Meaning Interrupted

Ok, part of my preoccupation with words and the construction of meaning has to do with teaching a media literacy class this semester. So here are some words that are at a crossroads and it seems that big debates are in the air over whose meaning gets the overall thumbs up.


  • those born in another country
  • those born in another country but here withouth status (some times called illegal or undocumented immigrants)
  • those born in Mexico
  • often migrants and immigrants mean the same
  • often talk about our borders means the Mexico – US border
  • does American mean signing the “Star Spangled Banner” in English only


  • a legal union between two people
  • a legal union between a man and a woman
  • a religious union between two people
  • a religious untion between a man and a woman
  • a holy sacrement
  • current issues – gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality


  • starts at conception
  • starts at birth
  • starts somewhere in between conception and birth
  • ends when there is no brain activity
  • ends when all normal functions cease to sustain it
  • ends when external devices are withdrawn
  • ends when an individual decides to end it
  • ends when loved ones decides to end it
  • ends when a state entity decides to end it (including capital punishment)

I’m sure there are more contested meanings, but the big cultural value clashes come from our battles to resolve meaning over what on the surface seem to be very simple words.

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