5 Real-World Definition Examples

For the definition/illustration paper I try to give the students real-world examples of definitions. This peeks their interest and it lets them know that this is not an exercise for English class only. Here is what I gave them this semester:

Last night, I went to the play Cyrano de Bergerac. One paragraph (a long one) within the program was a definition of panache from the play’s author in his “Discourse.”

What is Panache? TO be a hero is not enough. Panache is not greatness but something added to greatness and stirring above it. It is something fluttering, excessive- and a bit daring. If I was not afraid of being too pressed to work on the Dictionary myself, I would propose this definition: Panache is the spirt of bravery. It is courage dominating the situation to the point of needing to find another word for it. To joke in the face of danger, that is the supreme politeness. A delicate refusal to take one’s self tragically. Panache is then the modesty of heroism, like the smile with which one apologizes for being sublime. A little frivolous perhaps, a bit theatrical certainly…

I was reading online blogs and found this personal definition:

To honor is to sacrifice, of yourself or of your own, for something you view to be greater or more important. Honor is the quality of a man who does that.

I also found this a while back and it stuck with me. It is about the changing definition of sacrifice.

I have a friend who recently died, but he actually decided to show kids what a sacrifice looks like, so he sacrificed a lamb at Easter time. “We talk about it so much—here’s what it looks like!” Half the class puked, half the class had angry letters from mommy and daddy. But he did demonstrate that it’s not just a metaphor. It’s a messy and not altogether pleasant process. Since [then] we’ve converted it entirely into an economic question. I ask students the meaning of sacrifice, and they always start talking about “mommy and daddy sacrificing so I could go to college.” We’ve been at war for four years, and I haven’t heard one person yet say some soldier sacrificed themselves. That language is gone. It’s entirely economic.

In the class I am taking, we have to define critical thinking this week. I took a couple of quotes that I liked to start from.

[W]e need to think because the world we live in, however well we learn to cope with it, is constantly forcing us to choose. When experience surprises or disturbs us, we have to “make up our minds,” and, as the phrase suggests, when we do that, not only are we deciding what to do with the world about us; we are deciding what we are or want to be. –Monroe C. Beardsley, Practical Logic (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1950), x-xi.

[There are] two distinctly different kinds of thinking, creative thinking and critical thinking. Creative thinking may be defined as the formulation of possible solutions to a problem or explanations of a phenomenon, and critical thinking as the testing and evaluation of these solutions or explanations. –W. Edgar Moore, Creative and Critical Thinking (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1967) 2, 3.

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. –Michael Scriven and Richard Paul, “Defining Critical Thinking: A Statement for the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking Instruction.” http://www.criticalthinking.org/aboutCT/definingCT.shtml (16 May 2005).

I was reading for a paper I am doing online and found a discussion which was attempting to find out how students defined gossip.

I collected 76 responses from unnamed students. The answers to, “define gossip” varied but had an underlying theme; gossip isn’t something that should be supported. 81 percent of student definitions included that gossip was talking about others but only 32 percent thought it had to be behind someone’s back or when the subject of the discussion is absent. 18 percent of respondents said gossip is strictly negative but 8 percent of the definitions said gossip could be good or bad. No one thought gossip was a good practice (but as a campus we are participating)! 29 percent of surveyed students said that what is said in gossip was a rumor, or untruthful, or there was no proof to defend what it is said. Other student definitions included hearsay, small talk, sharing something overheard, that gossip is only for amusement or to make themselves feel better. It was said that gossip is something shared of no meaning, distorted facts, or the exchange or sharing of information.

Besides the daily gossip on campus some colleges and universities have had a problem with online gossip. Facebook is a major way gossip can get started but another website has made headlines, Juicy Campus.com has made waves at Cornell and Duke, as well as other campuses. Basically, the site is a outlet to anonymously call anyone out, make any claim, or share any simple gossip.

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