According to Wikipedia, the journalist and author, Russ Rymer said -
"Linguistics is arguably the most hotly contested property in the academic realm. It is soaked with the blood of poets, theologians, philosophers, philologists, psychologists, biologists, anthropologists, and neurologists, along with whatever blood can be got out of grammarians."
It's fascinating to think about how imprecise language can be and yet how well it sometimes works for (or against) us. A simple example, can be seen in the question -
Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?
The short answer is - Who cares?
To a botanist, "technically speaking" a tomato is a fruit (or maybe it's a berry - I don't care). To anybody else a tomato is a tomato, although we might refer to it generically as a vegetable when making a salad, soup or juice. The word vegetable has no scientific meaning so "technically speaking" a tomato is both a fruit and a vegetable. This is nonsense...but bear with me for a second.
So from a scientific point of view, we are not technically correct to call a tomato a vegetable - but if we want to communicate, and not just annoy people by reminding them that botanically-speaking a tomato is a fruit, we fit the tomato into the general category of vegetable.
If you are stocking the produce department in a grocery store you would want to know that tomatoes are considered a vegetable. If you were working on an ad campaign for tomato soup you would not want to use phrases like hot and fruity, great fruit taste, or chock full of fruitiness.
The proper word and it's meaning are contextual.
If I say tomato to a botanist maybe she will immediately think aha he's talking about the seed bearing ovary of a plant, the fruit, the berry. If I said "that's one nice looking tomato", in the right context (1930's) someone might think I was speaking about an attractive woman. If I went to a play and someone asked me how I liked it and I said "I wish I had brought some tomatoes", they might know I didn't like it. If I said "Tomato!" at the Celebratory Tomato Fighting Festival in Buñol Spain, someone might think "Duck!"
But what is a tomato really?
Nothing we can say, or write (although some poets may come close), can define the whatness of a tomato. A tomato might be a tasteless lump of pulp grown hydroponically, or in a greenhouse somewhere, and trucked thousands of miles to a huge supermarket. A tomato might be picked fresh off a vine in a gardener's patch, sliced and lightly salted - for enjoying right on the spot on a sunny summer day.
I find the study of language interesting, but there is something to be said, in a Zen sort of way - for forgetting about language entirely.
Language is so limiting, that in some instances we are better off using dance, sculpture, painting or music to communicate - or we can sometimes fall back on the direct experience of what a thing is.
Back to the tomato (or as some may say - tomahto). Life is so short, we might find our time better spent growing, cooking or eating tomatoes, than trying to decide if a tomato is really a fruit, a veggie or a berry.
Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson