Thursday, September 9, 2010

Culture and Meaning

An interesting post over on Scott Jackson's blog today.  Talking about the "devil" gesture you often see at rock shows.  Did you know it meant that, or did you (like me) think it was the sign for a harmless "rock on!"?

My question is more of a big picture question.  Does culture determine meaning?

Go to Quebec and the use of "tabernacle" will land you in detention.  If your host in Brazil asks you how you enjoyed the dinner they just cooked, better not give them the "ok" gesture.  And don't even think of giving someone the peace sign in Italy.  Make eye contact in Japan and you are insinuating that the other person is beneath you.

Is it possible that culture determines meaning?  If the vast majority (like 90%) does not consider the "rock-on" sign to be evil, is it still evil?

Can I believe that culture determines the meaning of gestures/words and still believe in absolute truth?

Now I'm confused.


  1. Glad to see you blogging, Jen!

    What about "the cross"?

    If "the devil sign" is interpreted as "rock on" - does that mean "the cross" could mean "let's eat"?

    I guess to some people the cross is fashion. But to Christians, the cross is our Saviour. As Christians, how could we misinterpret the Evil One?

  2. The meaning of the cross has changed as well. It used to be seen as a torture device. Now it's a sign of hope eternal for believers world wide.

    I'm sure there are still people that celebrate the pagan holidays that have become Christmas and Easter to most people. But to 99% of society December 25 is not the pagan holiday it once was. It is Christmas.

  3. Did you know that this "devil" sign means "I love you" in sign language? (You just have to point the thumb outward.)

    Imagine if at the time of Jesus they had the electric chair and decided to use that instead. Would the electric chair be our sign of hope today?