The Real Deal

Or a reasonable facsimile thereof

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What does it mean to be authentic? We use the term authentic in many contexts to refer to people, places or things. How can they all be authentic? If one of us feels that a person, place or thing is authentic, does it follow that all of us agree on that authenticity?

The sense of authentic most closely related to its Greek origin is the sense of genuineness, the idea that the source or origin of something is indisputable. Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” is an authentic da Vinci painting, since the provenance can be used to indisputably trace it to the time of its creation. We should all agree that no one can question the authenticity.

The origins of the painting “Salvator Mundi,” a Renaissance-era depiction of Jesus Christ attributed to da Vinci, are far more disputable. The historical record of the painting, commissioned by the French king Louis XII, is a matter of record. But the painting disappeared from history in the late 1700’s. It did not reappear until 1958 when the “rediscovered” masterpiece was deemed a fake and sold for a mere $60.

Later acquired by a group of art dealers, it was restored, academically authenticated, and sold to a Russian businessman for $127.5 million. Is the Mona Lisa more authentic than Salvator Mundi? Is it possible to be less genuine and still be considered genuine? Does that mean authentic is subjective?

Another sense of authenticity is something that is created or performed in a traditional fashion, or that is a faithful rendition of an original. This almost seems to be the opposite of the original Greek meaning of authentic, since this meaning implies that the thing that is authentic is not in fact genuine.

Authentic Tuscan cuisine in Chicago is certainly not genuine, in the sense of food cooked by an Italian person in the Tuscan region of Italy. But because the ingredients or methods employed in preparing the cuisine closely follow those in Tuscany we consider it authentic. But unless you have had food prepared by a Tuscan in Tuscany, how can you tell if the Tuscan cuisine in Chicago is authentic?

And what of an authentic life? This sense of authentic, denoting an emotionally suitable, purposeful, significant existence, comes to us from existential philosophy. It’s when our actions and words stem from our values and beliefs. It’s being who we are, and not who we or others think we should be.

But this seems at odds with how humans develop. As young children, we develop our beliefs, values, and personas through imitation of those around us. And we tend to internalize and repeat those imitations that bring praise from the important people in our lives. Therefore, can any existence be authentic? I would argue that few of us would agree that we aren’t authentic in this sense, but are we really?

It seems to me that authenticity, as beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

I Can’t Swallow That

No, it’s not what you think

What can that mean?

It could mean I hate “that”, like some terrible tasting food or foul drink, and I won’t allow it to pass down my throat.

Or I could have a sore throat, and the act of contracting my esophagus to move “that” from my mouth down my throat is so uncomfortable that I can’t perform the act.

Is “that” something that is unwelcome, or perhaps insulting, and I refuse to tolerate it any longer?

Maybe “that” is a lie, a fib, a tall tale, and I’m just not going to believe it.

Perhaps “that” is something I want to say, but shouldn’t, but I’m not going to suppress my feelings any longer.

As I was about to swallow the last swallow of water in the glass, the swallow swooped down from the cloud that had swallowed it and swallowed the bee that was causing me to swallow hard in fear.

No wonder English is so hard to learn. My kingdom for a synonym!

Words We Should Use More Often – March 13, 2018

Resurrecting the English language – one post at a time

I like words. Granted, I don’t have a solid grasp on them, but I still like them just the same. So given my fondness for unusual words, when I come across one I particularly like, I naturally research its meanings and etymology. Yeah, I know, some life, right?

I like words that are fun to say. Some words are just fun. The word macaroni is fun to say, but it could be because every time I say it I’m reminded of Gene Wilder in the movie Silver Streak. “I’m a macaroni.” Well, I guess you had to be there. Stream it sometime.

I especially like words that aren’t in the common vernacular (ooh, now there’s a good one, vernacular, you don’t hear that every day). There’s an old meaning for the word macaroni that fits this category, too. Maybe they’ve fallen out of favor, or they’re no longer fashionable, or perhaps their meaning has changed over time, and they’re not used in polite company anymore. Not that anyone has ever mistaken me for polite. Or company, for that matter.

So given my proclivity for words, and the abundance of them scribbled on scraps of paper all around me, and considering the paucity of other material I have that the world would want to consume with relish (no, not eat with the condiment), I thought I’d start sharing some of these words with you, my Gentle Reader(s). And I thought I’d make it a recurring post subject. I can tell you’re thrilled. Settle down. We’ll begin when you stop happy dancing. What’s that? Oh, it’s down the hall, on the left. Jiggle the handle.


cods·wal·lop   /ˈkädzˌwäləp/

noun British informal: codswallop

1. nonsense

Origin:

1960s: sometimes said to be named after Hiram Codd, who invented a bottle for carbonated beverages (1875); the derivation remains unconfirmed.

