Symbols and Meanings
What is a symbol? A symbol is basically something that represents something else. Much like our names, for instance, Alex Solis represents who I am; much like the word pig represents an animal with a curly tail, pink coat, and a slimy snout that snorts. I asked my three year old niece why a pig is called and pig and she said “because they are so dirty”. The word “pig” however has no direct connection to the curly tailed animal, just as my name, has no essential correlation to me. When discovering representations of things, there is not one “right” word or symbol. Because symbols have no necessary connections to what they represent, when referring to a symbol others must agree on that symbol. Without some agreement on meanings of words, communication through pictures, persuasion, and music would be intricate if not impossible.
For example, according to German tradition, involvement of a roast pork dinner on Christmas Eve will prevent evil and promote prosperity in the New Year. Germans have a saying, “wir haben Schwein” which means “we have good luck”. Pigs are considered to be symbols of good fortune, thrift, and savings. But for Christians and many other traditions, pigs are considered unclean symbols of lust, greed, and gluttony. The pig, which wallows in the mud, has come to symbolize the absolute enjoyment of nearly all the sins of the flesh including sloth, selfishness, and ignorance. If a Christian and a German were to discuss what to eat for a Christmas Eve feast, they would disagree completely on the use of a pig and therefore, not agree on the symbol it represents.
There are at least two meanings for most words. The first, the denotative meaning is a word’s dictionary definition. The second type of meaning, connotative, refers to the belief or emotions connected with a word. The word “pig” (a curly tailed animal with a pink coat) may be associated with different images, words, and meanings for different...