Aug 312015

Semantic Shift DayThat’s right, I’m creating a much needed holiday. Today, August 31st, is officially “Semantic Shift Day“!


It’s the day where we change the definitions of words around for everything that doesn’t exist so that we can officially, only for one day a year, say it does exist!

So for example, on Semantic Shift Day we would define “free will” the same way that certain philosophical compatibilists, such as Daniel Dennett, do. We can simply say that free will is the ability to make conscious choices or something that in fact does exist. Never mind the free will ability that the bulk of the population intuits about such words, on semantic shift day we just don’t care about the confusions we cause! All words and terms for non-existing things get re-defined for one day.

On semantic shift day make sure to label “god” as “the universe” or “nature”. Never mind that most people think of a conscious deity when they hear the word god! On semantic shift day we just don’t care about that. If you are an atheist you can officially be labeled a theist on semantic shift day, because you believe in god!

On semantic shift day, everything exists: Santa, unicorns, fairies, leprechauns, alien spaceships on earth, even square circles! It’s just a matter of changing the definition around to make such things fit in with reality! Santa is any chubby guy with a beard wearing red – so Santa exists. Unicorns are just horny horses, alien space-crafts are just airplanes that are in a country they are not from, and leprechauns are just people who wear green.  Fairies I’d like to define as those little white floating dandelion florets and seeds that the wind carries away. Anyway, you get the gist.

Square-circles? No worries, all a square-circle means is that we have a boring-ly conventional or old-fashioned circle. There are lots of those that exist!

Semantic Shift Day is fun for the whole family! Any word that is currently outside of existence can be brought into existence for a single day, just by changing up the definition.

So what’s the purpose of Semantic Shift Day? It’s basically to point out the absurdity of defining things into existence that many or most people hold a different definition or intuitive feeling about. If someone wants to do this for a single term such as free will or god, then (on Semantic Shift Day) by doing so for everything else we can show the absurdities and confusions that such causes. And by displaying those absurdities and confusions, we can have a whole lot of harmless fun, and perhaps make a point in the process. Semantic Shift Day is just a day to poke a little light-hearted fun at compatibilistic (and perhaps pantheistic) mindsets – by becoming them for every other non-existent word or term.

  1. Any word that you know does not exist, is illogical, or that there is no evidence for (fairies) needs to be redefined for the entire day into something that does exist (dandelion florets).
  2. When referring to that thing (dandelion florets), try to use the other word as much as possible (fairies).
  3. Do not redefine words that actually do exist. Though it could be fun to re-define the moon as the sun and then say you have moonburn, this day is about re-defining non-existent or inevident things into existence in similar fashion as free will compatibilists and pantheists do.
  4. Semantic Shift Day starts at midnight on August 30th (or when you wake up August 31st) and ends on the midnight of August 31st, based on your current time-zone. So basically the last day of August is Semantic Shift Day!
  5. If you hear someone using a word or term in the context of that thing not existing, you might want to argue that it does indeed exist. Do what free will compatibilists do and be really vague on the (re)definition you are using. At some point after the person is good and annoyed, you can tell them that today is Semantic Shift Day and finally give them the (clear) re-definition you are using.

A conversation might go like this:

  • Them: There is no evidence for the Loch Ness monster!
  • You: Of course there is, don’t be silly!
  • Them: Naw, all photos of the Loch Ness monster are blurry or fakes. Could be anything.
  • You: That’s just not true. Plus a whole lot of people have seen the Loch Ness monster and can tell you about it!
  • Them: That’s all anecdotal evidence. They are either lying, delusional, or saw something they think is the Loch Ness monster but isn’t!
  • You: I don’t know why you’d think that. To me it’s blatantly obvious that there is at least one Loch Ness monster if not more. This is just a fact.
  • Them: It’s not a fact. Show me the evidence then!
  • You: I’ve seen pictures.
  • Them: You can’t make out that it’s really the Loch Ness monster in those pictures. They could be anything!
  • You: Just because I don’t have a picture handy doesn’t mean I haven’t seen them. And they are very clear.
  • Them: I don’t believe you.
  • You: I’ve even seen one lit up!
  • Them: Lit up?? What are you talking about.
  • You: The brick is clear in the pictures and the light at the top is obvious!
  • Them: Are you talking about a lighthouse?
  • You: Of course! A Loch Ness monster is a lighthouse on Loch Ness.
  • Them: Huh?
  • You: Oh, Happy Semantic Shift Day by the way!
  • Them: Uggh!

Note: The above conversation is, unfortunately, similar to the way that a free will compatibilist might debate a free will skeptic (except they hardly ever let on). If it isn’t Semantic Shift Day, ask them for their definition immediately! Then you can go through the painstaking task of a long, drawn out, semantic debate – in an attempt to explain to them why their definition isn’t the one of relevance for the topic.

So go ahead! Tell people that you’ve seen big foot and celebrate the geocentricity of our solar system! Have fun with it! And don’t forget to spread the word about Semantic Shift Day! Just make sure that you revert your definitions back after Semantic Shift Day, and that includes any compatibilist (re)definitions of free will.

Now I’m off to go mow down some fairies in my backyard.

The following two tabs change content below.

'Trick Slattery

'Trick Slattery is the author of Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind. He's an author, philosopher, artist, content creator, and entrepreneur. He has loved and immersed himself in philosophy since he was teenager. It is his first and strongest passion. Throughout the years he has built a philosophy based on analytic logic and critical thinking. Some of the topics he is most interested in are of a controversial variety, but his passion for the topics and their importance drives him to want to express these ideas to others. His other passions include pen and ink line art and digital artwork.

Latest posts by 'Trick Slattery (see all)

  4 Responses to “Semantic Shift Day – August 31st”

Comments (4)
  1. Trick,

    Sorry I missed the inception of this new holiday. I think it is Brilliant. I would rank it up there with my rules to The Game of Omnipotence for its satirical excellence.


    • Hah…thanks Steve. What is this “The Game of Omnipotence”…I’d like to read it if it’s available online. :-)

  2. Hi ‘Trick – enjoying your site a lot, and this page is great fun. Fantastic idea. I’ll put it in my diary. September 0th. 😉

 Leave a Reply


Comments in this section should be brief, coherent, and to the point, preferably 1 OR 2 sentences long. Due to this, I've limited comments to 500 characters. Using multiple comments at a single turn will not be approved. I'd like for this comment section to be conversational and not intimidating for people to read or respond to. Essay sized posts, though perhaps interesting, should go elsewhere.  Misinformation or fallacies may not be approved. Click here for more comment rules. I appreciate your understanding. Thanks! 'Trick.


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>