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Analyzing The Meanings Of A Word English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1081 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Naylor writes about her own personal experience showing she is prejudice about how and when the word is acceptable. Her experience is powerful but can also be judged as a limited view of the word. Naylor’s readers can only understand the situation from her experience with the word ‘nigger’. Naylor tries to teach her readers by sharing her personal experience. I think her intentions are for her readers to think about the essence of the words they use, how they tend to use them, and the affect those words can have on different people. Naylor wants the readers to understand how deeply she was affected by a young Caucasian boy spitting on her and calling her a ‘nigger’, but more so how she never thought about the meanings of the word ‘nigger’ until the very moment it was used in a hurtful manner directed towards her. Her main objective is to make her readers think about the words that come out of their mouth, the words they hear, and how the context of those words can drastically change the meaning of them.

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Naylor’s target audience will be the individuals that have experience with language and how people use it. The individuals will have experience with hearing or using the word ‘nigger’. Naylor wants her readers to show sensitivity and understanding of her personal experience. She does not do this in a pathetic way, because Naylor isn’t seeking pity from anyone. She outlines in detail her experience and wants her readers to realize and understand her views and how they originally manifested. She describes how important the context in which a word is used can have an effect on the person it is directed towards, by writing about her personal experience. Naylor has a straight forward tone in her writing. Her writings are neither demanding nor used to point fingers at any one group of people. She shares her experience in a way that causes her readers to wonder what it must have been like for her as a young girl experiencing a new meaning of a word, in which she already knew but never completely understood it in a racial context. Naylor’s tone is not one of superiority or that of subordinate. It is as if she is having an open conversation with her friends. That is a powerful statement for Naylor because she achieves the intended effect she was striving for in a subtle manner. She does not lecture her readers; instead she shares with them her experience.

The introduction of “The Meanings of a Word,” is the foundation in which the rest of the work must build upon. Language is the subject of Naylor’s writing. Naylor feels that the written word is considered inferior to the spoken word. The arguments within the introduction of her writing are clearly understandable. She gives the readers detailed reasoning on how powerful she feels the spoken word can be. In Naylor’s statement, “Dialogue achieves its power on the dynamics of a fleeting moment of sight, sound, smell, and touch.” (Naylor 108) This helps the reader to understand the power of a spoken word such as ‘nigger’. Naylor takes the position that words either spoken or written cannot take on any particular meaning until a consensus gives them one. She describes this by stating, “Words themselves are innocuous; it is the consensus that gives them power.” (Naylor 109) Through Naylor’s experience as a writer she feels that the spoken word has a much greater influence and impact than any written word by emphasizing it in stating, “…much of the frustration experienced by novelist in the awareness that whatever we manage to capture in even the most transcendent passage falls far short of the richness of life.” (Naylor 108) Naylor’s piece expresses emphasis on just how powerful the spoken word such as ‘nigger’ can be. Naylor uses chronological organization in her writing “The Meanings of Words.” She begins her writing with her childhood experience, and then makes the transition into her thoughts on the word ‘nigger’ as an adult.

Naylor sums up her point of view profoundly in her conclusion. Her intentions are to bring forth awareness on how the meaning of words can take different shapes depending on how they are used, by whom they are used, and when those words are used. An example of how one word can take on a new meaning, or the fact that a individual never notices a word they have heard countless times before , until it is used out of context and causes undue harm is given by Naylor when she states, “there must have been dozens of times that the word ‘nigger’ was spoken in front of me before I reached the third grade, but I didn’t “hear” it until it was said by a small pair of lips that had already learned it could be a way to humiliate me.” (Naylor 111) Naylor creates a conversational atmosphere where she puts her ideas together nicely in chronological order. Naylor’s personal experience is her evidence. Her conversational tone of writing fits well with her readers. My reason behind my observation is, due to the fact, that Naylor draws her readers into her writing by making it easily understandable, which causes them to accept her experience. Naylor offers creditability with the use of her own personal experience as an example. Naylor grabs her reader’s attention and pulls them in with the use of her own personal experience, showing her evolution of understanding. Through Naylor’s writing her reader’s experience what it would have been like to “hear” a word for the first time, to ultimately realize they have heard the word many times before used in a different context. The language in which Naylor uses is common. She does not choose to use big words that people cannot understand, or have to search for in the dictionary. Her low style of writing is very effective of her argument. Naylor’s use of language provides a seemingly friendly relationship with her reader’s, it is as if she is sitting down with you sipping on a cup of tea and talking about how the context of a word can completely change the individuals understanding of the word. Naylor shares vital information concerning her life experience in hopes that her reader’s will become aware and understand her argument.


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