Maybe it started out with a simple discussion— everyone agreed that there were way too many shoes and/or boots in the house. Getting all up in the cabinets and cluttering up the basement and shit. So Bob says "fuck it, Carol, we need to get rid of these fucking shoes. Like what is our fucking problem? How does someone even let something like this happen, this is fucking nuts!" And Carol is like "Wow Bob, you've got major mental health issues. Those shoes are our God damned life, and you're telling me to just throw it all away? Say something that stupid again and I'll burn you with an iron." This is intense, borderline sociopathic behavior, but it's rendered completely meaningless when we find out that Carol only actually cares about the boots. The tennis shoes, Crocs and high heels can go to hell for all she cares— it's the boots that need protecting. Meanwhile, Bob never planned to dispose of any boots in the first place. That's because his definition of the word "shoes" excludes "boots," while Carol's obviously doesn't. But instead of actively communicating their ideas with precise language, these emotional wrecks decided it would be fun to just assume that their definition was somehow universal. Have fun in therapy, assholes.
Don't laugh. This same situation has happened to every single one of you, probably recently. You've argued over something stupid like televised nudity, realizing only after thirty minutes of fervent, mildly erotic "logical" debate that there are some deep-seated semantic issues that need to be sorted out before any "actual argument" can take place. And then, surprise! There is no "actual argument," it's just two people failing to correctly interpret each other's perfectly legitimate (if ineffectively articulated) point of view. And it's so crazy, because those same two people will probably find some other ridiculous shit to argue about at some point in the future, and what will they do? They'll run into the exact same problem, of course. Treating their inane little definitions as the axiomatic words of a shimmering Norse deity. Perfectly comfortable to believe that the normally-reasonable person before them has somehow transformed into a frothing, brain-dead caveman before their very eyes— I mean, since when do your arguments devolve into simple misunderstandings, right? The other guy's just gone temporarily crazy or something, right? You've gone to college! You read Critically Pissed! You're too good to allow your personal biases invade every single shitty word that comes out of your shitty mouth, right? Right?
Let's take a look at a real life example of this embarrassing travesty. Enter: Roger Ebert versus the video game industry at large, when Ebert boldly asserts that games can never be art (please read the following article, or, if not, go to hell and click out of whatever horrible browser you use: http://blogs.suntimes.com/
"Word worship" is a horrible but easy-to-swallow term that I just made up to make the title of this article slightly more accessible. It's when people get the absolutely ludicrous idea that words exist for any reason other than "useful communication." It's also the most infuriating bullshit that has ever existed, and the bane of all intelligent discussion. By "useful communication," I mean just that— (1) communicating ideas (2) to other people (3) practically. Why do we call lip balm "lip balm"? Why not just lump it in with "lipstick"? If you're jotting down two parallel lists of "characteristics of lipstick" and "characteristics of lip balm," please feel free to credit me for the next punch to the back of your head, moron. The truth is that there is nothing inherent to anything that implicitly encourages us to semantically distinguish it from anything else. Do you know how many fucking differences there are between a human being and a bucket of shitty tree sap? Now go ahead and separate the differences that actually "matter" (the ones that, by the very nature of their existence, logically demand that we refer to a human and a bucket of shitty tree sap differently) from the ones that don't. Go on, let's see it. In fact, go ahead and post it in the comments so I can print it out, crumple it up and dramatically throw it into my electric fucking fireplace because it's worthless. The real reason we differentiate between humans and buckets of shitty tree sap is that there are about a trillion practical scenarios in which it is useful for us to refer to those things differently. "I coat my skin in the extract of shitty tree sap before I go to bed" is a potentially upsetting statement in a world where both shitty tree sap and humans are referred to as "shitty tree sap." Likewise, referring to lipstick and lip balm differently has nothing to do with their physical and chemical makeup (pun flex), but with the perceived practical differences that exist between the two. There would literally be no reason to refer to them differently if, every time we asked someone where the lip balm was, we were completely apathetic as to whether we wanted lip balm or lipstick. They would then cease being referred to differently because referring to them differently wouldn't make any fucking sense whatsoever.
Except to word worshippers. To these people (who also just so happen to include most of you), lip balm and lipstick would be separate concepts even if there were no longer any relevant difference between the two, just because they happened to remember a time where their differences mattered. They may even try to invent practical differences, because they are so attached to language that they find it more reasonable to alter the material that words represent than the words themselves. They are so fucking insane that they'll have entire arguments over whether something of self-evident worth does or doesn't fit under a particular category filled with other things of self-evident worth. This is exactly what Roger Ebert has done (so too has his opposition). Do the differences between video games and other, traditional forms of "art" render a distinction between the two useful (though this is different than the balm/stick problem, since it is not a matter of an identical label but an identical category)? Maybe, but that isn't what the argument is about. Instead, "art" is treated as a status, some higher form of existence which is arbitrarily out of game design's reach. If video games were as widely-considered "art" as, say, film, Ebert wouldn't give a shit. He would keep excluding it from his definition because, for some reason, he feels that the word "art," and the word "art"'s history, are more important than proper communication. In reality, they are meaningless constructs in every possible interpretation of the term. There would literally be no reason for him to define art at the exclusion of video games except to sooth his own impressively demented psyche, or appease anyone else who happens to share his crazy inability to utilize language as it was designed to be utilized. His opposition is just as bad— as he even explains, why the fuck are they trying so hard to get games to be considered "art" in the first place? Why are they so desperate to be recognized, when the inherent merits of their work will automatically dictate the usefulness of whichever label is ultimately ascribed to it, whether that be "art," "sport," or just "games" (oh, the inhumanity)? To be fair, if it weren't for people like Ebert espousing the illusory notion that "art" is some sort of "classy," "respectable," and all-around desirable label to be associated with, the poor little trodden-upon, geeky personalities populating the games industry wouldn't get so riled up.
Either way, all parties involved need to understand that language is just a tool for useful communication. And so do you. If you've ever argued about the "sanctity of marriage," whether or not bowling is a sport, or whether Batman: The Animated Series can technically be referred to as an "anime," take a look at yourself and start to pay attention to the stupid shit you argue about from now on. Stop using language as a standalone entity and start communicating with ideas at the forefront.