The Rectification of Meaning
Sometimes, I do not find the right words to say what I think, or it would take too long to explain what I mean.
This could be due to age, but it is not, not yet.
The cause is that the subjects I want to think out with my own head are controversial; critical spirit, lying, truth, human nature, freedom, progress, paradox, non-action, good judgement, reality, wisdom...
Words are not impersonal, nor innocent, not obvious, nor resolved. Names are big axes to grind, weapons forged for the battlefield of free thought and speech.
Late in my season of harvest, I am bored to trot nicely behind a flock and bend my mind to fit it to the words given as if their forms were the eternal Ideas of Plato ; I want to put in writing what I conceive in my mind - impressions and representations wealthier than words, ideas that flow occasionally differing from current notions - even when my stream could stray in error. “Speak what I feel, not what I ought to say" 
I found some comfort in this battle with the windmills.
The sages understood, perhaps before the legend of Babel was put in writing, that the mismatch of words and deeds depraves society. Confucius saw that without calling a cat a cat we live in lies and government is corrupt. He advised to set the names right:
“Zilu said, ‘The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?’
The Master replied, ‘What is necessary is to rectify names.’
‘So, indeed!’ said Zilu ‘You are wide of the mark! Why must there be such rectification?’
The Master said, ‘How uncultivated are you, You! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music will not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know now to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires, is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.’ ”
The Confucian Zhengming - Rectification of Names - proposed that office-holders were either to be called their correct names (that is, the name corresponding to real behaviour), or they were to live up to the ideal name of their role. Either the people go about calling that government official a thief – or he behaves like a government official should! Philosophers soon extended this good idea to the meaning of words.
Unfortunately, the tyrants of this world did and do understand the rectification of names their way and turn it upside-down, eager to alter, decree and censor words in order to cage minds and thus change the world to their fancy. In History, word-police is one of the signs of the Beast. This is what Inquisition did and all oppressive holders of exclusive ideas will do to control “dangerous” thoughts. This is what German or Stalinist fascism did, what the "cultural revolution" proceeded to do in China.
Totalitarians of the world unite instinctively to create their Newspeak of New Man : simplified, few rigid words, shallow, hypocrite meaning, censored speech, to occupy the verbal space which cements society and to prevent critical thinking at its root by numbing the minds.
Other more honoured authorities of Doctrine and Method need to control words as well, to defend the status-quo. Disorder and uncontrolled evolution of meaning could spark paradoxes and re-define truth, endangering the well-being of current theories; to avert such danger, I am sad to say that the educational systems have a vocation to choke any indiscipline of words and to reduce vocabularies under the pretext of simplifying them in order to be equally understandable for everybody.
Hypocrites try in their turn to censor the definition and the use of words, more informally, by abusing democracy and mutual respect; these brazen hypocrites harass us with the virtuous pedantry of political correctness. Meanwhile, bullies of all kinds batter us with their linguistic activism and occupation of words.
There is power in words; those who decide what the important words mean, rule over the way people are able to think. The map of the world in which our mind moves, is made in a large part of words, the signposts on it are words and the main roads available in our minds are paved with words too.
Therefore, freeing ourselves requires taking charge - when needed - of what the words mean - first for us and for the public discourse. Emancipating other people can be helped with growing the number of the words they understand and the truthful meaning of those words.
Not to be master of my words is, following my argument, not to be free, just a parrot dangling in a cage of other people's thoughts and slogans.
I need a large vocabulary to have a free mind but that is not sufficient; the important words must be mine, to serve me, not the enemies of what I think. To own my words, the ones I use to form and pin down my thoughts and the ones I communicate, I must understand and master them before I use them and they must also be loyal in translating me. Otherwise I believe that I speak clearly but other people understand something else, censored of my truth.
If you accept that ownership of the words we think and use is a condition of our freedom, you will certainly ask:
What then? What can I do?
What did I do?
I believe that we can do normal things with great effect in time, little things with big consequences; my own tentative is, in short, the following:
Before anything else I needed awareness; to observe, check and accept, without guilt, my intuition that there is sometimes something wrong about the words, that the words do not seem to serve us fairly, that people misunderstand that which I say, or keep misinterpreting it in spite of my effort, that people use the definition of certain words to abuse us, that the meanings available to us do not fit the thoughts we have in our mind.
Once understood this, I stopped feeling that I am at fault or merely ignorant. I did inevitably start to ask questions and work quietly to gain more freedom.
To use words instead of being their toy I needed to take a distance from them.
One way I found to make my words my own was - and still is - to meet their parents; to find from where these words come and how they came to mean what they mean today. I discovered thus amazing roots and branches, some of them very clear in meaning; veils of dust and euphemistic taming are blown away and light shines when you see the naked root of words. Etymology emancipates.
