Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Word Choice Wednesday: Consciousness


Merriam-Webster says:
1 a : the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself b : the state or fact of being conscious of an external object, state, or fact c : awareness; especially : concern for some social or political cause
2 : the state of being characterized by sensation, emotion, volition, and thought : mind
3 : the totality of conscious states of an individual
4 : the normal state of conscious life
5 : the upper level of mental life of which the person is aware as contrasted with unconscious processes

First penny word on WCW! Though maybe it deserves a wee bit more respect just because it has a fair number of letters. But it's not a five cent word. 

More specific than:
It's not more specific -- let's talk about general. Consciousness is the baseline of mental activity, IMO. It's not particularly organized or focused. One would move from consciousness to awareness, as mental activity increases, and then to alertness and attentiveness or even focus.

Word relationships:
A mild peeve of mine is consciousness and its other forms being used in situations where a more active mind frame would be more appropriate. Such as: the man stood too close, infringing on her consciousness. Or: he became conscious of ghosts all around him. The first one is terrible -- he's infringing on her personal space, not her consciousness. The second one is better, but it raises all kinds of questions for me because ghosts are really more complex ideas. Maybe the chill crept into his consciousness, alerting him to the presence of ghosts. That makes more sense. Temperature is a sensation, something your hindbrain works with. Consciousness is a primitive function too. 

What comes to your mind? How would you stack these words, from least mentally active to most mentally active: focus, awareness, alertness, consciousness, attentiveness? Where would these fit in: interest, inquisitiveness, curiosity, instinct?

1 comment:

Libby said...

I like one penny words! And I agree, it's about as general as you can be when referring to mental activity.

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