Protext Is Everything

Good evening ladies and  gentlemen, this is your captain typing. I’d like to thank you for traveling with us on this trip. While checking the conditions preflight, I have been told there might be some turbulence ahead, so it is suggested your remain in your seats with your seat belt adjusted comfortably. We will try to make this trip a safe and comfortable one.

Communication is broadly defined as an attempt to transfer an idea from one mind into another. In the direct context of our foray here the method is to come up with words that will create in the minds of the readers the same images and ideas in my own head. This task is significantly easier when it involves the spoken word presented in person in conversation. The presenter can gather visual clues about the level of understanding and can obtain feedback in the form of questions for additional information or insight. Subtle shades of meaning can be provided by voice inflection and phrasing. Emphasis a single word can modify or invert the meaning of a phrase in ways nearly impossible for written text to convey (one team I worked with would change the colours of text to help show emotional charge in messages sent, red for anger, blue for indifference, green for sarcasm). In this medium, we are constrained to simply word choice and text format to attempt to convey meaning.

A hindrance that is ever present is the lack of shared experience as a base of understanding. Even the assumption of a shared language (English…I pity the non-native speakers attempting to use a translation software program to try and make clear my blogs) is insufficient to assure the successful transfer of the desired idea. In a $99 workshop taken at a Holiday Inn hotel many years ago, we listed nearly 40 meanings for the word “hog” (proper, common, and slang uses) and nearly every expression can have multiple meanings. [Editor note: the word “foray” in the second paragraph was checked in a dictionary to make sure it carried the desired “flavor”…and the third definition matched what was expected: an initial venture. To my surprise, the first two meanings, “a quick raid, usually for the purpose of taking plunder,” and “a quick, sudden attack” were totally off my original intention. My apologies if your initial read caused you to bar the door against marauding Vikings. Information from]

Now for the title. (Yes, my spell checker is protesting protext is not really a word, too.) I should use the word context, but there is a flaw in this word as it is written, the prefix ‘con.’ We use the words pro and con, understanding that they have opposing meanings. A person uses the word pro in places where they are in agreement with or approving of an idea or proposition. The word con carries opposition and resistance to the topic in view So to use a word in “con-text” is to disagree with or protest its use as appropriate. This seems like an anti-effective way to start an attempt af understanding.

=[TURBULENCE WARNING] Then, the same dictionary site lists the prefix actually derives from a word com (not con). More red underlines from my spell checker when typing comtext. And con (or com…) means both opposing and together in Latin, depending on usage. I think I will quit using a dictionary.

So, in an attempt to land this puppy safely and smoothly, I will try to express my main thought with clarity, simplicity, and in the best way I know how, that you the reader will form an image in your mind as closely as possible with me. Ready?

I like pie.

[I like pi, too, but that will have to wait for the day of the century posting on 3.14.15]


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