Polysemy (was Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers -Reply)

Subject: Polysemy (was Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers -Reply)
From: Hope Cascio <hope -dot- d -dot- cascio -at- US -dot- ARTHURANDERSEN -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 11:23:13 -0400

Lisa Comeau wrote:
And for crying out loud, we as a community have to STOP this using of
the same word for different things! The English language is one of the
hardest to learn because so many words look and sound the same, but
mean something totally different! So when someone asks you what you
do for a living, give them an explanation, not a title! Technical Writer
mean many things to many people, we have an excellent grasp on the
English language, why don't we use it???

I think the fact that words have different meanings to different people is
an axiom. We can attempt to minimize it, but we must always remember that
it is a significant factor in communication. Some of the techniques that
writers use to make their documentation "translation friendly" or
accessible to ESL users take polysemy into account, avoiding words that are
plagued with so many meanings that the words have become almost
meaningless, while at the same time ubiquitous (one that comes readily to
mind is "set," another is "make.") Even beyond dictionary definitions of
words, words have different meanings and connotations in different fields,
regions, subcultures, and countries, as well as to different individuals,
because of their unique backgrounds, experience, and place in their

Hope Cascio, Knowledge Transfer Developer
Arthur Andersen Technology Solutions

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