Semantically right

Semantics is one of the main components of verbal and/or textual communication. Imagine how many words fly through the air on an average day.

Now imagine how many of these words are taken out of context. Most, if not all languages, whether spoken or written, are interpretive and can be taken out of perspective quite frequently, which is why it’s important to know about semantics (what words mean and how they’re used in different contextual situations). Semantics plays a huge role in everyday discourse, not to mention what we read and how interpreting textual matter can help us to get it right.

The word “right” is a good place to start. This particular utterance dates back to 12th century Old English (OE), and since that time its locutions have expanded quite a bit. Right is synonymous with a variety of words. Its original denotation is one and the same with equitable, fair, honest, and lawful. It also means integrity, rectitude, suitability, and appropriateness, yet it has only one antonym: wrong.

Eventually this term takes on the context of directionality. The other side of right is to the left, which may seem obvious to most, but when a word such as this is spelled the same a­nd has more than one meaning, it is deemed a “homograph”, or “homonym”.

Yes, there are quite a few examples pertaining to right’s homonyms. Alleged law-breaking American citizens have the right to remain silent, to legal counsel, etc., or the right to refuse all of the above. These are just a few of the rights every American citizen is entitled to. Over 200 years ago entitlement had become so important; the Bill of Rights was created as part of its U. S. Constitution. The right to free speech, lawful assembly, and religious freedom are just a few of its main bases.

The phrase “right-of-way” means to exercise courteous driving habits, but it also means access to, on, or over someone else’s land. In fencing, it connotes the right to attack.

In the game of baseball, right field is one of nine defensive positions.

In the game of hockey, a right wing may end up getting a right hook.

Dexterity also comes into play; most people are right-handed.

Political dexterity takes on a different meaning in democratic societies. The right-wing (not to be confused with the hockey position) party links itself to being traditionally conservative.

In addition to the multiple meanings of this word, it also has two homophones, or homographs: “write” and “rite”. Knowing the difference can be crucial, especially when dealing with context.

Being informed about the word “right” and its other spellings can bring semantics to an entirely new level of thought.­