Verbal Empties

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“In Bucharest, the capital city of Romania, there’s an underground-train station called ‘The Labor Market’ (‘Piata Muncii’ in Romanian), a vestige of the country’s Communist past.

That name holds a special significance for me. It has nothing to do with the actual meaning of the name, but with the fact that it has a meaning.

For quite a long time, those two words were just the name of a station, nothing more. In my mind they formed one unit, a two-word label pointing to a physical location. The name might as well have been ‘Station Whatever’.

Discovering that those two words had a meaning came as a sudden insight.

It is possible to read the words without grasping the meaning.

For me, this was a mini revelation.

In Romanian we have the expression ‘a citi in gol’, which literally translates ‘to read emptily’. I didn’t make the connection then, but it’s the same thing.

That little moment of insight was a stepping stone, which led to a fruitful inquiry into the limits of language and the nature of understanding itself.

I later called this phenomenon surface understanding (as opposed to deep understanding), and I called the instances of the phenomenon verbal empties.”

“Was this experience what started you on your quest to understand understanding?”

“I think there was a confluence of factors. Maybe the compounding effect of many such little insights.

I captured the memory of that moment of insight in a question:

Are you grasping the meaning, or just reading the words?

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About Dani Trusca

Life-Artist, Thinker, Mover (Traceur)

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