Where Were You? Armstrong and Saussure

By Mike Bossy

Where were you when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon? I remember where I was on July 21, 1969. I was at my Uncle Mel’s and Aunt Pat’s house. It was pure delight for me to see what was happening. I also remember this small news clipping which appeared on the front page of the London Free Press. It was about one inch in height.

During the 1960s and 1970s, I just couldn’t enough information about Apollo, astronauts and rockets. I felt like I was part of something big and important. Even though it wasn’t my country’s goal to land on the moon by the end of the 1960s, it still energized me. Since then, I can’t recall any government being able to make me feel that excited and part of something big.

Now this newspaper clipping was about Neil Armstrong being misquoted. We all heard “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” What he actually said was “That’s one small step for ‘a’ man, one giant leap for mankind.” This has been debated. Adding the “a”, changed the meaning of his words.

The words we chose and the manner in which we say them mean different things to different people. Ferdinand Saussure, a linguist spoke about words. We use language to express ourselves. Using words is the method we use to form our thoughts in the context of our environment. He wanted us to see that thinking about language is thinking about our thinking.

So when you are using words in your family business, make sure whomever you are speaking to truly understands what you mean. Some of the words I have seen used that have different meaning for the sender versus the receiver are:

  • Soon
  • Later
  • Maybe
  • Not now
  • Someday

Perhaps in your family participation plan you should include a section of definitions or maybe some of these words should actually be banned.

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