Archive for the ‘the evolution of words’ Category

We’ve all seen the ads on tv or listened to them on radio, companies who start out with praising our “heroes”, talking about protecting us, or advising us on what to do in order to remain safe. Then at the end you see their logo or hear their name and realize it was just another ad. Here is the definition I’ve come across that’s been created for this sly way to promote products in the pandemic days:
disastertise—to contort a simple message about drive-through lanes or beer delivery to paint a company as public servants during an extraordinary moment.
My next posting will elaborate on this and how it’s just another trick to get you to buy their products.

Now that the holidays are over we’re left with tons of packing materials. Ever wonder how Bubble Wrap came about? It started as a decorating product. Alfred Fielding and Marc Shavannes tried making 3D wallpaper in 1957 by creating sheets of trapped air. It never caught on. Fielding realized that what they had come up with could very well be used as next-generation packing material. In 1960 he founded the Sealed Air Corp. They trademarked the name “Bubble Wrap” and the rest is history!

This week’s blog entry comes from the NYTimes “Your Friday Briefing” newlsetter

Today, the word impeachment is associated with the most powerful public officials, but the Latin word it evolved from, “impedicare” (meaning “to fetter, to fix shackles on the feet; to hinder”), evokes a prisoner.

Old French turned it into empechier, from which sprang the Middle English empechen, meaning to physically hinder something (“an impeached ship”) as well as to bring a formal accusation.

Senator William Blount in 1797 became the first American politician to face impeachment, for plotting with the British.

The first recorded use of impeachment in the English Parliament occurred in 1376 with the removal of Baron William Latimer. Having created other levers of accountability, Parliament held its last impeachment in 1806 and now considers the procedure obsolete.

But the term had already been written into the U.S. Constitution. Benjamin Franklin pushed for its inclusion because he feared that the alternative to the legal removal of a corrupt official would be assassination.

Congress first held an impeachment in 1797 with the trial of William Blount, which was, until now, its only impeachment inquiry concerning foreign policy.

Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about a “whistle-blower” in the news. Ever wonder where the term comes from?

This week’s blog entry comes from the NYTimes “Your Friday Briefing” (9/27/19) a newsletter that I subscribe to:

The term “whistle-blower” owes its origin to a 19th-century English toolmaker named Joseph Hudson, the inventor of referee and police whistles.

The first whistle used in a soccer match was probably an early model made by Mr. Hudson in 1878, and he invented an even more piercing whistle for Scotland Yard in the early 1880s. Soon after, in both sports and on the streets, blowing a whistle became a signal that a situation needed urgent attention.

“Whistle-blowing” as a metaphor sporadically appeared in literature in the 20th century, including in works by P.G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler.

While whistle-blowers have existed in the U.S. from its founding, the term itself is relatively new to the political lexicon, appearing to enter the mainstream around 1970.

Soon, the consumer rights advocate Ralph Nader put a more positive spin on the term with the phrase “responsible whistle-blowing,” which eventually led to the passage of the U.S. Whistleblower Protection Act — a piece of legislation that’s playing a role in the impeachment inquiry against President Trump.

When we hear or see the world “alien” the first thing that usually comes to mind is an outer space creature like ET. Next the concept of “strange” as in “this is an alien food recipe might pop into our minds.” It also used to refer to anyone not born in the USA.

Today that last use of the word has mostly been substituted with immigrant or refugee. But the use of the word to refer to someone who didn’t live in your village, who was a stranger i.e not from your tribe or clan, goes back to Biblical times.

Thousands of years ago, written in the Hebrew Bible’s book of Leviticus, (the book that contained Mosaic Law to be followed) the Israelites were commanded by God to “Treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself” (Leviticus 19:34). And we are all familiar with the teachings of Jesus using the parable of the Good Samaritan (which has taken on a non-sectarian definition and become part of our language’s popular vocabulary) to broaden the definition of “alien” to mean everyone is your “neighbor” and worthy of help in time of need regardless of beliefs or background.

How we have strayed from that! How sad that we now see anyone who differs from us as “others”. How sad that we feel we can change our laws to exclude these human beings from being recognized as “neighbors” not worthy of the same standards we have codified in our “Leviticus”, the Constitution! Perhaps what we need is a REAL alien to visit us and show us how to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” (Leviticus 19:18) ET would you please give a call to our Nation’s “home” the White House and ask our President to “come home” to his humanity?

A lot of apologies are being thrown around in the news these days: Presidential candidates apologizing for past attitudes or behaviors, men apologizing for their actions towards women, parents apologizing for scamming Universities in order to get their children accepted.

So what is meant by the word apology and the derivative word apologetics?

The modern usage of apology means asking for forgiveness. It’s another way of saying you’re sorry about some behavior that offended someone. However, the original usage meant to explain one’s behavior or to defend oneself. It came from the Greek word apologia which means to “speak in return, to defend oneself.” Quite the opposite from what the examples listed here were doing! Over time the usage of the word evolved into our common meaning of “I’m sorry.”

