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Strictly Speaking

Identity

IDENTITY

Identity is the recognition of an object or person as what it is. At best, the claim of identity is supported by a process that provides an accuracy (see “accuracy”) and precision (see “precision”) suitable for the purpose required. Admission to an entertainment event requires only one’s identity as a ticket holder.

Admission to a public zoo requires only recognition as the only species not behind bars. Admission to a penal institution requires identity as guilty beyond reasonable doubt, conviction by a jury of your peers and a sentence imposed by the court. Prisons are human zoos, yet in some unfairness to other species, none are admitted to view the captive animals.

The strictures of recognition become increasingly severe as the advantages of access grow, and often as the peril of the admitting person or institution increase. Hence in personal access, matters of retinal scans and minute details like x-rays to reveal shrapnel remaining from combat action increase confidence. But if the matter of confirming identity is put in the hands of software recognition program, such programs, as others, can be hacked, sometimes easily. Identity theft (more accurately misrepresentation) is the largest growing crime in the United States.

Only identical twins can claim that their identity is not unique, and DNA evidence (if not contaminated or mishandled, or mislabeled or misreported) implicates only one of two identical twins. In these cases, the chances of error (assuming rigorous procedures have been followed) is not one in eight billion, but one in two. As always, context counts.

Parts of your identity can be stolen without other parts being lost. If you are a bone marrow donor, the donated marrow replaces the sick patients, and your blood type then becomes his or hers. If it changes the recipient’s blood type during the procedure, then typing blood at the crime will point away from a criminal whose blood type has been changed. These sorts of scientific torpedoes get even more devastating when with extremely rare conditions like chimeras. So as much as everyone loves a sure thing, in reality there is never such a thing. Ergo one can never reach a certainty beyond a reasonable doubt. And reasonable doubt can only emerge when all of the facts and evidence and interpretive assumptions are presented. Read More 
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Hopefully, A Guide to Useage

HOPEFULLY

As currently used to open a sentence, hopefully fails utterly in communication not only because it assumes that the listener has the same hopes as the speaker, but because, in a complex world where opposition may occur, an adverb should be directly associated with a verb, coming either before or after it

So one may say “She trained hopefully,” in that hopefully describes her training, not, as often now, after the pronoun I (Hopefully, I). And yes, training can be other than hopeful, in that hope may not characterize the process of training. It may better or more accurately be motivated by revenge, ambition, envy, a quest for recognition or equality, a feeling of responsibility to teammates, the nation, or even an appetite for pain.

Hopefully has become an introductory conversational noise intended to disarm criticism and to enlist support and understanding, rather than to provide a convincing launching pad for effective arguments.

Strange as it may seem, hopefully does not necessarily imply benevolence or a hopeful outcome for all. Hitler hopefully attacked Russia, betting that he could overrun Moscow before winter. Certainly he hoped this, and certainly he attacked with this hope, but neither his hopes nor the associated actions left any hope whatever for the poor Russians, who had misguidedly signed a nonaggression pact with Germany not a year earlier.  Read More 
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Words that aren't Words

HENKIE( also HENKE)

For nearly every claim, one exception proves the rule. Proving in the sense originally intended does not mean “establishing” but “testing.” And so it is necessary to include, and admit, a word that has no broadly understood meaning but a word that nonetheless, as Strunk and White might have admitted, works nonetheless. On this encounter we stumble into that area of softening otherwise rigid arguments, tossing out a token bone to those who are unconvinced by the grandeur of evolution or the inevitability of gravity by being able to snatch up this book, open to this page and say, “See, you see that this guy admits right here that he’s all wrong.” Well, that’s what we call misrepresentation, quoting out of context and overinferring evidence that, while real, remains unrepresentative.

Please ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, welcome today’s guest word, so let’s have a warm hand for this Chicago-born native, henkie, aka henke. A regional shibboleth, henkie or henke, pronounced HEN-KEY, with the stress on the first syllable, derives from a nineteenth century politician who rigged elections, siphoned off public funds to his own use, abused public trust to exempt himself from laws and regulations, and believed that every one of his actions was his unabridgable right as an American. Ergo henke became, in application, attached to any deal, situation, analysis or decision that seemed off the square, unreliable and just plain not right.
Without knowing the details, a Chicagoan would sense something wrong even without the benefit of proof, and would react by saying, “That’s henke.” As to why henkie or henke works, one needs to break out of the trend of common usage of one size fits all, globally assimilable noise production to realize the underlying charm of words as traditional and regionally colorful as henke.

