Saturday 2 January 2021

Obsolete Words

Do the following words have any meaning in the context of the atheistic, materialistic world of enforced equality and diversity in which we live? Or do they describe old-fashioned, outmoded concepts? If they don't have any meaning where did the meaning they obviously once must have had come from? Was it purely illusionary or did it derive from something we have now forgotten or, worse, denied and rejected?
















I am tempted to add Beauty and Truth. 

Some of these words might still mean something but do they mean what they did? Can they mean what they did in a world that denies transcendence? And are you content to live in a world in which these words have no meaning other than perhaps a literary or artistic one?

Note: The idea for this post comes from Owen Barfield, specifically his short science fiction story Night Operation which describes how our world might be in the 22nd century. Most people live underground in disused sewer systems, driven there by fear of terrorist attacks and airborne biochemical invasions. Barfield doesn't mention climate change but that could also be called into play as a reason for fleeing the open-skied Earth and Nature in this way. Life has been reduced to its biological side only though supported by advanced technology. Barfield's insight is that the meaning of words can change and when that happens we might lose connection to the reality originally described by those words. Then the words might disappear altogether and we have no access to the concepts behind them. Even if we might sense these concepts, without words to describe them we are extremely limited in our ability to come to terms with them. Words can imprison but they can also liberate and release. Without them we would be little better than animals and if we reduce our lexicon qualitatively (quantitatively also but the qualitative sense is more important) we reduce ourselves as human beings.



John Fitzgerald said...

Yes. The response to the virus from various state and media actors has been to discourage and sometimes compel going outside. So we're on our way to Barfield's sewers you might say! The advanced technology he predicted has reached a level now where people can 'manage' with not going out in a way they couldn't in the 1990's, say.

I read yesterday that the Democtatic Party in the US Congress (I think) have drawn up a list of prohibited words - prohibited for their party members in the House anyway. 'Nephew' is one of those words. Why, I don't know. You have to say 'parent's sibling' instead. The word 'nephew', while it might seem on the surface of things a purely descriptive word - a 'naming word' - as we were 'taught' in my 1970s/80s grammar free 'education'! Yet it must be more than that. There must be a value attached to it that the powers that be want to fade out of human consciousness - probably to do with family, kinship, bonds of loyalty, etc. Otherwise they wouldn't have targeted it.

The manipulation and diminution of language in this and related ways is a very communistic thing. Orwell wrote about it briliantlyl in 1984, of course, as did CS Lewis in 'That Hideous Strength.' If you control what can be said and how it can be said then you control what can be thought and how it can be thought. You can make certain concepts and values literally unthinkable, and I'm sure that's the deep aim behind all this.

John Fitzgerald said...

I meant 'discourage people going outside and compel people to stay staying inside.'

William Wildblood said...

John, you say "The advanced technology he predicted has reached a level now where people can 'manage' with not going out in a way they couldn't in the 1990's, say. " That's just it, isn't it? These lockdowns just would not have been possible without modern computers. That means many people can do their work at home and also be entertained without going completely mad. We would not have tolerated lockdowns even 10 years ago. Because we can get by (just) we put up with them. That doesn't mean they are in any wayy right. I believe the psychological effects, never mind the physical and economic ones, will be a terrible price to pay.

One day, they will go for mother and father if things carry on like this.

William Wildblood said...

The error correction part of my brain read it like that. Usually it has to correct its own errors!

edwin faust said...

They have already gone for mother and father in the proposed congressional word usage for the U.S. Congress. All the usual terms for family relations are prohibited. The family is a rival government to the state and it is based on created differences in sex and hierarchy, so it has to go.

Concerning your list of words: they appear to be universals, i.e. ideas in the Platonic sense. Individual manifestations of the universals are approaches to the real - the goodness that does not come and go, the transcendent. The lockdown is not just physical but spiritual. It wants to abolish all transcendence and keep us earthbound, enclosed in a physical world from which there is no escape - ever! - except through death, which is annihilation. The lockdown is to stave off the annihilation that is inevitable but unthinkable, so in its own terms, it is based on a contradiction: the denial of mortality and the fear of mortality.

The difficulty with your word list is that it also raises the question of what it means to be an individual. If our aim is to embody the listed virtues, i.e. nobility, chilvary, etc. what is it that keeps us from doing so or how can we do so in ways that are unique? If there is a specific chastity or nobility for you, in what way does it differ from mine?

William Wildblood said...

I don't see them as universals so much as virtues or qualities that relate to the idea of man as a spiritual being with higher and lower dimensions to his person to which he can accommodate himself to a greater or lesser extent.

What keeps us from embodying these things is our lack of desire to do so which is based on our identification with the lower aspects of our being or else our refusal to make the effort and sacrifice required to know the higher aspects.

Your manifestation of nobility will differ from mine in the same way your face differs from mine. The same quality will appear but in an individual form according to whoever embodies it just as with beauty or real beauty not the artificial, cultivated sort of magazines.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

"Was it purely illusionary...?"

Sorry, I don't understand this word "purely." ;)

William Wildblood said...

It means only or completely or just. Is it an 'Englishism'? But if you're saying it's superfluous in context, you're right.

Sean fowler said...

The terms mother and father have gone from Swedish government forms. As has parent. In the interests of equality and inclusivity ofcourse.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

No, I’m referring to the fact that “pure” is one of the words you list as no longer having any meaning.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Wait, mother and father *and* parent? So how do they refer to a child’s, you know, the people who, uh, begat or bore him or her?

William Wildblood said...

I see. Well, some of them have some sort of meaning. You can have pure water or pure alcohol, for instance. But many of them can't have the meaning they should have in a world that denies the area of life they refer to so you are left with the hollowed out husk of the word.

Sean Fowler said...

@ wm jas. Them what begat? No they don’t refer to them as mother, father or parent. These terms have been replaced by a state sanctioned legal term. VĂ„rdnadshavare. Care haver of you will.