However, the word apologetics retains its original intent when it is used by religious and philosophical schools. We’re familiar with it mostly as a branch of theology charged with the defense of Christianity’s beliefs. It means defending one’s faith (or just explaining it) when a non-Christian asks for more information.

What I find intriguing about the contrasting meaning of these two words is that if one apologized for unwanted sexual advances, would a person who refused to say he did wrong and defended his actions be considered “apologetic?” He wouldn’t be defending his “Christian Faith” but in the spirit of the word’s meaning he would be doing as Socrates (explained in his Apology) did in his public trial, explaining why he was innocent of various charges! In fact, in a non-sectarian way, that is exactly what happens in a court trial with each and every case.

Emoji, the 21st century’s cousin to emoticons (remember those? The digital typographical ASCII characters created in the 1970s which looked like needlepoint and were meticulously created by combining standard alphabet characters from a keyboard) have created a whole language that now can be accessed directly from a keyboard like any character set. Ever wonder who creates them or how they are created? Does anyone control this “language” or can just anybody give birth to an emoji and put it out there in cyberspace?

An article in the July 2018 issue of Wired magazine revealed all of these mysteries along with presenting some fascinating facts about emoji evolution. Emoji are not emoticons. Though used in the same fashion and are similar in that they pictographic like Japanese or Chinese characters, they are really a Unicode based “typeface”. However, they were invented by Shigetaka Kurita, a Japanese, in 1999 in response to Japan’s 250 character limit on e-mails. His emoji concept was a way to conserve space within those confines.

There are now more than 2,700 emoji and more get created every year. So who creates them and makes them accessible to you and me? There are two parts to this. Anyone can create an emoji if they know how. But for it to become public it must be submitted to “…the whims of the Sanhedrin of emoji – the Unicode Consortium.” Virginia Heffernan, Atomic Unit- the Delicate Art of Emoji, Wired July 2018

The Unicode Consortium’s chief task is to set the Unicode Standard, thus controlling the way text (typefaces) is encoded and represented in the world’s writing systems. There are twelve dues paying members, one each from: Oracle, IBM, Adobe, Apple, Google, Facebook, Shopify, Netflix, SAP, Huawei, the government of Oman, and UC Berkeley, as well as the governments of India and Bangladesh who have lower-level memberships. (She did not mention in her article how these entities were chosen to become its members.)

After an emoji idea (fully mocked up as to how it will look graphically) is submitted, it gets considered by the Consortium’s subcommittee. Then after lengthy debates within that committee it is rejected or added to the master list. Each year this gets submitted to the Unicode Technical Committee who will debate and vote on which ones will be approved.

There are a few constraints. Your emoji submission can’t represent a deity, a logo, or a specific person (living, dead, or fictional – sorry no Mr. Spock or Pres. Trump allowed!) Nor can it represent something illegal or “gross” or offensive. The submitter must also write a full proposal that includes speculative data as to frequency of use. As Virginia Heffernan writes in her article, “To regulate the development of a language is not, strictly speaking, the American way.” However she goes on to state, “…the regulation of emoji…serve as a singular example of how online communication might be supervised with rigor, generosity, and imagination.”

The commentators are a wealth of knowledge of arcane factoids:

For instance, we’ve all taken a “Jitney”. Some are ferries, some are buses but have you ever wondered where the name came from? Back in the beginning of the 20th century, it cost 5 cents to ride public transportation. A “jitney” was slang for a nickel. The name stuck for the short route transports even though today it costs a hundred times more to ride them!

And have you ever wondered what a group of butterflies are called? They are known as a “Kaleidoscope”.

Here’s a new word: “stream cheating”. This is when you can’t wait for your significant other to stream your favorite TV show.

It has also been dubbed by New York Magazine as “Netflix Adultery”. A Harris Interactive survey on behalf of Netflix said that 51% of those in a relationship would do just that. And gasp, some revealed that they would even watch it a second time and pretend they haven’t seen it.

You’ve used them texting or tweeting in order to save time or characters. But why on earth would anyone create restaurant names like “Thir13en” or a theatre “2econd Stage Theatre” or title for a TV show “Numb3rs”? When reading it silently to yourself, no problem. But how do you pronounce it if, say, you’re on the phone: “Meet me at <?>” you usually wind up spelling it out. 

OK, they are clever, they substitute numerals for letters in a way that looks original and ties the meaning of the numerals to the concept of the name. When you see them you can grasp their originality or playfulness. But when you have to speak them or spell them to someone, usually the explanation creates more confusion that the creator took into consideration.

Urls have used them for years as a way to get around already taken domain names. But in the real world, yes, this might create an original name for your business but is it memorable? Will it last the test of time? What kind of image does it give your brand? Don’t let visually oriented people on your team fall in love with this cutesy way out of a naming problem. And if you think only urls and business names have become victim to this trend, I hear that people are going the numword route in naming their kids! That to me is “dumwords”.