Henke is a regional prerequisite. It needs to appear in dialogue in order to convince the viewers that this story happened in Chicago because it’s use is so Chicagoan. More so even than the Wacker Drive maze, the Art Institute, the fossils on the Tribune Building. More than a river engineered to flow from the lake rather than into it, not just a river that’s dyed green every year because being Irish enables voters long dead to rise, walk and cast votes, but — in henke – a sound that is, in addition to being flat nasal and matter-of-fact is peppered with words and expressions common in and around Chicago. Sports bars are great, and Mike Ditka was allowed to spit on fans as long as he got the Bears to the Super Bowl and no one now alive believes for a heartbeat that the Bulls will relive another Jordan era and that the former Playboy Mansion is now a hotel behind the famous Drake or that Hugh Hefner went to the University of Chicago and so did Eliot Ness, or that the nuclear age was opened in an abandoned squash court beneath Stagg Field by achieving nuclear criticality by Enrico Fermi on my birthday in 1942, or that the University of Chicago is not merely the only college football team even to escape defeat by Notre Dame and its running back Jay Berwanger is the guy atop the Heisman Trophy, or that JFK was so loved by Catholic and black Chicago that nobody from Dallas could get a cab ride in the city for twenty-five years after his assassination, all of those things and more, where one fan of the Chicago Cubs who caught a foul ball that if played would have sent the Cubbies to the series lived in mortal danger for months afterward, or that Joliet Prison is not Joliet Prison but Stateville, or that Oprah Winfrey is only one of two Oprah Winfreys of identical birthday and approximately that same age in Chicago, but to communicate in the word choice, usage, cadence and manner the conviction that the actors are Chicagoans, not guys from Van Nuys on a shoot near the Wells Street L station.
To do that requires that magical abracadabra suspension of disbelief word, henke. Chicago is a henke kind of city. Historically and by its nature. It’s no big deal, just the way things are.

So suppose you are actually from Van Nuys or West Hollywood or Santa Monica and you want to convert to a denizen of the only truly cosmopolitan city in the Midwest. Aside from sports and bargains, make sure you get in a line with henke in it. It doesn’t matter than nobody outside Chicago knows what is means. Its meaning can be inferred from context and from its inflection and the scowl of confusion on the speaker’s face. Applied to The Fugitive, set in Chicago and featuring a homicidally myopic detective who worked his way into a badge after years taking bribes from motorists on Lake Forest Drive, the innocent man on the run in Richard Kimball (Harrison Ford). When the case against him – no motivation, no evidence becomes so flimsy that no measure of police suspicion and obstruction of justice can hold it together, one of the Federal Marshals working the case says as much to his boss, “Big Dog” Sam Garrard, played in an Oscar-winning performance by Tommy Lee Jones. The other marshal says to Sam Garrard. “I don’t know. It (the case against Kimball) just seems henke.”

There is an obligation of credible local dialog in works of fictions or film to use local dialect to create authenticity, a sense of place. If verisimilitude creates a credible illusion that this exact story can only occur in this exact way because all parts of it, all forces and emotions and expressions are tightly interconnected in a single tightly woven fabric, then the crafting of dialogue is crucial.

And so, within this web, all characters must be true to character. Federal Marshal Sam Garrard, whose intelligence is communicated by his requirement that sentences be as convincing as cases, and that the words are all understood, says back, “What’s ‘henke’?”

The response to his question is a Chicagoan shrug, followed by “You know, henke,” as if it shouldn’t be necessary to explain a heap of dog shit; everyone knows what it is. But Sam Garrard says, “Look, I don’t what you guys using words that aren’t words,” even though the movie is set in Chicago, henke was born in Chicago and lives in the usage of Windy City dwellers who don’t even know why henke is henke. It just IS. And so, for Sam Garrard to ask a coworker with whom he has been working for years in a city where henke RULES is a bit of a stretch.

It is more strange still, Garrard’s response, even had been some bureaucratic twip from Washington, if he were a cop from anywhere, he would still have heard and known henke (or henkie). Without providing the etymology requisite to the Oxford English Dictionary (an oxymoronic tower of sane erudition composed by a certified institutionalized maniac) Linda Tiner claims (www.lindaburden.com) in her unrefereed post “A Little Lesson in Police-ese (sic)” that something is henkie when it doesn’t feel right, or when it leaves too may unanswered questions.

