loyal to Yourself”, author Bahia Amarsingh states “thing is…many of us spend so much time being loyal to other people, that we often forget the need to be loyal to ourselves (…) When you’re loyal to yourself, your confidence increases, because there’s no better mood lifter than knowing you’re actively loving yourself” (Amarsingh, 1).
In conclusion, Kendrick Lamar might have a good idea of what loyalty can be defined as in today’s society with the question of where our loyalty lies residing in what was focused on the song. However, the meaning of loyalty extends more than just those he states. The meaning of loyalty can be defined between different people and in different situations, whether it is to our country, our interpersonal relationships, or to ourselves. Our interpretations and definitions create our meaning of the word, but to be loyal to our definition is what truly gives the word its meaning. When you find yourself sitting in your car on a windy Sunday night and singing along to Lamar’s “Loyalty” song, asking the questions about who you are loyal to and “do it start with your woman or your man? Do it end with your family and friends? Or you’re loyal to yourself in advance?” (Lamar, 2017), I hope whatever it is your answer is based on what loyalty means to you in retrospect to all those things. I know my answer to what loyalty means to me will.
Amarsingh, B. (2011). 5 Ways to be loyal to yourself. Outlish, 1.
Lamar, K. (2017). Loyalty. On Damn [CD]. Henson, Hollywood: Top Dawg.
Newson, M., Buhrmester, M., & Whitehouse, H. (2016). Explaining lifelong loyalty: The role of identity fusion and self-shaping group events. PloS ONE 11(8).
Nixon, S. (2018, March 21). Personal Interview.
Ochoa, M. (2018, March 21). Personal Interview.
Reiss, E. (2002). What Is Loyalty to America. Aesthetic Realism, 1.
Wright, M., & Citrin, J. (2011). Saved by the stars and stripes? Images of protests, salience of threat, and immigration attitudes. American Politics Research, 39(2), 323-343.