Do our words affect our perception or even effect our perception? Here are three examples:
I read the directions to where a drop box for donations is to be found. They said it was “behind Whole Foods”. So I went to the front of Whole Foods, the front door, then drove around the end of the building to the back of the building, “behind” Whole Foods. Nothing but alley and dumpsters. So I e-mailed the person in charge and was given the same on-line site, etc. and so determined it must be there somewhere. It turns out that “behind” meant at the south end of the building if you are coming from the north, set in behind some other shops. It’s true, it is “behind” Whole Foods, but not directly behind. Only if you draw a line south from Whole Foods is the box behind, but behind that line. What I would have said was that the box was south of Whole Foods behind whatever store/shop it is actually situated “behind of”, to use weird English.
Another incident: a person told us the conference we were to address was “half-way between Phoenix and Tucson”. So we calculated how long it would take us to go half the way on this familiar route. Eventually, we arrived in Marana, where the conference was being held, only a few miles outside Tucson. What the person might have meant is that Marana is “between” Phoenix and Tucson but almost all the way to Tucson. I have found that some people get extremely impatient with what they consider trivial details. Hmmmm.
Then one night my wife and I were lying in bed discussion which direction the fan ought to be going, clock-wise or counter clock-wise. There ensued a good deal of confusion, so I finally asked her to picture an actual clock on the ceiling. She replied that that was what she was doing. Well then, it’s clear that clock-wise goes that way (pointing). No, she said, the other way. How could that be? So we are lying here looking up at the clock, which is on the ceiling with the face face-down looking at us as we look at it, right? No, she said, the face of the clock is facing the ceiling!!
You mean you see the clock as being on the ceiling but with its face plastered against the ceiling so we would have to be looking through a hole in the ceiling to see it???? Exactly, she replied. Holy Cow!! I replied.
Perspective, dealing with words in the first two, prepositions, to be exact, but the last one??? I’ve been married to her for over 50 years but that one took me by surprise, although when we were going together my buddy, a physics major, asked her what she thought science was and she stammered for a moment and then blurted out, “Oh, you know, like carrots.” Carrots????
I should have known then.