Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Showing posts with label Etymology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Etymology. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2017: The Famine of Memory

This is an early incarnation of the villain, Sauron, when he was known as Mairon. Image Source: The Land of Shadow.

One of the premises of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is that the characters live in a perilous time when real history has been lost. Thus, mortal danger arises not from the arch-villain, exactly, but from the abandoned vigilance of memory.

A later incarnation of Sauron, when he was known as Annatar. Image Source © Angel Falto/Tolkien Gateway.

Another conception of Annatar, who deceived the elves in the Second Age. Image Source © Alaïs/deviantART/Tolkien Gateway.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Establishment after Post-Truth

Image Source: National Enquirer.

This post considers the struggle between the establishment and the precariat to control the dominant narrative in global media. To start, we need to know what the establishment is. The word 'establishment' has a medieval history. From the late 15th century to the early 19th century, it meant a settled economic arrangement, what we would call an annuity, or it was an income gained from property.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Time and Politics 18: Quid Pro Quo

Follow Your Dreams/Cancelled by Banksy (2010) on a wall in Boston's Chinatown. Image Source: Lifehack.

Do not ask if the middle class is dead and where the political blame lies. Ask how much time you have, now that they are dying or already dead. Ask what has happened in the past in other societies after a middle class has died. Most people in the middle classes are waiting for things to improve. If that does not happen, there are two modern roads out of extreme social inequality and economic disparity: revolution or a police state. This was the message, on 20 March 2016, when BBC World News broadcast a programme on the post-recession destruction of the middle classes, entitled The Super Rich and Us, hosted by Jacques Peretti.

For a time after the Second World War, the social contract became quid pro quo - meaning, 'this for that' or 'something for something.' In English-speaking countries, it is a contractual concept under the Common Law, "an item or service traded in return for something of value." The Latin expression is the source for the British slang 'quid' for the pound sterling. One would work for a certain amount of time and gain money and a livelihood in return. Now however, the social contract is increasingly just - quo.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Breaking Newspeak's Faustian Bargains

Image Source: Escapist Magazine.

In the new Millennium, online surveillance comes hand-in-hand the media's external imposition upon, and transformation of, internal thought. It is not news that Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) has arrived as a horrendous reality, although the UK is not yet known merely as Airstrip One. In some ways, the arrival is so horrendous that a portion of the public lives day by day in denial or willful ignorance, because it is easier to believe that things are not as bad as that. On 3 March 2014, Toronto Star columnist reported on the GCHQ collection of Yahoo users' video feeds and insisted, yes, it is as bad as that; we are living in a science fiction novel, where our own word processors are subject to outside control:
Whenever British journalist Luke Harding, working on his new book about spying whistleblower Edward Snowden, wrote something disparaging about the NSA, a weird thing would happen.
“The paragraph I had just written began to self-delete. The cursor moved rapidly from the left, gobbling text. I watched my words vanish,” Harding wrote in the Guardian this week.
The deletes kept happening for weeks. “All authors expect criticism,” wrote Harding, author of the new and astounding The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man. “But criticism before publication by an anonymous, divine third party is something novel.”
Finally, Harding politely asked whoever was doing it to consider stopping. A month later, they finally did.
He has no idea who did this. Were they American or British, a hacker or an offended National Security Agency analyst? We know they were reading Harding’s words as they were written but were they also watching him via a Skype-like device?
The news that GCHQ— the British surveillance agency that teams with the NSA and spy agencies in other allied “Five Eyes” nations, including Canada — has been intercepting and storing Yahoo webcam chats globally is eerie. We knew they could read what you typed, we suspect they can do this in real time, but now the massive Snowden leaked papers reveal that they can watch you talking to your nearest and dearest. Worse, you may have been naked at the time.
A program codenamed Optic Nerve gathered millions of stills from webcam chats between 2008 and 2010 and sent them in for viewing. In one six-month period alone, Optic Nerve scooped up images from more than 1.8 million Yahoo accounts around the world, the Guardian has reported.
Yahoo says it knew nothing of this.
In effect, people’s computer screens have become devices from Nineteen Eighty-Four where humans watch a screen that watches them back. But at least Winston Smith knew he was being watched.
In case you would like to know, the word processor that Guardian journalist Luke Harding was using was OpenOffice, which plainly lives up to its name. The Guardian has been in the thick of the Snowden leaks from the beginning. Harding admits that the entire staff felt paranoid. This post asks whether Orwell's dystopia is really here; or whether his Nineteen Eighty-Four world can still become a 'near miss,' a terrible alternate history that can still be narrowly avoided.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Hallows' Eve Countdown: The Curse of Tolkien's One Ring

The Vyne ring, aka the Ring of Silvianus. Image Source: BBC.

