Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Yo, Pigeon! Whole skies are yours if you think outside the box.

Long after they ceased to be kept for communication purposes and in places where no one has ever seen pigeons, we still use the term pigeon hole. Used accurately enough by most to mean "an oversimplifying or limiting category" it is a good lesson in how, when a label loses it original meaning, we like to recycle it and hang on to its familiarity in some new, perhaps more expressively useful or emphatic role. Webster gets it right with "a neat category which usually fails to reflect actual complexities" . This season, when the world waits anxiously to see if the US stumbles farther to the right of reason and democracy, we have the two-pigeon-holes dilemma, so inadequate for discussion or understanding of who is making this momentous decision or how they are making it:

Liberal and conservative: pigeon holes that speed up conversation and slow down thinking.

Would you give a wheel chair to great wide receiver or crutches to a great sprinter? Not every listener needs the aid of simple categories. We get simple categories because of the needs of the speaker to control our thought.


Gerry said...

Oh dear... I am a great pigeon holer so does this mean I try to control others' thoughts? Oh dear... I think I've just been pigeon holed... Oh dear...

GreenSmile said...

dear bearest soul on the internets:

Heavens no! you neither have the audience to control nor do you use the language in those manipulative ways. I see in some of your posts actually more of a distrust of the squishyness of categories [meme-ness comes to mind]

Nope, the evil of pigeon holes is when someone else uses them to sort out your life. You yourself, for your own purposes can hardly avoid categorizing things but would, if you did it badly, only hurt yourself.

Gerry said...

Thanks for the reassuring comment, GS.

But I must admit that I have been guilty of pigeon-holing people. And I'm often rudly awakened to this trait of mine. I suspect it's human nature to pigeon-hole. What's a poor ozzie bear to do?