Friday, 16 September 2016
Here we are on Mexican Independence Day. Sadly, although there are words a-plenty today, none of them relate to this important date being celebrated by friends and family. Still, let's proceed ...
Oh, by the way: Strong language this week.
I got the first term for this week from Virginia Hefferman's book Magic and Loss, an extended essay about the cultural impact of the internet. I'll just use a cite from the book to showcase the word and define it:
What we did at Yahoo! News, which the staff called "retroediting," would make the New Yorker staff blanch: we'd post something as soon as the sloppiest draft was ready and edit it after it was available to readers.There are a couple of things I like about the word retroediting. One is that it describes a process that's very familiar to me, as anyone might guess from reading my blog entries or Facebook posts, ack. I've also worked in shops where this approach to editing has been flirted with. He said (im)passively. I also like the word because if someone had asked me to come up with a name for this editing protocol, I would have gotten stuck on post- or after-, and would probably never have stumbled on retro-. This prefix means "backwards," which to me is not an obvious way to describe this after-the-fact process. But I like it. As an aside, I also kind of like the image of the editors at a place like The New Yorker getting the vapors about this protocol.
The book also taught me another term: hyperlexia, which Hefferman uses to refer to our obsession with reading in the age of overwhelming text. Nancy Friedman examines this word in an entry on her blog, which I encourage you to read.
And a second term today. (Third, I guess.) I was put in mind of this one, which is relatively new to me, by the recent passing of Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative activist who's often credited with stopping the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1979. While many people subscribe to a "speak no ill of the dead" philosophy, the passing of certain highly polarizing figures—in my lifetime, that includes Richard Nixon and Strom Thurmond, not to mention Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden—can really test this protocol. In, um, certain circles I saw a number of fuckeulogies for Schlafly, a term coined by John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman in 2011 for their podcast The Bugle. A fuckeulogy is a kind of anti-eulogy: a piece that remembers the things that people didn't like about you. It is ... not nice. But the term itself is clever, I'll give it that.
In unexpected etymology today, we have the word triumph, whose origin I was alerted to by a casual comment in a Facebook post. (You never know where you'll learn about words, eh?) We use triumph today as both a noun meaning "victory" and verb ("to be victorious, to win"). I did learn a while back that in Roman times, a triumph was a kind of victory parade in which a general was granted the right by the senate to make a ceremonial entrance into Rome to show off the spoils and the captives and such. (Well dramatized in the HBO series Rome, if you can tolerate all the sex and violence in that show.) But! This isn't originally a Latin term; those etymologists seem to agree that it derives from a Greek word, thríambos, which is a "hymn to Dionysus/Bacchus." The sense of celebration is still there in the Roman use of triumph, and I guess we still have a faint echo of it, in that to triumph is a stronger (more celebratory?) sense of "to win."
Well, maybe triumph does related to Mexican Independence Day after all.
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Friday words, language