BBC has reported on the likely original source for Sauron's One Ring in J. R. R. Tolkien's stories. The history of the ring is complicated. It was found in a farmer's field near Silchester, in Hampshire, UK, in 1785. In 1929, with Tolkien's help, archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler connected the ring to a curse tablet in a late Roman Celtic temple in Gloucestershire, 100 miles away. The curse tablet describes a stolen ring. The area around the temple was also awash in superstitions about elves and dwarves. It is commonly believed that this research helped inspire Tolkien's The Hobbit (1937) and the The Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954-1955).

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Saudade for the Pre-Tech World

Youtube has a lot of great twentieth century media, which let us know just how different things were only 15 years ago.  One Youtube channel called Retrontario plays snippets from television shows and advertisements played locally in the Canadian province of Ontario in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. For those familiar with the area and time, Retrontario particularly conjures up the way Toronto used to be, when it still deserved the nickname 'Toronto the Good' (see my related post here).

Retrontario also carries several examples of TVOntario's public television offerings. Founded in 1970, TVOntario was and is Ontario's answer to America's PBS. It flourished in the 1970s and 1980s, when public TV was at its height. For decades, TVO's Elwy Yost hosted popular highbrow chatter about cinema and movie-making on Magic Shadows (1974-mid-1980s; see the opening here) and Saturday Night at the Movies (Yost hosted SNAM from 1974-1999; the show will be cancelled at the end of the 2012-2013 season due to budget cuts).  The end of a show like this symbolizes the end of an era on public television, pioneered by the so-called Silent Generation.

The province of Ontario has sometimes epitomized a negative stereotype of the Canadian character: stodgy, stuffy, earnest, traditional. The mentality of Toronto's sober, cautious, polite and well-fed burghers prompted Jan Morris to call ending up in Toronto, "second prize in life" in her book, Among the Cities.

However, on the positive side, it was that same stolid propriety that saw TVOntario cultivate in Ontario's public TV audience a civic attitude and responsibility toward intellectual engagement with culture. In a way similar to some efforts in the United States at this time, on PBS, and notably by Bill Cosby on The Cosby Show, TVO saw television as a medium of education. The aim was to depict a desired, prosperous and cultivated society. Television programs which dealt with popular and mainstream culture were crafted toward this larger purpose of higher culture.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Crowdsourcing the World's Oldest Translation

Image Source: BBC.

BBC reports that the world's oldest known written language, Proto-Elamite, will soon be deciphered by Oxford University academics. University researchers are using a special machine to photograph the writing from all angles. In order to speed up the process, they are also opening up the project to public input, in the hope that crowdsourcing may shed more light on translations:
The clay tablets were put inside this machine, the Reflectance Transformation Imaging System, which uses a combination of 76 separate photographic lights and computer processing to capture every groove and notch on the surface of the clay tablets.

It allows a virtual image to be turned around, as though being held up to the light at every possible angle.

These images will be publicly available online, with the aim of using a kind of academic crowdsourcing.

... [Oxford professor Jacob Dahl] says it's misleading to think that codebreaking is about some lonely genius suddenly understanding the meaning of a word. What works more often is patient teamwork and the sharing of theories. Putting the images online should accelerate this process.
You can see the main project site here, which includes many images of the tablets with samples of this language. The site describes the language as follows:
Proto-Elamite is the last un-deciphered writing system from the Ancient Near East with a substantial number of sources (more than 1600 published texts). It was used for a relatively short period around 3000 BC across what is today Iran. Proto-Elamite is a derived writing system originating from the Uruk invention of writing in southern Mesopotamia during the middle of the 4th millennium BC. Scribes in Susa in southwestern Iran took over a majority of the numerical signs as well as many of the numerical systems from the older proto-cuneiform system.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

From Aurochs to Ūruz to U

A cave painting of an Auroch, dating to 17,300 years ago, Lascaux, France. Image Source: Heraclitian Fire.

