Words and Meaning

It is said that meanings do not reside in words, but in the people who use them. This made me think about a movie I have seen no less than fifty times, Eddie and The Cruisers. It’s one of those cult classics that I can’t turn off if I happen to be channel surfing and run into it. It’s about a band from the Jersey Shore in the fifties or early sixties who have a bit of success with their first album. Their second, is trashed by their record company. The lead singer and song writer, the heart of the band, dies in a car accident and the band dissolves. Twenty years later, the band’s music has found a new popularity and there is a search for the lost tapes of the second album.

Why the synopsis? So I can get to one line from the movie that has always stuck with me. A reporter asks the piano player and lyricist of the band why he stopped writing music. In response the man crosses his fingers and says, “words and music.” He then uncrosses his fingers, spreads them wide, and hesitates for a dramatic pause and says,” without the music there are no words.”

Words and music . . . You can take the same words, put them to different styles of music and get a totally different emotional response from the listener. It’s the same with words and meanings.

Take the word, Freedom. To those of us who have been privileged to have been born in the U.S. or any other free country, we probably don’t give it much thought. It is inherent to who we are, what we do, and how we act. Ask someone who has immigrated to this country from one where freedom was just a dream, and you will probably get a detailed, tear-filled response.
If you have never been incarcerated, freedom is something you take for granted. Ask someone who was just released from prison and they will tell you a different story. They might tell you that freedom is being able to take a hot shower when ever you want, or that freedom is the smell of freshly cut grass, or the ability to touch and see your family whenever you want. Whatever the answer, it will be much different from one who has always been free.

Words have no meaning, only the people who use them do.

Just something to think about.

J.M.