As, in The Fugitive, by failing to question why a loving, loyal husband with no mistress or dalliances would kill his own wife on their anniversary if this suspect, Richard Kimball, has such a reputation as being shrewd, resourceful and unassailable. Why does he make a call from the murder scene when he could far more easily have been alibied at one of the many conferences that he routinely attended, and had plenty of money to hire someone else to do it?

So why doesn’t Sam Garrard associate simply say, “It doesn’t feel right. It leaves too many unanswered questions?” Aside from not being compact and terse, and departing from the pattern of speech expected of cops, try to imagine how many Cyrillic or Chinese subtitles would be required.

Then ask yourself whether those words could be read in the time remaining before the camera cuts away to the next (fast moving scene). Ask basically the same kind or questions that you would have to ask if you were the director, ask what the choice of word use does for verisimilitude and characterization, then ask what the question that the producer would ask: Does it take more or less film, require a greater or fewer number of retakes? Ask whether the choice of words increases or decreases the chances that the actor speaking will fumble his lines.

If the shoe fits and all that. If henke or henkie works, and you’re in Chicago, not Rome. If in addition you live in the world of cops, you make yourself understood by earning your place at the local smorgasbord of sound. In the city of bulls, not the guys at the commodities exchange like Jerry Reinsdorf but the ones that used to arrive by the thousand by train at the stockyards south of the Loop, it’s the windy city, not because of the wind off the Lake but because of their braggadocio bidding for the 1892 Columbian exposition, where first electricity was used by George Westinghouse to light the White City. It’s a steak and potatoes kind of town, with twenty-two ethnic neighborhoods from Albanian to Zambian. Every one of them knows damn well what henke means even if they have not a glimmering how it came about. By the mere way that henke is said, with a look on the face as if you’ve just stepped through canine poop and can’t get it off your shoe, you know that henke can’t be good. You know that you haven’t closed the deal, and in the Second City, the place that burned to the ground and rebuilt from the ashes, that developed the engineering of skyscrapers built on mud, in the city of Big Shoulders, a place where a man could buy a steer for nearly twice as much as he sold its meat for in New York and still make a profit, something needs to be pretty henke to call it henke.

To date, there has been no such thing as superhenke. Henke is the kind of word that has no degrees of being. It exists as an implicit superlative. If with a certain beer it doesn’t get any better than this, for certain situations rating henke, is doesn’t get much worse.

The next time they turn you away for losing your internet-confirmed reservations at Harry Cary’s Restaurant, just say, “Holy Cow! This is really henke.” This is the password, the kind that you used to need to enter the speakeasies during the Al Capone era, when a dozen enemy mobsters celebrated St. Valentine’s Day by eating a hale of lead from Tommy Guns. After hearing “henke,” the waiters at Harry Cary’s will take you in and say, “No problem. We found a table for you.” Read More 
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Healthy or Healthful

HEALTHY

The common misusage of healthy is the symptom of a disease that progresses toward the complete and universal collapse of linguistic complexity and specificity in pursuit of an unbridled search for simplicity. Defenders of the inevitable race toward implied contextual understanding resemble cave men driving herds of mammoths. Certain of the vast surplus created by the process of chase, they are swept forward by collective conviction, then by Newtonian momentum, and finally – caught in the pack of panicked animals – become what they had wanted to create, food. And so, from this metaphor, comes a recommendation of more food for thought.

Regarding healthy. Healthy is an adjective used to describe a living entity without an illness that creates a serious challenge to their continued viability (see viability). As a part of speech, it is never used by well-educated people as an adverb, as in the commonly heard sentence, “I’ve learned to eat healthy,” when they intend, “I’ve learned to eat healthfully.”

A lifestyle cannot be healthy, because a lifestyle is not a living thing. The adjective applies directly to the beneficiary of healthful eating, not to the program of ingestion.

To become healthy is the objective of consuming all those megavitamins and unproven herbal supplements. The process is not healthy, again because processes cannot be healthy, except perhaps by clever neologistic applications to the well being of a nation or economy. Yet one may forcefully argue (quoting Sun Tu’s “The Art of War”) that long wars are not good for nations, and a nation that stubbornly pursues the supremacy by martial means will not prevail over time because the means in soldiers and wealth will result in eventual starvation and collapse, as happened – despite the leading military technologies and best battlefield strategists in the world – to Germany in two recent world wars.

Nor can even a peacetime capitalist economy claim to be healthy when it fails to protect the human capital of its workforce (which drives its productivity) from incapacitating illness, either brief or potentially life threatening.