The core of civilization hinges on the domestication of animals, above all, the cow. According to geneticists, the source of all domestic cattle boils down to one prehistoric herd of 80 head of cattle in what is now Iran. In March 2012, DNA research from scientists from the CNRS and National Museum of Natural History in France, the University of Mainz in Germany, and UCL in the UK traced the domestication of this herd back to a period 10,500 years ago (Hat tip: i09). That herd engendered the total number of cows in the world today, approximately 1.3 billion, or roughly one bovine for every seven humans on earth.

Cave paintings of Aurochs, dating to 17,300 years ago, Lascaux, France. Image Source: Prof saxx via Wiki.

These cows were not the cows we know, but an ancestor of modern cows (Bos taurus and Bos indicus - the Zebu), called the Auroch (Bos primigenius, also known as "urus" and "wisent"). Evolving some 2 million years ago in India, they were much bigger, more aggressive and generally tougher animals than our modern cows; we would find their stature similar to that of the American Bison. There are some die hard nostalgics who believe that Aurochs still survive, tucked away in secluded Eastern European valleys (a Romanian video purportedly of modern Aurochs, also known as the Zimbru, here, admittedly shows massive animals on dainty legs, which look an awful lot like the cave paintings). The author of that video refers to yet another Millennial popular study which peculiarly brings prehistory right into the 21st century and states:
You’ll find a lot of things very different than what you’ve been taught. Two animals of the bovine family are claimed to be in existence in Romania; one is called BOUR and the other is ZIMBRU (alias AUROCH). The BOUR is the ancestor of cattle, not the AUROCH. The bour is a smaller animal, but has big horns and that’s where the confusion is. Etymologically, the word BOUR fits with BOS—meaning oxen in Greek and Latin. In addition, AUROCH does fit with TAURUS (meaning bull in Greek and Latin) but that word came about because bour (wild cattle) bulls were much bigger than the cow. Hence, TAUROS. The literal translation from Latin is “like a TAURO”, TAURO being the name of the Auroch. The confusion comes from the fact that Western scientists talk about only one animal, when in fact there are two.
Despite these popular musings, researchers insist that Aurochs are extinct. They claim that the last Auroch, a cow, died in Poland in 1627. These animals lived especially in northern climes, but generally covered Europe, Russia, North Africa, the Near and Middle East, Central Asia, India and Asia.

A cave painting of an Auroch, dating to 17,300 years ago, Lascaux, France. Image Source: Heraclitian Fire.

Palaeontologists view cave paintings as contemporary Stone Age historical records of Aurochs and hence know how they appeared. The DNA sequence of the Auroch was determined in 2010. Perhaps the current boom in genetic research explains why Ice Age creatures have lately enjoyed a vogue in Millennial culture.

Given the tremendous importance of the Auroch, it is not surprising that early writing systems incorporated bovinely-inspired letters and pictograms. In northern Europe's Proto-Germanic and Old Norse languages, the rune which depicted an Auroch was Ūruz or Ur. In Old English, it was indicated by Ur or Yr. This letter became a predecessor of U or Y. The rune also means 'water' or 'rain.'

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Nuclear Leaks 16: Chernobyl Anniversary - Wormwood Will Fall from the Sky

Control room in Chernobyl's Reactor #4. Image © (2005) Gerd Ludwig via Boston Globe.

Today is the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Alla Yaroshinskaya, former Deputy to the USSR Supreme Soviet summed up the outcome: "The most dangerous element that came out of the Chernobyl reactor wasn't Cesium or Plutonium, but lies. The lie of '86, that's what I call it, a lie that was propagated like the radioactivity throughout the whole country and the entire world." Above, the control room of Chernobyl's Reactor #4 mirrrors worries about Fukushima's Reactor #4 (a number considered to be bad luck in Asia).

In 1986 and 1987, 240,000 liquidators and support workers passed through Chernobyl to contain the crisis. They were called biorobots. Ultimately, 600,000 people were recognized for their clean-up work; and according to the IAEA, there were 100,000 more who went unrecognized. Greenpeace claims that there was a total of 800,000 liquidators. National Geographic has some photographs of these workers here. The IAEA sees no direct correlation between their radiation exposure and their later cancer rates. Perhaps 40,000 are dead now, and some 100,000, now in their forties, are disabled and suffer from unending health problems, with about 4,000 dying every yearTheir children exhibited a seven-fold increase in genetic mutations. Their predicament has not been systematically studied or fully acknowledged. The debate on the number of deaths caused by the accident is inconclusive to say the least: Chernobyl's total number of deaths lies somewhere between 43 people and 1 million people.

