Friday, March 25, 2011


I went to a picnic this Thursday and sitting in one position the whole time, the sun sunburned only one side of my face (the left side, if you must know). On Friday, someone at work noted my slightly odd "tan," and we discussed how I don't really "tan" (I "red"). The person said it is because I am "fair."

My rhetorical question for you: isn't it amazing how we so often understand one another in spite of the seeming complexity and confusion of language? Certainly my friend and I knew that "fair" could mean I'm a just person, or a mediocre person, or a good-looking person, to present a few options. And we actually made jokes along those lines. But we only made jokes because we both knew that in context the word was used to mean that my skin is fair (light). The context (and, granted, our knowledge of the English language) totally guided our understanding (as it did above in the first sentence of the first paragraph where I created a dangling modifier and you nonetheless understood my meaning).

I suppose it comes back down to the Langue/Parole differentiation. My friend's use of the word "fair" was a specific utterance (Parole) based on the underlying language and its structure (Langue) but mediated through a highly specific context.

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