I became an occasional scholar. Books, even big dictionaries, do not bite. I soon discovered that cheap dictionaries are cheap; in English, you have an interest to look into that "King James" Version of dictionaries, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) , not to be confused with the many shortened dictionaries with similar sounding marketing names, made simple for us simple people by authors who know better what we need to know. Many Etymological dictionaries, free at Internet Archive, will serve one as well. I found out how many amazing meanings and nuances there are for one word, how usage changed with times and interests, some lost and some new.
As I read the successive transformations of words, it dawned on me that I too can improve the meaning; there is nothing sacred in it. You have a right to learn but also to think and adapt.
I learned that each word comes from some simple old root in some old exotic language, adapted from something else for some newer purpose. It had some blunt, telling, primary meaning, sometimes closer to flat reality than today, a first-hand label. At times I felt dissatisfied with the way some old word was impoverished or crippled or misunderstood, even falsified. Often, some important reality or thought or metaphor was lost in translation. On my way I also found occasionally other, sharper, related words that express better what I mean*.
Another powerful way to liberate our words is to speak more than one language.
I experienced this as I was lucky to have two mother tongues. I found that thinking in Hungarian has a unique style, different from Romanian; there are things impossible to say in one or the other language. Words connect and flex differently, and your thought flows with them.
Later, when I learned other languages enough to understand, to read or to translate, I found in them large open doors unavailable to other people around me. I was taught ten years of Russian, four years of German, the same of English, I learned French by myself. Most important I learned and forgot some Latin. What a shame that I missed Greek and Hebrew! Two doors locked for me. This little treasury of diversity bought me big consequences; I found myself free to open books untranslated, to tune the radio and understand, hear news, ideas, and opinions from other countries, which were censored where I lived. I earned the possibility to compare. Good friends around me did not have access to such differences. The foreign radio was just alien noise for them.
To gain freedom, learn then other languages. When you hear, read or say the same thing in two languages you feel how relative words are, how important the distinctions can be, so that you gain distance from them. This distance in turn gives you more independence in thought.
I was also lucky to go deeper into this domain as I became for several years a professional interpreter and translator of films. How relative words are becomes evident when you translate.
The same word changes meaning quite dramatically with context, timing, the one who speaks and the one who listens. Obviously, the same thing can be said with very different words. As you translate, you chose and you become aware of your reason for choosing words. At times you must explain what you mean and that explanation changes too with the public. Labels and dictionaries are not enough. The worst translators I have met, dishonest or incompetent, would flatly translate word after word by the book.
Understanding that the same word may express different things and that many meanings can be conveyed by the same word freed me to see words as tools, changeable means, not unmoving ends;
“The fish trap exists because of the fish; once you’ve gotten the fish, you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit; once you’ve gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning; once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words to have a word with him?" 
Moreover, we learn from the study of languages that different cultures think somewhat differently, with their specific notions. Each tongue shapes its own riverbed of thinking as explained by the Saphir - Whorf hypothesis . Many disagreements could be treated better by accepting to imagine ourselves in the other culture’s place.
Beware then the patriots who shun people speaking foreign languages!
It appears that words we use every day, without questioning, and even more, the grand words we use to speak of important things, have their traps and limits, occasionally their built-in falsification or hypocrisy.We gain to to know why they were twisted. I ignore the name of the science doing this study of the falsification of words, but in practice, reflection on what words like, say, "reality" or “truth” mean, leaves me amazed and opens my mind.
The good old Socratic question "What do you mean by...? Please explain me!" helped me greatly and often to expose the shallowness or the real load of words.
Dictionaries do not have the last word.
When not satisfied by ready-made words, I take the risk to re-define them and explain “my way” without inhibition. Some find this annoying or even arrogant, but I know the value of doing it (sparingly). It often helped me, not only to speak with impact but also to help other people solve situations they considered impossible because of words unexamined.
In my mind, as probably in yours, there is at times something different or even, modestly, richer, not to be satisfied by books and by our education; something like our representation or our own sketch of a well-known subject, of an experience lived. When I feel this, I commit a small revolution, I borrow some old words and redefine them for my purpose. When I find that the word was falsified, I rectify meaning! I form in my head or write down my own better definition - it is our right of free thinking to do so. Soon, I work to make it clear. I try it out; I explain to myself and try explaining to other people (when I feel safe) why my sense it is better or truer. The best method of word-shaping I found in my experience is to take a complicated, important term and force myself to explain it in good faith to the five-years old. Making things simple compels me to understand.
At this time in my quest, with a half a century habit of examining words without complex and of requiring other people to define theirs when needed, I feel that I gained some valuable tools of critical reasoning and convincing.
When even redefined, the words available feel insufficient, I borrow terms from other languages or domains; I was lucky to have not only two very different mother tongues, or English and French as parallel working languages. I also had a forced chance to practice several professions and occupations in several countries; this interdisciplinary, visited on many people in our global times is a wonderful source of riches. From the standpoint of an outsider, I have an advantage of distance to observe the words and compare their usefulness.
