Thursday, March 5, 2015

I had a conversation with a coworker yesterday that got semi-heated. She is on a “pure eating” kick. She is upset about all the dyes and unnatural ingredients that have “found their way into my children’s food”. She had a very good point and I was being a brat, poking the bear so to speak, The mama bear. Specifically. I was trying to play devil’s advocate and remind her that doing everything in moderation overall had worked for me. Eat mostly real food, go the McDonalds once every couple of weeks. Give your children organic graham crackers every day and a great big cupcake with yellow frosting at a birthday party.  She was pissed at me and I apologized for annoying her.
But what stuck with me is she kept using the word “chemical” over and over. The “CHEMICAL S IN OUR FOOD OUR KILLING OUR KILLING AND GIVING THEM AUTISM”. And since I was racking my brain to come up with a word to launch my semiotic analysis I immediately stopped paying attention to her and starting making notes…..
If you simply say the word chemical to me: what I think of is this…….

 My coworker thinks of evil cooperation who put red food dye in her children’s food.
Okay so we have two words 1. Chemical and 2. Food…..
Chemical-Unnatural, additives, processed, artificial
Food-Natural, Healthy, Unprocessed “of the earth”
So my friend has a host of good reasons for her mind going directly to the negative….
How about this 1.Chemical and 2. Medicine
What I do right now, is have a hard time breaking these two apart. In my mind, chemical and medicine are one in the same. Chemicals are what medicine is made of. Probably very simplistic but it is what the mind does. I think of chemotherapy and my father’s blood pressure medicine, and my birth control. All really helpful, essential things.
Okay so forget me and forget my friend…..
I say to a sophomore in high school “chemical” and what might she think of: Science class
I ask a man in his sixties and the word I get back could be “Napalm”.
I ask my mother she says: Bleach. She is an obsessive cleaner.
I ask my seven year old nephew. He simply says: Science.

 And this word, this to me a very clear word, had a host of meanings.

1 comment:

  1. A very good example of how language functions from a structuralist standpoint. The signifier itself (for example, "chemicals") can point to many different signifieds because the nature of the sign is (as Saussure argued) arbitrary. You show how language is not about words carrying inherent meanings; rather it functions as a system, where the system gives meaning to words in an organized way, but in a way which allows for this kind of changeability. I think you are clear after class on how this is less "semiotic" than structuralist, perhaps, but you are on the right track with the foundation of the theory for sure.