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Saturating Green

December 2, 2016

Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today's post.

Does a single word contain a saturation point? In other words, at some point, does a word begin to lose meaning simply because it has accumulated too many definitions? Translation can be a tricky business when we understand that a simple word can carry the weight of a contemporaneous discussion. For example, today's blog leads us through a few examples of the evolution of the word “green”.

Green is not only a color. In the words of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, green is now a container that holds a “concept we live by”. In fact, green holds many concepts, which leads to the fact that if someone understands a phrase like “the green movement” to indicate a desire for more of the color green, they would miss ninety percent of the phrase's point. In many instances, green means more than simply color. Green's ability to either explicitly state or implicitly allude to a certain argument can lead to confusion. Moreover, the choice of green for today's blog is ironic since it literally grew too many meanings. Yet, in order to understand the irony, one must know that green originates from the Old English word “growan”, meaning “to grow”. The important point with word saturation is that it changes literacy in a profound way. No longer are we looking to educate reading alone, but we must be able to interpret metaphors on top of that. In other words, reading the word green will not get you closer to understanding the sentence. Word choice is about more than pronunciation and spelling, but about context also.

Here are a few examples with the word “green”, which offer a variety of definitions for such a seemingly simple term.

1] Youth, Child, Sprout:

“In the great green room/ There was a telephone/ And a red balloon/ And a picture of – the cow jumping over the moon.” - Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Moon

 

2] Hopeful or Alluring:

“And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock…Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning -

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. ” - F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

 

3] Lively, full of life. Springtime.

“In time of silver rain/ The earth/ Puts forth new life again,/ Green grasses grow/ And flowers lift their heads / And over all the plain/ The wonder spreads/ Of life,/ Of life,/ Of life!

- Langston Hughes, “In Time of Silver Rain”

 

4] Novice, beginner, youth

“Green Children's House” is a small preschool, one of many modeled after the ideas of Maria Montessori.

 

5] Natural, attached to nature

“The sweetness of the air and the greenness of the leaves daunted him. Already, on the walk from the station, the May sunshine made him feel dirty and etiolated, a creature of indoors, with the sooty dust of London in the pores of his skin....Surely somewhere near by, but out of sight, there must be a stream with green pools where dace were swimming.” (This is the point – both place and time - at which Winston falls in love Julia, and first indulges his desire for attachment and love.) George Orwell, 1984

 

6] Nauseating

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

 

7] Slightly wild, untamed

The “greenbroke horses”, Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

 

8] Desire, adventure

“The gypsy girl was rocking/ on the rain-well's face./ Green flesh, green hair/ and eyes of cold silver./ An icicle of the moon/ holds her over the water./ The night became as intimate/ as a village square./ Drunken Civil Guards/ were pounding on the door./ Green I want you green./ Green wind. Green boughs./ Ship on the sea/ and horse on the mountain.” - Federico García Lorca, “Sleepwalking Ballad”

 

9] Greed, jealousy

Iago's speech to Othello: “Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy!/ It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock/ The meat it feeds on.” - William Shakespeare, Othello

 

10] Healthy ecology and environment

Green politics is devoted to protecting the environment. Green marketing – which stems from Green politics – puts environmentally friendly products on the shelves of our local stores.

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