The word “favorite” suffers from a lack of specificity. In other words, though it implies a definitive meaning, in reality it means nothing at all.
noun \ˈfā-v(ə-)rət, ˈfā-vərt, chiefly dialect ˈfā-və-ˌrīt\
one that is treated or regarded with special favor or liking
I’m guilty of using this word all the time.
Today, purple is my favorite color. Tomorrow, it’ll be green again. It’s always saffron. I also like grey. Can they all be my favorite? Yes, says the dictionary, because they are all treated and regarded with special favor or liking.
I love to wear purple, but saffron and green are pretty hit or miss with my skin tone. I love to work with green in design, but purple tends to be overwhelming and saffron can be difficult to read or emote. I like to live surrounded by saffron. Most of my things are grey, or accented by grey.
And how about days?
Thursdays are my favorite day. I was married on a Tuesday and, that week, it was my favorite day. I also like the 9th. I like today, too. Maybe today is my favorite day– for now, at least.
When asking a question that requires those answering to narrow down a series of options to a specific choice, why define that narrowing process with a word that has no real meaning?
For example, why ever say: What is your favorite movie?
This question could mean:
- What’s your favorite movie to watch multiple times?
- What’s your favorite movie in regards to a certain emotion or memory?
- What movie to you recommend most often to friends and family?
- What movie have you invested the most money in (theater, product)?
- What movie have you invested the most time in (viewings and conventions)?
- What movie do you never say no to?
- What’s your go-to movie for events?
- What is your favorite movie in terms of cinematic production?
- Pick a movie that you liked well enough for me to continue this line of thought without interruption.
Most of those questions could be broken down even further.
Someone has a much better chance of answering the question you didn’t ask, than answering the question you thought you asked. See how the definition suffers for its breadth? It is limitless in its ability to define, yet completely walled off by our own ability to interpret.
Asking specific yet meaningless questions is an ineffective use of a precious resource– communication. **
So when I read today’s prompt from The Daily Post:
Daily Prompt: Take a quote from your favorite movie — there’s the title of your post. Now, write!
I interpreted it as:
Daily Prompt: Take a quote from a movie you liked — there’s the title of your post. Now, write!
But because I can’t be assured that I picked the right sub-definition, I kept revisiting the original prompt for more specific clues. I didn’t find any, so I trudged forward with the decision to go with my interpretation and an explanation as to why the word favorite could result in such a convoluted thought process.
So that’s where I ended up. Oddly, I circled back to a quote from the movie that originally popped into my mind when reading the prompt.
Thanks for taking that thought journey with me and please forgive me for wanting a little specificity*.
Daily Post Prompt: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/daily-prompt-silver-screen/
* From Inception
** Ironically, on the first publish of this post, that particular sentence was missing words and pluralization making it virtually incomprehensible.