On Dirt and Mess

No grand clever theory today, just a brief soliloquy on a couple of concepts which it sometimes annoys me when people confuse.

I’m writing this fully aware of the fact that language is fluid, and the majority of disagreement I’m likely to receive is on the specific meanings of specific words I’ve chosen. It’s not about the language, it’s about the concepts. Well, it’s sort of about the language. Language guides how we think; if we had a more precise language we wouldn’t muddy our concepts so much. But I digress.

Clean/Dirty – This is a distinction of, literally, the absence/presence of dirt. “Dirt” in this context can also stand in for other unhygienic particulates: dust, rust, hair, mould, that weird gunk which tends to accumulate on shower floors, etc.

Clean/Messy – This is a distinction of order. A room is messy when it has clothes strewn on the floor; it is clean when the clothes are neatly folder and/or hung. Annoyingly, I do not know a word other than “clean” to represent “not messy”. Do note that a room can be simultaneously messy and clean (not-dirty). Likewise it can be simultaneously dirty and clean (not-messy). This is why we should all learn Esperanto.

Organized/Disorganized – This is not a distinction of order; it is a distinction of knowledge. If a room has clothes strewn about, but they are strewn according to a specific layout and you know the precise location of every article, it is messy but organized. Likewise, a stack of neatly folded clothes can be entirely unordered (and thus disorganized) but still quite clean (not-messy) and also maybe clean (not-dirty).

Communication is hard. Don’t make it harder.  Use the concept you mean to use.

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