A thing to keep in mind, about the English language and ‘civilization’

A language should be a neutral carrier of ideas; a code that can be used to send any message. However the only language I speak really well, English, is far from being a neutral carrier of information. English contains its own built-in view of the world. It pushes certain ideas on you whether you wanted them or not, and it makes certain other ideas hard to express, or even to imagine.

English does this by bundling certain ideas together, so that English words often have multiple layers of meaning. For example, the word “civilized” means “living in urban settlements” but it also sort of means “good”. Calling someone “civilized” is a compliment (unless you are being sarcastic) and “uncivilized” is an insult. Therefore the real meaning of “civilized” is something like:

Civilized: (adj) Living in urban settlements, which is definitely a good thing.

although the dictionaries don’t usually put it like that.

This is a problem because it’s hard to avoid using the word “civilized”. It’s an important word! And we’re stuck with it because the English language doesn’t contain any word whose meaning is:

Hypothetical word that doesn’t actually exist: (adj) Living in urban settlements, which is maybe good or maybe bad or maybe just, you know, OK, or maybe it depends on the situation, I don’t know, I’m just a neutral descriptor that doesn’t contain any value judgements.

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