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Re: To Be a Weed or Not to Be.



Dale Brenner asked:
> Isn't it so that a weed is a plant somebody doesn't want
> there?

Words mean what people mean them to mean, even though the
audience might not understand the speaker's meaning.  But
in the latter case, the words might not mean anything to
the audience.  ;-)

[For the philosophically insatiable, the best primers (imo)
on speaker meaning is H.P. Grice's paper, "Meaning" (1957)
and his William James lectures presented at Harvard in
1967.  Then throw in W.V.O Quine's _Word and Object_ (1964)
and Saul Kripke's "Naming and Necessity" (1982 from an
earlier lecture).

Re the noun "weed" in American parlance:

People use "weed" to mean plants that are commmonly
disdained (note the use of "that" and not "which," it makes
a big difference -- some plants are not disdained). 
Nutsedge and crabgrass are pretty good examples.  So is
duckweed in the realm of aquatic gardening.

People also use it to mean any plant that they don't want. 
You'll rarely find certain plants not wanted -- for
example, an American Beauty Rose.  But I hate thorns on the
trellis near the sidewalk, so I use "weed" to refer to that
rose there.

People also us "weed" to mean something grows very fast or
propogates like proverbial bunnies, or both -- so fast that
you have more of it or them than you could reasonably want.
 This use shows up more often in simily than metaphor.  One
is not surprised to hear, "That child grows like a weed"
but some audience shock might attend the apparently
infanticidal utterance, "That child is a weed."

As a verb, "weed" is equally flexible, it's predicative use
inherited from its nominal use.

Scott H.

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