#AtoZAprilChallenge: Quibble

Pythia A quibble, from Google, is a “slight objection or criticism”. This is not to be confused with a squabble, “a noisy quarrel about something trivial”.

The verb quibble, according to Merriam-Webster, is “to evade the point of an argument by cavilling (“to raise trivial objections”) about words”.

From Wikipedia: “In terms of fiction, a quibble is a plot device, used to fulfill the exact verbal conditions of an agreement in order to avoid the intended meaning. Typically quibbles are used in legal bargains and, in fantasy, magically enforced ones.

In one of the best known examples, William Shakespeare used a quibble in The Merchant of Venice. Portia saves Antonio in a court of law by pointing out that the agreement called for a pound of flesh, but no blood, and therefore Shylock can collect only if he sheds no blood.”

Image: John Collier (1850-1934), Priestess of Delphi

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Pragmatic

Joseph Stalin, 1912 Williams writes: “Pragmatic is now most often used, especially of politicians and politics, in contrast either with dogmatic or with principled, according to point of view.” I find this definition interesting, since the latter would imply that it may be difficult to be both pragmatic and principled!

I would prefer the opposition, or contrast, between pragmatic and cartesian, the latter implying adherence to reason and logic. But Williams concludes: “…the word has been useful as a dignified alternative to unprincipled or timeserving, especially in political movements which profess a set of beliefs and which decide, under pressure, to neglect discard or betray them, but with a show of skill and intelligence.”

Related: article on Cartesianism on Wikipedia. Note that this article does not oppose the two!

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Organic

Alive The term Organic may refer to an organism, or living entity, or to an organ. Wikipedia lists Organic references in: Chemistry (carbon-based chemistry, chemistry of carbon-based compounds), Agriculture and Farming (organic agriculture “conducted according to certain standards, especially the use of methods of fertilisation and pest control”, organic horticulture, organic food), Computing (organic computer built form neurones, computer systems with properties of self-configuration), Economics (organic growth “as opposed to mergers, acquisitions and take-overs”, flat structure businesses), Military (organic unit, “a permanent part of a larger unit that provides some specialised capability”), Law (organic or fundamental law), Music (several albums under that name, e.g. Freak Kitchen, 2005, and Joe Cocker, 1996) and a few others.

From Keywords: “Organic has a specific meaning in modern English, to refer to the processes or products of life, in human beings, animals or plants. It has also an important applied or metaphorical meaning, to indicate certain kinds of relationship and thence kinds of society…

The source of its common specific modern meaning is the major development of natural history and biology in C18, when it acquired a dominate reference to things living and growing.”

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Naturalism #WritersWednesday

The Memory Remains by valeskamoura Naturalism in literature (from Wikipedia): “Naturalism was a literary movement or tendency from the 1880s to 1940s that used detailed realism to suggest that social conditions, heredity, and environment had inescapable force in shaping human character. It was a mainly unorganized Literary movement that sought to depict believable everyday reality, as opposed to such movements as Romanticism or Surrealism, in which subjects may receive highly symbolic, idealistic, or even supernatural treatment.”

From Keywords: “Naturalism is now primarily a critical term of literature or of art, but it is a more complex word, as its history indicates, than is usually realised. It first appeared in English, from C17, as a term in religious and philosophical argument. It had been preceded by naturalist, in the same context, from C16. It followed a particular sense of Nature in which there was a contrast with God or spirit. To study the natural causes of events, or to explain or justify morality form nature or human nature, was to be a naturalist and to propound naturalism, although the actual terms seem to have been conferred by their opponents… Naturalist was a common C17 term for natural  philosopher, or as we would now say Scientist: in practice those we would now call physicists or biologists

(From C19) Naturalism in the general philosophical  and scientific sense (was) much influence by the new  and controversial developments in geology and biology and especially by Darwin’s theory of natural selection in Evolution. The school of naturalisme in France was especially affected , as in Zola,  but the idea of the application of scientific method in literature: specifically the study of heredity in the story of a family, but also, more generally, in the sense of describing and interpreting human behaviour  in strictly natural terms, excluding the hypothesis of some controlling or directing force outside human nature.”

Related article on Naturalism in American literature.

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Monopoly

James Christensen 1) Monopoly is a popular board game invented by Parker Brothers and made by the Hasbro toy and game company, dating back from the 30’s, although its origin goes back to 1900’.

2) According to Wikipedia, “a monopoly exists when a single person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity.”

From Williams: “Monopoly can be difficult because it has a common literal meaning but also a rather wider meaning which has been historically important. It came into English in C16 from monopolium (Latin), monopolion (Greek) (from monos: alone, single, and polein: sell). Two senses appear in the early English examples: (i) the exclusive possession of trade in some article, (ii) the exclusive privilege granted by license of selling some commodity…

… The modern phrase monopoly capitalism (describes) a phase of Capitalism in which the market (is) either (a) organised by cartels and the like or (b) dominated by increasingly large corporations. Either use can be criticised form the literal sense of monopoly, which would suggest that large corporations with or without formal cartels do not compete in selling: i.e., that there is only one seller.”

See also:

State Monopoly Capitalism

The Age of Monopoly-Finance Capital

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Liberal

Women's march on Versailles From Wiktionary: “adjective: either

Of or relating to the Liberal party, its membership, or its platform, policy, or viewpoint

Or

Generous, in great amount, a large proportion.

Noun: (politics) a member or supporter of a liberal party

UK (historically) Whig

In Raymond Williams: “Liberal has, at first sight, so clear a political meaning that some of its further associations are puzzling. Yet the political meaning is comparatively modern, and much of the interesting history of the word is earlier.

It began in a specific social distinction, to refer to a class of free men as distinct from others who were not free… In its use in liberal arts - ‘artis liberalis’ (1375) - it was predominantly a class term: the skills and pursuits appropriate, as we should now say, to men of independent means and assured social position, as distinct from other skills and pursuits appropriate to a lower class…

The most serious sense of the socialist use… is the accurate observation that liberalism is a doctrine based on individualist theories of man and society and is thus  in fundamental conflict not only with socialist but with most strictly social theories. The further observation, that liberalism is the highest form of thought  developed within bourgeois society and in terms of capitalism, is also relevant,  for when liberal is not being used as a loose swear-word, it is to this mixture of liberating and limiting ideas that it is intended to refer. Liberalism is then the doctrine of certain necessary kinds of freedom but also, and essentially, a doctrine of possessive individualism.”

See also article on Liberalism and Neoliberalism in Wikipedia.

To my US readers: this post has a definite British flavour, and I do acknowledge that the words liberal, liberalism, Whig etc. have a somewhat different notation in American history and language.

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Keywords

Raymond Williams at Saffron Walden
Original photo by GwydionM (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:GwydionM)

For the purpose of this challenge: Raymond Williams’s book “Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society” (1976-1983)

Author of Culture and Society, published in 1958, Cambridge academic and member of Plaid Cymru, Williams was inspired by his country, Wales, and his love of words, their history and their meaning.  I owe to Williams to participate to this year’s A to Z since without him I may have lacked the motivation!

I invite followers of this blog to read Keywords.

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