The liquidators' efforts cannot be underestimated; they prevented a second explosion and China Syndrome at Chernobyl, which could have rendered Europe uninhabitable. The sheer size of the workforce, the speed at which they had to work, the resources they needed, and the costs involved to contain the fallout at Chernobyl all make Fukushima's smaller, valiant total workforce at the one year point of around 18,000 extremely worrying. Chernobyl is widely considered to be one of the key factors which brought down the Soviet Union.

The main medal (here) given by Soviet authorities to liquidators features a drop of blood irradiated with alpha and beta particles and gamma rays. First responders additionally received a medal with Lenin on it. There are various other medals for special workers, such as firefighters, and anniversary medals (see also here). One commemorative medal features a pregnant woman on one side and a Chernobyl clock on the other. According to Wiki, liquidator medals have been available for sale since the 1990s in Belarussian, Ukrainian and Russian markets. As their recipients died, some medals were sold by surviving family members. They are also sold on the Internet by antique dealers.

Mythology, water spirits and radiation: Chornobyl (Artemisia vulgaris) roots were traditionally used to banish Slavonic water nymphs, or rusalkyThis is: Renée Fleming singing Song of the Moon in Dvořák's Rusalka in a NY Met production. In folk medicine, overdosing on Chornobyl roots led to memory loss.

The Chernobyl disaster (described in this excellent documentary) has not just engendered lies. It has also become interwoven with popular culture and Biblical, Renaissance and Millennial eschatologies. It is, in fact, an object lesson in how engineering and scientific failures can easily and rapidly enter the realm of myth, symbols, superstitions and religious dreams. With Chernobyl, it happened almost immediately, starting with a July 1986 article in the New York Times, which associated the name of the exploded nuclear reactor with the Wormwood Star in the Bible's Book of Revelation. In this post, I trace a winding, very strange road to follow how the religious and linguistic etymology of the word 'Wormwood' contributed to the mythologizing of this nuclear event.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hallowe'en Countdown 7: The Military and the Paranormal

Still from: The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009). Image Source: Overture/Momentum via Daily Mail.

Odd, isn't it, how paranoia and paranormal sound similar? They share a common Greek and Latin prefix.  Wiki: "The word paranoia comes from the Greek 'παράνοια' (paranoia), 'madness' and that from 'παρά' (para), 'beside, by' + 'νόος' (noos), 'mind.'"  Wiki's definition of 'paranormal':
“Paranormal” has been in the English language since at least 1920. It consists of two parts: para and normal. In most definitions of the word paranormal, it is described as anything that is beyond or contrary to what is deemed scientifically possible. The definition implies that the scientific explanation of the world around us is the 'normal' part of the word and 'para' makes up the above, beyond, beside, contrary, or against part of the meaning. Para has a Greek and Latin origin. Its most common meaning (the Greek usage) is 'similar to' or 'near to', as in paragraph. In Latin, para means 'above,' 'against,' 'counter,' 'outside,' or 'beyond'. For example, parapluie in French means 'counter-rain' – an umbrella. It can be construed, then, that the term paranormal is derived from the Latin use of the prefix 'para', meaning 'against, counter, outside or beyond the norm.'
I've done a few blog posts in this countdown that deal with social or professional positions which oblige people to deal directly or indirectly with whatever is considered to be paranormal.  These people are not conventional paranormal skeptics.  But parents, doctors, religious leaders, hoteliers - and further, police, lawyers and real estate agents - are all people who have to square paranormal happenings or the belief in paranormal events with rationalized, institutionalized realities.  It's always interesting to see how strange happenings and ideas are dealt with by the laws regarding the sale of property, for example, or framed in terms of regulations and conventions established as the bases of law enforcement, scientific investigation, educational organization, commercial transactions and so on. These are after all, the systems and structures that form the foundations of working societies. If those can be overwhelmed or appropriated by the credulous and rejigged to prove the unprovable (as is done in the pseudo-science of ghost hunting) the very integrity of the original rationalized system is called into question. 

Does that erosion of what we certainly know and what we can solidly accomplish ultimately lend credibility to the paranormal?  The paranormal is generally used to describe the grey areas where conventional wisdom bleeds away.  It's the frayed edge.  But some of it only gains legitimacy in retrospect: there are hundreds of examples where incidents once thought of as 'magical' or 'supernatural' in the past were later proved scientifically as natural phenomena, starting with eclipses, and moving on down through terrifying diseases like the Black Death.  When it comes to the paranormal, the conventions of sanity only run backwards in time.

