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Deconstructing "oath-ing", vowing, saying, and swearing
In class yesterday, 2/13/20, we discussed if those words: oaths, vowing, saying, and swearing, all mean similar things, if not what do they actually mean, and where do they hold flaws or strengths? As we delved into our discussion this topic really struck my interest. Once we came to conclusions with more accurate definitions of each word, we were able to pinpoint what the better meanings were of each word. We discovered that an oath is something that you say publicly to let everyone know that you made a sacred promise. A vow is something you say mostly at a wedding, to promise yourself to one person 'forever and always'. Swearing is when you try to say your point and prove that you're right, " I swear I didn't do that". And saying is when you just speak, when you have dialogue. Chisnell asked us if each of the words carry different values, and at first we thought they did carry different values. Then we realized that these words carry different meanings, they mean something different than the other, yet these promises/words can still be broken. We thought that the results over time of these promises is what makes them true or accurate, not just saying "I do" or "I vow" or "I take this oath" in the moment. We concluded, from what I remember, that these words hold value or and truth when we know/see the type of person who is speaking them. Is the person trustworthy? Are they honest? Are they consistent in their life? What were your alls thoughts on this?
I thought that the biggest takeaway from this lesson was that the meaning of words such as vow, oath, and swear become irrelevant because just like any thing else you say, you can just as easily lie during an oath contradicting the meaning that oaths are truthful.
I agree with the statement above: the takeaway that I got from the lesson was that, because language was so expansive, there is no obligation that any word gives. Weird phrasing, but for example, we have two words, "scream" and "shout", and while both of them might mean different things, the action in the end is similar. In the end, we speak loudly, or in the end, we make a promise, and we don't keep it. Language is irrelevant.
I really loved the discussion of synonym-type words and how words with like meanings can be broken down so that the true signification of the word is brought out. I, like many others, view Oath as more legally binding, but maybe that's because I've only ever heard the word "oath" used in court and when the president is sworn into office. Both are legal situations that deal with people hopefully telling the truth (although deconstruction suggests that the truth can never be found because reality is just a perception of signifiers). Unlike oath, I didn't think the word "saying" was linked with truth at all. Just because someone has said something does not always mean it is the truth, we just hope that the people speak the truth more than lies. In "saying", I feel like there almost has to be evidence presented along with whatever statement is given or there is always a follow up question of "who did you hear that from?" which then the answer allows people to believe or not believe what is being said.
I thought that the different connotations we dissected between these words, even though they seem similar, was also very interesting. I thought the most striking point that was made is that the existence of these other, more drastic seeming words, implied that there is no accountability behind just "saying" something. The implication that in order to be trusted, one must stand by something and swear for it seems increasingly melodramatic to me. In the slightest case, the notion that someone must drastically proclaim their beliefs in order to be considered believable seems backwards. I also thought that an important distinction had to come from the accountability of these words. In the play I noticed that each time someone swore, made an oath, or proclaimed a vow, it was preceded by "witness this!" or something of the like. Each time that someone was forced into making an end-all-be-all statement or confession, there always had to be others around in order to validate its truthfulness. This leads me to believe that these phrases we employ are more often than not only social barometers that are necessary in order to prove our standing within society. Thinking about vows: the only reason why they are so relevant is because we are speaking our once private thoughts into existence before an abundance of other people, rather than just ourselves or someone who we see ourselves as really close to. I wonder what implication the seeming necessity of an audience has on these words.
The discussion about oaths and vows and swearing reminded me a lot about The Crucible and from when we did that unit in HELA 10. The entire premise of The Crucible is that words can't be trusted because all of the girls are faking seeing certain people "with the Devil". It reminded me a lot about how people in would lie about their absolute allegiance going to to the King . There's no way to fact check if the girls in The Crucible are telling the truth or not, and because for that, chaos ensues and many are executed for absolutely no reason except for the town succumbing to hysteria. Same for the King, he gets paranoid that he is going to be assassinated and become hysteric, making everyone vow to follow him unconditionally, including his wife.
Similar to how we talked about the differences in the words in class that day, I think that the differences between the words isn’t in their definition, but rather in their execution. As in how they are done, an action. We talked about how saying something is different than swearing and stating an oath because “saying” seems more loosely binding than a swear and an oath. Between “swear” and “oath”, Oath is more of an official statement or promise whereas a swear is more personal and perhaps more morally binding. Above, Meredith mentions the example “Scream” versus “shout”. A scream and shout are both loud noises someone makes. A scream seems to be a reaction to something like fear or excitement, but a shout is more like someone is trying to draw attention to themselves or trying to make themselves heard like in an argument or shouting for help.
I also agree with what Sophie said about this. When we talked about these words in class I was pondering why we treat these words differently. They are just words, after all. I've never sworn an oath to something, but already I used two of those words. You're swearing to follow that oath, whatever that may be. If I just said I was going to do something, the words don't hold as much weight as if I swore. Another word I would bring into this is promise. You can swear not to tell someone, or you can promise not to tell someone. I, personally, take the word promise more seriously. If I promise someone I'll be somewhere, I will usually follow through. But at the end of the day, they're all just words.
This discussion we had in class made me head spin a little bit. On a base level, it seems like a fairly simple concept- different words have different meanings, even if they're used in a similar context. However, it seemed that everyone could provide a slightly different explanation for what they believed the word to me, and although we were in a general consensus, that wouldn't be the case with all words. It brought me back to the idea of deconstruction, and how subjective our signifiers-signifieds can be. If everyone has a different meaning for a word, then everyone will have a slightly different reality based on that, and therefore will have different takeaway from the "oath-ing, vowing, saying, and swearing".
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