Words and contexts, which give scope to many meanings, are common in non-scientific literature. This does not mean that those words and contexts are ambiguous. They are just versatile and can cross simple literary meanings. Poets (either with less-effort or effortlessly) come up with verse which have multiple dimensions. Yes, I think “dimension” is a better term.
What I am trying to address here is not the multi-meaning psyche of a poet, rather the exploitation of symbols to convey things in the taboo zone. Most of us recognize the hidden intentions of a cinema dialogue, which is written to convey a second meaning. (I prefer to use the phrase “second meaning” to “double meaning” because it will help me arrive at a conclusion later). By that statement, it is evident that most of us can think in terms of second meaning, wherever it is intended.
We have come up with many ideas to tackle many ‘forbidden’ thoughts. Use of second meanings, perhaps is one of the most popular ways of achieving it. High School and College students have an unwritten dictionary of words that is used only in close circles. Many of those words sound awful. However, we should remember that a majority of students have not lost their sense of timing when they use those words. Good for them and the society. It is also true that when people use those words, they enjoy every bit of it (for obvious reasons). Moreover, second meanings need not always involve only ‘that’ reference.
Although I understand the second meanings which are common around me, I do not actively seek them. Like many other things, even second meanings come in different qualities and quantities. What we get in market is mostly beautified scrap. High quality (subjective?) second meaning, I believe is necessary, because it gives a lot of scope to humor.
Recently, I was reading a decent piece of poetry. I was trying to see if there were any symbols and words that could add a second or a third dimension to the poet’s intention. Unintentionally, I felt as though the poet was unintentionally introducing symbols of a second meaning. A general adult readership and an unintentional second meaning should not and will not be a problem. Since, I personally knew the poet, I sent an email. We had a short conversation and a scheduled discussion (yet to happen) to follow.
Are second, third, and fourth (or nth) meanings of a word, or a phrase or a context, necessary to convey what one wants to convey? It appears that like many other symbols, even second meanings gain value because they are not direct. They may lack a new dimension yet are good enough for a temporary comic relief. Once you actively start seeking for a second or third meaning in what you hear/read, you get into trouble. Because, it is very easy to arrive at them, even when they are absent!!