One area of human activity where the rational push is fowards through the murk and mystery, in spite of all caveats, is in military actions.  This is the case even more than in the pure sciences (which progress by testing successive theories).  Military action, depends on action, including gross mistakes, endured at terrible costs.  In his essay on Kipling (which you can read here), George Orwell attacked opposition armchair quarterbacks who criticized imperialism.  He said: it's all very well to point figures, pass judgment and have theories and notions about what is right and wrong.  But imperialists were people who had to make decisions out in the field, in real circumstances, and had to act in the face of impossible situations. They had to answer the question: what would you do?  Even if you question why imperialists were in those impossible situations in the first place (which Orwell certainly did), his fundamental premise remained and remains.

Of all the systems set up on earth to cope with chaos, violence and disorder in a rationalized and orderly way, military cultures are probably number one. Since military personnel have to function with high efficiency in extremely difficult, sometimes irrational circumstances, they are in a way on the fringe as well. Military staff are on the cutting edge of what works, and what doesn't - what makes sense, and what doesn't.  But under extreme circumstances, the distinction between the real and unreal is not that easy.  Consider something as surreal as going over the top in the First World War. Sometimes you have to wear both hats at once.  At times, this very paradox puts conspiracy theorists, Fortean researchers and military operatives on the edge together, on the same patch.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Great Millennial Oxymoron

I began thinking about Millennial oxymorons while writing my post on the marketing of strawberry ice cream, where I mentioned a few of them.  Here's a list of paradoxical expressions.  Surely it is a sign of the times, of the struggles between opposites: the real and virtual, the old and the new, the local and the global.  Many of these examples come from online socializing, economics, marketing, militarism, trade, politics and globalization; and from areas where the impacts of globalization combine first with the Technological Revolution.  Entire sites are devoted to oxymorons here and here, which show how confused and conflicted our times are.  A lot of these expressions involve qualifying something by juxtaposing it with its opposite characteristic.  Millennial sensibilities seek an unspoken middle ground by mentioning contending extremes in the same breath.  It again shows Orwell's brilliance in imagining a future society, which was based on lies claimed as truths, in Nineteen Eighty-Four.  A list, from hundreds of expressions that are common right now:
  • History of the future
  • 'Real' estate
  • Tax return
  • All or nothing
  • Good is evil and evil is good
  • Organic produce
  • Retro-futuristic
  • Social networking
  • Dying is a part of life
  • Graduate student
  • Shabby chic
  • Unemployment benefit
  • Global village
  • Credit management
  • Semiretired
  • Definitely maybe
  • Reverse mortgage loan (aka Home equity conversion mortgage)
  • Safe sex
  • Rules of war
  • Cruel to be kind
  • Strangely familiar
  • Casual sex
  • Arrested development
  • Wireless cable
  • Science fiction
  • Hearts and minds
  • Clean hack
  • Savings and loan
  • Preventable death
  • Green manufacturing
  • Disposable income
  • Bittersweet
  • Tragi-comedy
  • Sight unseen
  • Consumer durables
  • Approach avoidance
  • Peaceful protests
  • Thinking out loud
  • Assisted suicide
  • Backwards compatibility
  • Finally again
  • Accelerated decrepitude
  • Fictional reality
  • True lies
  • Retroactive continuity
  • Based on a true story
  • Constructive criticism
  • Planned obsolescence
  • Mass customization
  • Known covert operation
  • Friends with benefits
  • More or less
  • The long and the short of it
  • Loose ends
  • On-Off relationship
  • Life after death
  • Love-Hate relationship
  • Delayed response
  • Lightweight
  • Instant classic
  • Guaranteed forecast
  • Scientific belief
  • Fallout shelter
  • Rent to own (Rental purchase)
  • Peacekeeping force
  • Voluntary regulation
  • Constant change
  • Relationship closure
  • Business casual
  • Rent free
  • Going nowhere
  • Awfully (or terribly) nice
  • Extended deadline
  • Shared experience
  • The future is today (or now)
  • Profligately destitute
  • Subliminal advertising
  • Initial conclusion
  • Guerilla marketing
  • Niche market
  • Deficit spending
  • Real fake
  • Genuine imitation
  • Convergent evolution
  • Half naked
  • Click the start button to shut down
  • Benign neglect
  • Negative equity
  • Corporate culture
  • Fusion culture
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • Harmless lie
  • Cyberspace
  • Passive aggressive
  • Short term memory
  • Hopelessly optimistic
  • No comment
  • Dynamic stability
  • Non-verbal communication
  • Virtual reality
  • Random acts of kindness
  • Interest free loan
  • Expect the unexpected
  • Freedom is slavery
  • Nothing much
  • Negative growth
  • Direct circumvention
  • Non-denominational church
  • Identity theft
  • Knowing someone by their online persona
  • Calculated risk
  • Internet security
  • Eyes wide shut
  • Work spouse (office husband or office wife)
  • Young adult
  • Zero deficit
  • Fairly accurate
  • Unpaid interns replace laid off paid workers
  • Diminishing growth
  • Stagnant growth
  • Old news
  • Avatar identity
  • Conventional wisdom
  • Agree to disagree
  • Artificial intelligence