I think that if they cared, many would be able, based on their own experience across environments, to take distance and examine what their most used words mean, instead of accepting that "this is how they are" no questions asked.
Do not let the specialists to claim sole property on words. They often live in boxes. The words we use everyday belong to our common sense. In fact, their meaning comes from the way we are able to use them (if you follow the idea of Wittgenstein)
When rectifying names and growing my vocabulary is still not sufficient, I claim the right to create new words, as long as they hold better what I think and say better what I want to say. However, I cannot avoid to justify and to explain the innovation, which is often time-consuming or unsuccessful.
Let us be bold then and create new words; who said that it is forbidden to create new words?
Words are not natural, nor God-given, they are man-made. Some of them will not survive, others will. Wish I were as gifted in creating new words as Rabelais or Shakespeare...
Certainly, you need to coin your improved meaning or your new word as you need to reclaim proper meanings lost. The big error I used to do was to believe that by magic, other people must see as obvious what I understood, by sheer force of truth. I believed that new meaning would take root by sheer expression. This is not so. To communicate you must first bring your new word to the people.
Time and convincing skill - and an art of using metaphor - is needed to teach new words, particularly when you are not a recognized authority.
From the many ways of “selling words” which kept me busy all my working life, I remind the propitious moments when I can point my finger to real life and name it for what it is, with the right name, in view of all, like the kid exclaiming “The King is naked!” in presence of the King’s rump visible to everyone.
The "obvious" needs a sharp finger to reveal new meaning.
Some people do not accept new meaning or new words, whatever we do; it maybe for interest, laziness, rigidity or tradition, submissiveness or fear of “something else”. Sometimes they are right. For important words of the public place, definition is a matter of politics, justice, money and power. Do not expect flowers when you bring change.
You will need to claim your legitimacy to clarify or to redefine words. Certain words are occupied, colonized, taken; various people and institutions pretend to own them.
Not only tyrants, but also would-be tyrants and merchants sequestrate words. Besides the big institutions of government, church, academia, school, science, multinationals and commerce, install and show their power by defining words used. This is normal to a point, but abuse and hypocrisy are not, whoever practices them.
Minuscule pressure groups and bullies of all kinds rush with big mouths to occupy words, to register their trade mark on some “one and true” meaning. Scientists would hijack the latest word used in their domain, write a book and pretend to freeze its meaning, thus stifling thought and research; whoever comes after them must quote "the right source and meaning" before they are allowed to write their own.
Seemingly harmless militant or politically correct campaigns are at permanent war with your freedom to think and to speak your truth as you feel; if you let them grow they will oppress you later badly. Face them with your own right to decide what words mean.
Non conformity is intimidated with all means available; because conformity in speech brings conformity in thought. Hysteria on the "social networks" became a powerful means of oppression.
Whenever you try to affirm your right to take part in the definition of words some people will shame you or laugh you out of town for “not being in”, for speaking improperly, in ignorance of correct meaning, convince you that you are confused, accuse you of a choice of misdeeds like lack of education, lack of respect, madness, falsity or blasphemy.
If you are not prudent and diplomatic the well speakers will banish you from academia or stone you symbolically in the marketplace since in our part of the world they cannot simply burn you or behead you as in the good old times.
You ou will simply be educated and trained back into normality. If you insist, you will be ignored, with the condescending smile of the one who knows better.
I gather that it is wise to be very prudent in affirming and practising what I write here; do what I do but do not speak as I do.
Questioning the meaning of words should be declared a human right. This is some work for our advanced civilization busy with other priorities.
There may be need for democratic laws of plurality to grant the individual freedom to challenge what words mean. With reasonable limitations to protect diversity but tradition too. We should establish by what consensual transparent rules the ordinary citizen would rectify and propose meaning in the Twenty First Century.
 The eternal Forms and Ideas of Plato : Meno 71–81, 85–86, Cratylus
389–390, 439–440, Symposium 210–211 and other Dialogues
 ["Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say" Shakespeare, King Lear
 Confucius, Analects, Book XIII, Chapter 3, verses 4-7, translated by James Legge
 George Orwell, 1984 explains Newspeak with such genius that I can only point respectfully to his “Principles of Newspeak” . Whoever wants to recognize the beast from the first glance must study that book: crimethink, prolefeed, goodthink, minitrue thinkpol, doublethink, show fully that new words can be invented to describe unheard-of ignominy.
, The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Second Edition, Edited by John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, Clarendon Press, 1989. As it costs a small fortune you better seek the electronic and online versions.
* If patience and interest brought you so far in a similar quest, maybe you already use words much better than I and more confidently, to explain what you mean.
 The Complete Works of Kuang-Tzu, Tr. Burton Watson, Chapter 26, External Things, Columbia Univ. Press, New York, 1968, p. 302
 Linguistic relativity and the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis develop Einstein’s idea of General Relativity in this debatable but, it seems to me, very useful way. See for example, Leavitt, John, Linguistic Relativities: Language Diversity and Modern Thought, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011