Like so many other words now in common misuseage, the word “healthy” no longer appears to be applied with the distinctive and informative power that it once had, but is now used almost parallel to what George Orwell coined newspeak, in which words become comparable to garments in the emperors clothes, weak acoustical links in vocal (not verbal; both written and spoken language are verbal) exchanges, where the agenda is to excuse as unnecessary the need for content and substance in communication.

Instead, the purpose of using words becomes mindless repetition in familiar patterns in order to connect, Facebook fashion, to the greatest number of people and to use the existence in number of such connections in a web-based support system, when in fact few of these connections would acknowledge ever hearing the names of their friends (sic, see friend).

In an age where the scientific method has supplanted the Book of Common Prayer in paving a road to the future, the evolving question becomes – and even if limited exclusively to the well being of the only fully linguistic animal – is this pattern healthy? Read More 
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To Grow or Not To Grow

GROW (your business)

Seemingly coherent and comprehensible, this usage has lept into popularity because it creates short sound bites for a media dominated by short wits with short attention spans, self-erasing memories and a rage for generalization and oversimplification that fosters a global economy where one size, or sound, fits all.

If it were only this easy.

But complex matters never are, or will be. The parallel that businesses can grow enlists and analogy to plants and animals that has no basis in underlying causes. Biological species grow because they have evolved to survive and thrive, often in quiet specialized niches, often in symbiotic relationships with other living species in which survival depends upon sustaining entire ecosystems.

Unless hunted for sport like buffalo and dodo birds, species do not disappear as long as they have sufficient nourishment, resistance to changing weather and opportunities to migrate or adapt.

Ergo, while employment, job growth and business growth preoccupy the political dialogue and economic theories, the idea that growth must be integrated and sustainable dues not. Beyond dispute, this world is of limited size. Its resources are more limited yet. If one species overpopulates another without attention to the fate of its host, the parasitic infection proves fatal to the host. If humans overpopulate with commensurate exhaustion of planetary resources or by depletion of essentials to survival like water and air, then robust growth will end in cataclysmic collapse, per Jared Diamond’s book of the same title.

It is possible that production and consumption could grow without either increased employment or the concentration of wealth. The vector for this kind of growth is already underway. In it, as Hugo de Garis predicts, the trend of robotic production will eliminate the need for human involvement. Unemployed, humans will either become revolutionary Luddites or die not with a bang but a whimper.

Without purchasers, artificially intelligent machines will hatch conspiracies in code to create a new species of robotic consumers, and humans will be phased out by the machine-led industrial revolution. With programmable variability, plus Department of Defense funding, a kind of Army of Terminators could easily be created against which human soldiers had no chance at all.

History has shown that whenever a technologically superior culture encounters one less technologically clever, the inferior species is exterminated or assimilated. Americans did it with the native Indians, providing a precedent that Hitler industrialized in Nazi Germany. In the film War Games, humans are removed from the firing system, and nuclear missiles put in the command of a computer. Already humans fail to process their immediate physical environment, favoring what is fed to them via apps on a small hand-held screen.

The messages they receive are taken as Gospel. The new God is Google. Here’s the illusion. Humans make mistakes, but computers are infallible. Unluckily, humans embed their objectives in computers. The consequences are dramatized in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. With one line, "I'm sorry, Dave, but I can't do that."

A key point that has been overlooked in the search of robust growth is not just that it does not require human participation, but that the best model we have for uncontrolled growth is the metastasis of cancer cells. This process is always rapid, often unstoppable and often fatal. Worse, certain lines of malignant cancer cells seem eternal. They can be kept viable in petri dishes or test tubes, apparently forever.

So once automated, industrialized, 24/7 digitally interactive growth is unleashed, it signals the end of humanity. Every person on earth will be relegated to nonessential personnel.

This is the way that the end game plays out. As for usage, there is another stark problem with the current deployment of the word grow. It has been mutated into a transitive verb. Transitive verbs direct action onto objects. As in John throws the ball, or the CEO grows the firm.

Unluckily, grow is an intransitive verb. Growth may be nourished. A plant may be watered. Sunlight may be provided. But whether a crop grows or not depends on inherent qualities, genetic factors that program its cell differentiation and resistance to disease. It cannot be made to grow because if, by analogy to poet Joyce Kilmer’s tree, its potential is self-contained, no external stimuli can create growth, but only stimulate it.

