Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Forgotten Pragmatics

Cynics sometimes cite phrases like "bless you", "good luck", "have a good one" and "cheers" as meaningless (of course, these are the same people that would point out my improper use of the term "cynic"). Sure, "cheers" and "have a good one" have little semantic content due to their ambiguity. And it's true, a lot of people don't believe in the reality of "blessings" or "luck" in the first place. But you must consider these phrases in a social context — you can't study a swimming fish while you hold it in your hand. In a social context, these phrases do have meaning: they communicate a simple kindness... acknowledgement and encouragement. The form is irrelevant, but understanding something does not put you above it.

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