I hear this phrase from time to time, and I really don't know what it means. Two people are debating, and one says "the difference between your position and mine is just a matter of semantics." This would seem to me to be quite an important difference. That is, if one person means one thing, and the other person means something else, then they really do have different positions.
If they said "it is just a matter of terminology" or "just a matter of phrasing" I would get it. But if someone says "we differ only what we mean" ... it kinda makes me chuckle because it seems to be saying that their meaning is not important, as if the argument was primary and the positions they take a secondary consideration.
So I started looking around for examples of this. I guess it seems that there is a popular notion that semantics is about very fine distinctions, such as: I think it's just a matter of semantics, not so much a difference per se
Another interpretation seems to be that semantics is the difference between two ways of saying the same thing: I usually involve the students in the creation of classroom rules. To me, we are just agreeing upon how we can make our classroom a safe and fun place to be. I don’t know if it’s really so different from a DWS approach of having procedures, but “no rules.” Isn’t this just a matter of semantics?
Maybe it is just a way of stopping an annoying conversation: In ordinary conversations, when people debate a point and the words they are using for discussion they often backhand this disagreement with the phrase “It’s a matter of semantics.”
And then there is some usage that I simply don't understand: I recently spoke at a mens' event in which one of the participants asked me if having a good and noble heart was just a matter of semantics. -- In other words, does it really matter?
And also: The Argument for and against the 6-3-3-4 system of education has raged on as stakeholders give conflicting position on whether it stays or not .... the 6-3-3-4 policy is just a matter of semantics, the government cannot take decisions without due consultations.
Still, to me it is just a meaningless phrase. Am I missing an important meaning here?