"I said what I said. I did not say what I did not say." - Alfred Korzybski answering his critics who were confused about his new, non-Aristotelian system
As Hayakawa explains:
"Anyone who has even given thought to the meanings of words are always shifting and changing in meaning...therefore some people believe we ought to agree on one meaning for each word and use it only with that meaning...it may occur to them was simply cannot make people agree in this way. [...] Such an impasse is avoided when we start with a new premise altogether - one of the premises upon which modern linguistic thought is based: namely, that no word ever has exactly the same meaning twice."
During the course of many disagreements, many people may accuse or label the others' assertions as false, condescending, inflammatory etc., etc., while the other asserts the opposite. When arguing with words over words, both participants in the discussion can be right and wrong and neither simultaneously. (Especially when weaker minds yield to the dreaded ad hominem attack.) In a vacuum, both may walk away from the argument with "a win" if they believe their argument to be "true." Put spectators in front of them, and the person with the best display of rhetoric, the one who can convince the audience of their "correctness" will emerge the victor.
Writing in my blog earlier last year:
Some may see this as an extension of my perceived "personal vendetta" against the author of the post in question, with whom I have had a falling out. While I may bleat to the heavens and say it is not true and I harbor no ill will toward the person and only disagreeing with what she said, it quickly seems nonsensical to refute something I cannot definitively prove and hope that rational thinking will prevail.
"As some of you already know, the territory (reality, etc.) is merely a space in which we project our beliefs and base our semantic reactions.
Therefore, my inference that an acquaintance of mine stopped dead in their tracks to avoid me [at a recent party] due to fear, hatred or courtesy is as unverifiable as the inferences that they may make about me."
I can only say what I say and not say what I do not, but depending on what is said, I cannot tell you what it says. How one feels and one thinks after I have said it is up to them.
Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Joseph O'Connor and John Seymour, Element Publishing, 2002.
Language in Thought and Action: Fourth Edition, Samuel I. Hayakawa and Alan R. Hayakawa, Harvest, 1990
Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics, Alfred Korzybski, Institute of General Semantics, 1994, 5th edition.