Free is an interesting word, which is why it’s this week’s Wednesday’s Word.
According to the good folks over at Merriam-Webster, the definition of free (paraphrasing here) is:
- Having the rights (both political and legal) of a citizen and not being under the control or domination of another.
- Self-identified in the sense of being able to choose for oneself and not determined by any influences other than its own nature or being.
- Lacking something.
- Unrestricted anything but especially trade.
- Having no obligations.
- No charge or cost.
- Not part of something else.
- Inexact or not literal.
- Open to all comers.
That’s a lot of meaning to cram into four little letter and one little word.
Most of the time when bloggers talk about free, they are referring to the cost (or lack thereof) of something like an ebook or a webinar (we admit it, we love freebies ourselves) or unrestricted speech or expression. But it is worth pausing a moment and contemplating the other meanings of free.
If you do, you may wonder how such an important word has become devalued itself. When, for instance, did free become a “bad” word with connotations of worthlessness? Unrestricted has, perhaps, always had something excessive and potentially dangerous about it but a spirit that cannot be dominated and determines things for itself is central to being a blogger, a writer, an artist, a musician or virtually any type of creative and thinking individual.
Maybe it’s time to start defending free rather than dissing it. People of a certain age will raise eyebrows at that thought, implying it smacks of communism or socialism or anarchy. People even older than those eyebrow raisers would probably counter with the simple fact that those willing to surrender their freedoms for security deserve neither.
They are both right.
That’s what free means.