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Twisting Words

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)

Gem of a quote, isn’t it? Clearly Humpty Dumpty was an early postmodernist. But he was a figure of satire; today, people with Ph.Ds say such stuff and expect to be taken seriously. Which just goes to show, yet again, that you can’t do satire any more: Reality has caught up with it and surpassed it.

There are so many modern examples of people taking the Humpty Dumpty approach: Politicians, judges, executives, and (the largest category by far) everyday people. Bet you can think of examples. Let’s hear ’em.

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About the Author

Matt Kaufman

Matt Kaufman has been a columnist for Boundless since the site’s founding in 1998, and did a stint as editor in 2002-2003. He’s also a former staffer and current contributing editor for Focus on the Family Citizen magazine. Matt is a freelance writer/editor who spent some years in Colorado, but gave up the mountains for the cornfields: He now lives in his hometown of Urbana, home of the University of Illinois. His house is a five minute drive from the one where he grew up, and he enjoys daily walks around the park where he used to play baseball.

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