I’m moving this weekend. Isn’t it interesting how you know straight away what I mean when I say that?
You know I’m moving into a new place straight away. You know that I’m not simply moving 3cm to the side. You know that I’m not moving over to make room for someone. You know that I’m not changing into first gear and driving away after a traffic light turns green. You know that I’m not dancing. You know that I’m not making people feel very emotional.
To move can mean all these things, but in this case you know straight away what I mean. Usually I say that context tells us the meaning of a word in cases like this. And if you were aware that I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was looking for somewhere to stay, that’d give you that context.
But even if you didn’t know that, you’d still know what I mean, wouldn’t you? When someone says I’m moving on its own, it always means moving house/apartment. So funnily enough, it’s precisely the lack of context, in a conversational sense, that provides the context in terms of meaning.
English teachers in particular are used to the idea that we need to add more language to provide more context. But sometimes, context is provided by a lack of complexity. If I say I’m moving to a new place, there’s no ambiguity about the meaning of either moving or place (which can also of course mean many different things). Adding language in this case could only create ambiguity.
If I said, I’m going to the airport tomorrow, because I’m moving to a new place, then you might think I mean country when I say place, not just place to live. The situation also helps change the meaning too. If I were fidgeting uncomfortably in my seat, and announced that I was moving to a new place, you’d probably assume that I wanted to to find a more comfortable place to sit.
It’s a cliché, but in language terms it’s certainly true that context is king. But to clarify, I am moving to a new apartment this weekend, which might give me inspiration for a couple of posts!