The other day, my sister e-mailed me about a word that she had come across that she thought she would share with me since she knows I like words. The word was semiotics.
Semiotics [see-mee-ot-iks] is a noun that means the analysis of systems of communication, as language, gestures, or clothing. She had a link to a Wikipedia article about the word. After she read it, she still didn’t understand the meaning of the word.
I read the article, too, and it wasn’t very clear to me either. So I looked it up on Dictionary.com. That helped some.
I took a moment to read a bit more on the Internet to get a better understanding. (Isn’t the Internet wonderful?) As I understand what I’ve read, semiotics refers to signs or symbols as it relates to language or communication. It’s a study of how the meaning of something is constructed and understood. (Sounds like gripping reading material, eh?)
For instance, the letter ‘a’ is a symbol as is all of the other letters of the alphabet. When you connect the signs (or alphabet letters), they create words that have meaning and stand for something such as apple, ape, astronaut or Android phone. (I wonder how many children’s alphabet books have ‘A is for Android phone?’)
A ‘sign’ could also be a body movement to express meaning, such as wrinkling your nose indicates you don’t like something. Offer me beets to eat, and not only do I wrinkle my nose, I stick out my tongue, and say, “Blech!” That’s a symbol that means beets are the nastiest thing on God’s green earth.
Semiotics could even refer to clothing, such as when teenage boys wear baggy pants down around their knees instead of at their waistline so you can see their boxer shorts – indicating the meaning that they are absolute imbeciles. (That’s my definition of that ‘symbol’…)
It’s also like the picture of three arrows linking in a circle indicates an item that is recyclable. Or the skull and crossbones indicating hazardous materials.
In my humble opinion, this word is probably something used only in university classrooms and scholarly writings but not much elsewhere. It isn’t a word that I would use in my day-to-day conversation with family, friends, and the bus driver of public transportation.
By the way, I wondered what in the world my sister was reading when she came across that word. I doubt it was the daily paper, People magazine, or the work orders from her place of employment.