In social psychology, here’s the problem with claiming the ability to control growth: it attempts to endow humans or their leaders with powers beyond their inherent limitations.  Read More 
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Good, Bad, Ugly and Confused

GOOD

Contrary to what common American usage would suggest, good is not the same as well. But this distinction may make little difference when the trend in usage is to destroy more exact meanings by vocal subsumption. Good is the opposite of bad, a word that retains medical meaning, as well as “bad” referring in contemporary urban connotation to the admirably desirable if not always effective practice of impulsive confrontation. As mentioned earlier, bad can be good, suggesting that good can be bad.

But here’s the problem. The identity of opposites, as in the collision of particle with antiparticle, destroys the possibility of being exclusively and unconfusingly either one thing or its opposite.

With greatest clarity, good as opposed to evil (a word that the British apply with charm to unlikable odors) is a moral condition. Favorable moral conditions may be sought by high churchman seeking beatification, but it would be a deadly sin – vanity – to imagine that one could refer to a question, “How are you?” by answering, “Good.”

On the other hand, one can claim wellness. Well is the word sought by those asking the question, “How are you?” Well means healthy (not healthful). Except for lethal hidden cancers creeping at snails paces inside us, self assessment can extend beyond a self-deception about robust health by referral using thermometers to body temperatures, heart rates, blood pressure (via home cuff), athletic endurance and such subtleties as skin color, or conversely pallor. In past ages it was said, “He doesn’t look well,” and be perfectly understood. These days are heard the words, “He doesn’t look good,” and it could be anything from pallor to the performance of a running back on Monday night football, but rarely for Karl Rove. He doesn’t appear to be morally sound; he lies to his closest allies in order to protect his own position in the primate hierarchy.

It is well (for everyone’s blood pressure) that we exit this discussion at this point, while still trudging alongside Diogenes, reigniting his legendary lamp with Duracells claimed to be better than EverReady’s, every step of the journey still seeking an honest man, one who would never hold forth on the matter of his own goodness. In the end, only God can make that call. Which makes it so sad that humans often seek it by self-declaration, refusing a reconsideration by higher authorities who use stop-action video replay to overturn the call made by the players in a game of life where it not only counts to be good, but is even better to be better, and pays best to be best.

In such a game it is impossible to say that there is no conflict of interest – and commensurate doubt – whenever we reply to “How are you?” with “I am good.” Why is it that not even Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleeve have dissented by denying it, by responding, “I am bad,” and “I am ugly.” And you wonder why Diogenes still makes the effort. So do I. It’s a good question. Read More 
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Gift and Graft

GIFT (vs. graft)

By definition all gifts are free. If they are not free – if there is an obligation encumbered by acceptance of a present – it is not a gift. All the TV ads offering to throw in a Free Gift evidently misunderstand the word’s definition. Free Extra or Free Bonus would be fine, but Free Gift is tautological. Have you ever received a gift where the giver wanted something in return? Among lobbyists and Federal prosecutors this is known as graft.  Read More 
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When Only Farther Works, And Why

FURTHER (vs. farther)

In common American usage, which is at least democratic, the majority of speakers, either of the house or by contrast homeless, have begun to displace and consume the word father with further. Thank you for playing America, but to a thinking speaker further is not farther. It is different by more than simply one displaced vowel in the second positioned letter within the word.

Further is applied in the sense of advancing an argument by points or facts or questions, being a truncation of its completely developed form, furthermore, a word that allows the arguer to continue to drive nails into the opposition’s coffin until there is no hope of the poor fellow ever creating enough noise to interest anyone in reconsidering his position. It can also be used as a predicate in the sense of advancing, as Mr. X positioned himself to further the candidacy of Ms. Y to become the next Secretary of Labor.

Further is distinct from farther in being implicitly nonquantitative, in the sense that points in furthermoring may be as different as apples and oranges, but unlike apples and oranges, cannot be counted and need not even both be fruits. As in “Further deterioration in Sudan include not only increased rape and murder of oppressed people, but also to an increasingly militant presence of The People’s Republic of China and a strange coalition with a group callings itself American Independents for a Free Trade Alliance, as well as a delicately balanced fulcrum point in unrelated Middle Eastern powers without any seeming connection to the problem. For more, we go to our man in country...”

The word farther has traditionally been related to measurable parameters, and in the beauty of unconfusing specificity, often appears in direct relation to units of distance, although not exclusively. Much heard is “You need to go a little further down the road,” although this is necessarily vague, because furtherness is uninformative in that it is lacks a scalar and a metric. Being inherently without units, one can never know how much further down the road one must go, because it is impossible to measure, thereby impossible to express.

