Category Archives: Blogging

#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.

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Jargon

Jargon “Jargon, it might be said, has become, in some modern uses, a jargon word. It is now most commonly used to describe, unfavourably or contemptuously,  the vocabulary of certain unfamiliar branches of knowledge or intellectual positions.” From Keywords, where Williams also remarks that: “…it is also true that the use of a new term or the new definition of a concept is often the necessary form of a challenge to other ways of thinking or of indication of new and alternative ways.”

From Wikipedia: Modern versus Post-Modern opinions on the use of jargon – “George Orwell, a socialist, leftist, and Marxist, believes in the modern style of language, deeming that good writing is clear and simple. In his essay, “Politics and the English Language,” he states the following arguments: technical language is nothing but an oratorical trick, simple language is required to clarify difficult concepts, while complex language is needed to explain simple concepts, and lastly, political language is structured to make lies seem like the truth. In short, Orwell is articulating that specialized language is not essential.

Judith Butler presents several postmodernist rebuttals to Orwell’s arguments. She states that difficult concepts need to be expressed with specialized vocabulary, or jargon. She quotes Marcuse, who believes that if people could use plain language to describe something, they would. She is attempting to prove that jargon is natural and necessary. Butler also says “language conditions thought,” meaning that the words we use shape the way we think. Stephen Roney responds to that by saying that if language fully conditioned thought, we would not be able to think about language. The last argument that Butler states is “if you’re talking about something obscure, your language should be obscure to reflect this accurately.”

Butler believes that specialized vocabulary is essential in writing and oratory because language should mirror reality. Orwell opposes most of her arguments with his modern style of language by saying that simplicity is the key to good writing and dialect because language should be easy for the audience to comprehend.”

#AtoZAprilChallenge: -isms

Ism Williams says: “There have been isms, and for that matter ists,  as far back as we have records. Ism and ist are Greek suffixes. Ism was used in English to form a noun of action (baptism); of a kind of action (heroism); and of actions and beliefs characteristic of some group (Atticism, Judaism) or tendency (Protestantism, Socialism) or school (Platonism). Ist was used to form various agent-nouns (psalmist) and also nouns to indicate an adherent of some system or teacher (altruist, Thomist)…

Isms and ists are still used, wittily or contemptuously (often with a sense of rapturous originality) but usually from orthodox or conservative positions, and even by scientists, economists and those professing patriotism.”

See also the Ism Book, a Field Guide to Philosophy, by Peter Saint-Andre

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Hegemony

Yalta summit, 1945 “Hegemony was probably taken directly into English from Greek, egemonia, (derived from) egemon – leader, ruler, often in the sense of a state other than his own. Its sense of political predominance, usually of one state over another, is not common before C19, but has since persisted and is now fairly common, together with hegemonic, to describe a policy expressing or aimed at political predominance. More recently hegemonism has been used to describe specifically  ‘great power’ or ’superpower’ politics, intended to dominate others, indeed hegemonism has some currency as an alternative to Imperialism.” (Keywords)

For a balanced view of the world-historical perspective, from Chaos and Governance in the Modern World System (Giovanni Arrighi & Beverly J. Silver): “Whereas domination rests primarily on coercion, the leadership that defines hegemony rests on the capacity of the dominate group to present itself, and be perceived, as the bearer of general interest.”

See also: Hidden Persuaders

Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty #DPChallenge #WritersWednesday

For this week’s challenge, you must write a fifty-word story. Not five thousand, not five hundred, but precisely fifty words.

riverIt looked familiar. That place I knew, without knowing its name. The river, the willow trees, the narrow path close to the water edge.

Then I heard your voice, and I walked in your direction. How quiet was the world, how fast my heart was beating. How dead we were.

#AToZAprilChallenge: Genius

Salvatore Bruno Wikipedia: “A genius is a person who displays exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of an unprecedented leap of insight. This may refer to a particular aspect of an individual, or the individual in his or her entirety; to a scholar in many subjects (e.g. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz or Leonardo da Vinci)[1] or a scholar in a single subject (e.g., Albert Einstein or Charles Darwin). There is no scientifically precise definition of genius, and the question of whether the notion itself has any real meaning has long been a subject of debate.”

Genius came into English from C14, in its main Latin sense  – from genius – a guardian spirit. It was extended to mean ‘a characteristic disposition or quality’ from C16, as still in ‘every man has his genius’ (Johnson, 1780), and ‘barbarous and violent genius of the age’ (Hume, 1754). The development towards the dominate modern meaning of ‘extraordinary ability’ is complex; it occurred, interactively, in both English and French, and later German. It seems to have been originally connected with the idea of ‘spirit’ through the notion of ‘inspiration’… This sense is always close to the developing sense of Creative… A good test case is ‘the English genius for compromise’. (Keywords)