Sunday, May 29, 2011

How Historical Events Change Language

A traumatic event can spawn a whole bunch of new words.  People on the other side of the event have a new vocabulary.

How do historical events - especially traumatic ones - change language?  One way is through the coining of neologisms. For example, while the 2008-2012? Great Recession persists, Time has done a little online piece about 'Post-Recession Lingo':
Adding to the list of post-recession terms such as "unbanked" (individuals without checking or savings accounts), "anti-dowry" (student loan debt holding you back from getting married or buying a house), and "Groupon remorse" (regret felt upon buying a daily deal you can't use or never really wanted), here's a roundup of zeitgeist-y phrases, including "squatter's rent," "light bulb anxiety," and "not retiring." 
"Financially Fragile"
If an emergency occurred and you needed to come up with $2,000 within 30 days, could you do it? (Legally, hopefully?) If not, then you'd be categorized as "financially fragile," and researchers say that nearly half of Americans fit the description. ...

"Light Bulb Anxiety"
This fear, based on oft-misunderstood legislation intended to phase out usage of traditional incandescent light bulbs, has caused business owners and everyday consumers to stock up the old-fashioned bulbs by the thousands, according to the NY Times. Why all the hoarding? Many people just prefer the light given off by incandescent bulbs over LED or compact fluorescent bulbs. Also, there are plenty of people who aren't sold on the idea that the new-fangled bulbs really save all that much money or energy: In one survey, one-third of homeowners who paid for energy-efficiency upgrades (including switching to CFL bulbs) hadn't seen the decrease in energy bills that they expected.

"Squatter's Rent"
Also referred to as "free rent," it's the money a homeowner—soon to be ex-homeowner, most likely—gets to keep each month when he stops paying the mortgage and has yet to be kicked out of the home. "Squatter's rent" around the nation is estimated to come to a total of $50 billion this year.
I have suffered from Light Bulb Anxiety, so I guess I'm glad there's a term for it.

New techniques in expression and new terms are needed to think about that which was previously unthinkable.  New words are signposts, showing us where the 'before' and 'after' of history are.  The removal of words indicates a break with the past.  But what happens to these linguistic reactions over the long term?  Do neologisms survive?  Do obliterated words, once forbidden by historical memories or historical shame, ever make a big return?  Sometimes, a population does away with their whole language altogether, and switches to another one, apparently better suited to the aftermath.  Finally, traumatic histories tend to produce new forms of language focussed on changing our understanding of time.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Want Another Plate of Shrimp? Etymological Signposts to the Collective Unconscious

Hotel (2010). © By Majora28 (homepage here). Reproduced with kind permission.

Occasionally, the MSM sites put out funny little reports that some bizarre new word has made it into the dictionary as part of their offbeat commentaries on how the impact of the Tech Revolution is changing our language and thus, affecting the way we communicate organically as well as mechanically. Usually these hot new words are cribbed from the user-generated Urban Dictionary or Netspeak.  For example, Time recently reported here that 'Zombie Bank' and 'BFF' made it into the most recent edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary. Of course, the OED and its variants are renowned as much for their historical etymologies as they are for scooping up the latest words from the wash of pop culture that not everyone even considers words yet.  One portmanteau that I am starting to see, and wishing I wasn't, is 'underdig,' a dismal combination of 'to dig something' in a 60s' sense (as in, to 'really understand something') and 'to understand.'  Aside from these newcomers, what I've found equally interesting is the resurgence of certain standard words which suddenly, thanks to technology, I hear everyone saying.  I'd say this dynamic of particular words becoming popular is a sign of how the collective unconscious works.