Con·no·ta·tion: noun: plural noun: connotations
an idea or feeling that a word invokes in addition to its literal or primary meaning.
“the word “discipline” has unhappy connotations of punishment and repression“
I learned about meaning and connotation in Mrs. Forlano’s 6th grade class. Connotation is more a force in my reactions and understanding than meaning. Words are more than just ‘words’ to me and I’ve wanted to talk about this for a long time and yesterday’s post give me the perfect excuse.
When we talked yesterday about the word ‘content’ I said it carried a negative meaning for me. Connotation. So much so that I couldn’t state it’s literal meaning. So much so that it has no literal meaning for me – only it’s connotation.
Sharla saw the word and thought not of a literal meaning but defined ‘content’ by what she feels, and mentally sees, when she hears/reads the word. Connotation.
Connotation, or a form of it, applies to names – and this always amuses me. How often have you said to someone “But you don’t look like a Seymour”. Honestly how does a Seymour look? You hear/see the name and an image pops into your mind. If it is a pleasant image then you are amenable to the person carrying the name. If it is an unpleasant image you have a negative reaction. You’ve already made judgements about a person based on their name alone.
I can get freaky weird about names. There are names I simply cannot get out of my mouth I dislike them so much. Like the name “Ronald” – I can not say that name. And Ron doesn’t come all that easily. I have no idea why. I don’t recall having known any Rons growing up but I do know one thing that annoys me about this name – Italians named Ronald – NOT an Italian name by my lights. And yet I know of a lot of Italian Rons. What the heck?
Oh wait – how about ‘Anthony’. In my head I hear that as ‘Ant-a-knee’. Oh yes I do. Sometimes I hear a woman’s high pitched voice shouting ‘Ant-ahh-kneeeeee’. Yup, you want to stretch out that last syllable as long as you can. I also see this same woman hanging out a third floor window while shouting; I see that unfortunate fellow in 8th grade – overweight, greasy hair, terminal acne. The name Anthony either makes me laugh or cringe.
Grateful, gratitude, thankful, thankfulness – these words have no literal meaning for me – just connotation. I hear/see these words and I grit my teeth and clench my jaw. They mean submission, subjugation. These words mean I am ‘less than’. I get a picture of being forced to my knees. I bend my knee for no one and nothing. Powerful reaction, yes?
So – words have literal meaning and personal connotation. And it is the personal connotation that makes words the most powerful force in the Universe.