Monday, December 7, 2009

Can we ever truly get our point across?

The other day in class we began talking about Derrida’s idea of difference and differance. In French, difference can be defined as spacing between two things distinguishing them from one another, which is the same in English. Differance can be defined as to differ. These two different words with that vary in their meanings sound the same when pronounced out loud. Therefore, the meaning of the word is derived through the context in which it was said. It is up to the listener or the reader to interpret the message, yet interpretation in conversation and interpretation in reading are comparably different. The ideas of difference and difference exemplify how a listener or reader can misinterpret or create their own meaning of the sentence. This realization made me wonder which way of communicating more accurately expresses your opinion or if one’s ideas can ever truly be understood in the way by which the author wants them to be interpreted.

I’ve often thought writing is the most accurate way of communication. It gives us a chance to clearly develop our ideas and show the direct correlation of our thought process. These ideas can be expressed through our knowledge or experience, which can be explained in writing. Yet, the readers of our material may not have had those similar experiences or knowledge and their interpretation of the work can be skewed. Once the ideas are finalized in paper, the author loses control of someone’s interpretation of that work. It is up to the reader to derive meaning from what is written.

On the other hand, conversation allows people to communicate by responding to what is being said. If there are questions, then they are asked by the listener so a more clear way of expressing the idea can be attempted. Yet, conversation is not always as clear as writing. There is not always the flow from one point to the next, which allows for people to miss points or the exact meaning of the conversation. There is also the chance as we see in difference and differance that a word can sound the same, yet not have the same meaning.

After considering these two forms of communicating which we use daily to express ourselves, it made me wonder if I’m interpreting people the way in which they want me to understand. It also made me wonder if which way of communication would be the best for someone to fully grasp the meaning.


  1. I think this is such an interesting post, Courtney. This is something I always wonder. I had a dialemma between whether writing or speaking is a better style of communication when I first read "The Diary of Anne Frank". This book is a collection of Anne Frank's own experiences and thoughts as they were expressed in her diary. However, parallel to your blog, I wonder how my interpret of her experiences would be altered if I had talked to her in person. I also agree that the reader's own experiences shape his or her interpretation of the writer's publication. Therefore, through Courtney's blog, I am curious about how my own experiences played into my interpretation of "The Diary of Anne Frank".

  2. The method of communication definitely makes a difference to the quality of what is being said. The tone people use when they speak give you a greater context as to what their feeling were about the subject. For example most people would agree that Barack Obama is a great with speeches, however if you actually read the transcripts of what was said, the speeches are actually really boring. Speaking can display much more

  3. I've realized my words limit what I am trying to convey because I have to transpose the meaning I am aiming at into words people can understand. Beyond this, I have also realized that not only do my words shape how I speak, they shape how I think. I think in English, and my ideas are restricted to the meanings I can make out of words. So, speaking and writing offer different means of transmitting words, they are both restricting in that they rely on words. Writing, I would say is more restricted because emotions are extremely difficult to convey :(

  4. Another issue with writing is that it forever immortalizes a thought or idea that an individual had at one point in the past. Since, we change, that thought may seem silly to its writer in the future, but our society seems to dismiss that and continues to quote people as if what they wrote in the past is a 100% accurate interpretation of their ideas now, in the present.


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