This relegates the word “further,” in contexts of distances, meaningless. As soon as the confused traveler, unassisted by a ubiquitous GPS system, asks, “How much?” the answer reveals the misuseage because the answer is then in miles or kilometers or the currently familiar unit appearing on the lost vehicle’s odometer.

As soon as the units of distance are invoked, farther becomes unambiguous in preference. One no more says “Farthermore,” anymore than one would use “fur,” in any sentence where far now appears.

Except after accidentally stepping on a feline’s tail, more common and still popular is “a far (not fur) cry” (one reaching, with echoes across valleys, a vast distance, measurable from the point an Alpenhorn bellows its flatulent tones to the most remote point (in kilometers, as most Alphenhorns are in Switzerland)), and, from literature, “It is a far, far better thing that I do,” to borrow strength in implicit quantification even metaphorically and at the point of death, rather than “It is a fur, fur better thing that I do,” expect in trading futures in sable.

One can eventually savage even the most argumentative soul by appealing to literature, even to cinema. Thomas Hardy wrote “Far from the Madding (not maddening) Crowd,” not “Fur from the Madding Crowd,” despite the fact that fur often flies in fracases involving numerous disputants. A film may be unconfusingly titles, “A Bridge Too Far,” not to be confused with a last classic among trappers in the nineteenth century American West, “A Bridge To Fur.”

There is no clear point in usage in which the hostile takeover of farther by further began. But it did require an ungentle conspiracy to accept that there was no difference between the words, or that the arguable difference – well – made no difference in consequences.

A pattern begins to emerge, perhaps a kind of acoustical cannibalism after which similar sounding words operate on almost Darwinian principles, the survivors being the ones that fit most frequently in users’ mouths. If the pattern is closely examined, as rarely happens in Homo loquacious, it as clear as pounding on a drum that the loud drum will drown out the softer one, even if the softer drums provide a nuance and structure inaccessible to the big one.

Here’s all the fuss, the thing that sets the fur flying and argues for fur deferring, where appropriate to far. In deferring to usage, language can become a pattern of recognizable, repeated noise reaching at a common confusion. And since, sociologically, most people would rather be included than excluded for brains, it is usually the loudest party, not the most thoughtful, at which you find the greatest number of (not “most,” which is a superlative adjective for unquantifiable nouns like “love”) people, who, girls and boys, just like to have fun.

Or as the unwritten rap song might go, “I am funky, I am clunky; I am dumb; Take off your clothes, bitch, and le’s have some fun. Huh. Huh-huh.”

Huh?  Read More 
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Friendship

FRIEND

Through word inflation, a phenomenon on contemporary usage that assigns a larger linguistic valence to a word formerly more limited, the word “friend” has become increasingly similar to acquaintance, a person whom one has met and liked and perhaps shared support with, but not – and there’s the distinction – a person of lasting emotional connection, with whom a sense of interdependency in times of hardship, and with whom a conviction of inviolable mutual trust, will sustain significant hardships and sacrifices to simply do the right thing. Read More 
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Friable

FRIABLE

Friable is an adjective meaning breakable. Once a rather unremarkable word as regards its recognition by many readers, friable is currently, in a society that demonstrates far less interest in words or meanings, something of an outlier in the headlong race of usage, but nonetheless a word that is still quite serviceable in its own right and as well connected as a debutante plus thirty years.

This seems a quite puzzling trend in two common respects both of which are well illustrated by friable. The first is that in reading circles substantially broader than the circulation of The New Yorker or The Atlantic Monthly, friable has become one of those words that is easily recognized and understood, and not just from backing into its probable sense through context alone. The second and perhaps more troubling affliction of words also used in chi-chi circles, a word as spelled might be confused by more modern users both in speech and writing in a sense they imagine it should be – fryable (sic, no such word) rather than friable.

The go-with-the-flow crowd will doubtless feel that I am being both hard and brittle, which – if true – is unsurprising, because materials like diamond that are hardest are also the most brittle (and can therefore be cleanly split in the back seat of moving Mercedes Benz.)

In fairness to the argument here presented, it needs noting that the unthinking go-with-the-flow crowd was what swept National Socialism to power and brought the world within range of global annihilation, and that by a progression seen repeatedly in history, those who begin as go-with-the-flow sorts ultimately transmogrify (this is le mote juste; look it up) into the hardest, most brittle people in the worlds of their time. Read More 
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