Courtesy of Google Dictionary


This is one of those words that’s just fun to say. Codswallop, codswallop, codswallop. Just imagine, you’re at some family dinner arguing with your crazy old uncle rudyblues, and he’s blathering on about something, and you stand up in the middle of his bloviating,  slam your fist down onto the table, and yell “Codswallop!” Fun, right? The Brits have some wonderful words.


trea·cle    /ˈtrēk(ə)l/

noun: treacle plural noun: treacles

  1. British word for molasses
  2. cloying sentimentality or flattery
    “Enough of this treacle – let’s get to work”

Origin:

Middle English (originally denoting an antidote against venom): from Old French triacle, via Latin from Greek thēriakē ‘antidote against venom,’ feminine of thēriakos (adjective), from thērion ‘wild beast.’ The sense ‘molasses’ dates from the late 17th century; ‘sentimentality’ arose in the late 18th century.

Courtesy of Google Dictionary


Treacle is fun to say and an amazing example of how the English language has changed over the centuries. Again, treacle, treacle, treacle, like a childhood taunt, like nana nana boo boo! And how can we move from an antidote for venom, through molasses and obsequiousness, to a venomous way to insult someone’s writing? That rudyblues writes such treacle!

Well, now that wasn’t so bad, was it? I could go on if you’d like, I’ve lots more where those came from. Come on, let’s give it a go, shall we? Not so much, eh? OK, have it your way then. Be sure to tune in next week for more “Words We Should Use More Often.”

P.S. Google, if you’re listening, if I haven’t attributed you properly, please accept my apologies and all these dandy scraps of paper.  -rb

An Ordinary Post

Ordinarily ordinary

Ordinary. Hmm. A post about ordinary. Usual. Normal. Routine. Vanilla. Common. How do you talk about ordinary without seeming, well, ordinary?

Of course, if it weren’t for ordinary, we wouldn’t have extraordinary. It would just be extra. Everyone likes extraordinary. Some people get the “roar” in it when they pronounce extraordinary, as in “ext ROAR dinary.” And some like to make it into two words, like “extra ordinary.” I wonder why the definition of extraordinary means “unordinary”, and not “more ordinary than ordinary?” I imagine most people would hope to be viewed as extraordinary.

wordcloudOf course, we could be talking about the Ordinary in a Catholic Mass. That’s the part that is the same every time. Sometimes the same word is used to describe the book that defines the order of a Mass. That would be kind of a specialized post, though. Extraordinarily arcane and esoteric.

Or maybe we could talk about going down for the ordinary at the Boar’s Head. In archaic English this referred to a one-choice, one-price meal served at an inn. A sort of old-world blue plate lunch special. We could save up a couple of ordinaries to pay for it. That’s what we used to call penny-farthings here in North America when we were still under the British.

When they read your last will and testament, they used to read it in front of an Ordinary. Now they call them Probate judges. Or we could talk about the area in a coat of arms that contains the ordinaries. That would be kind of dull, though.

In fact, this whole post has turned out kind of ordinary. Dull and uninteresting. Guess that’s why it’s an ordinary post.

That Which Is Forbidden

You can’t do that!

“It is forbidden!” Even the sound of it is, well, forbidding. “I forbid you!” Ouch! I think it may be universal that prohibition of something that we desire to have, or something that we desire to do, stings a bit. The free will that we all have bristles when we’re told that we can’t. And if the forbidding seems arbitrary or capricious, it stings all the worse. But if nothing was forbidden, if we could do and say and have all the things we wanted, we would live a chaotic, anything-goes existence. We need some prohibitions to live together.

Alligator_no_swimming
Forbidden, but for a good reason

What is the purpose of forbidding something in the first place? Why are some things forbidden? And why are others not? Why are some things that were once forbidden now not forbidden? And why are some things that were perfectly fine in antiquity forbidden today? Seems rather, well, arbitrary and capricious, doesn’t it?

Read more ruminating

Pity Epitome

The epitome of an epitome

Epitome. Funny little word. Comes to us from Greek via Latin. Via comes to us via Latin, too. Does the English language have any words that aren’t nicked from some other language? I suppose it does, but even some of those seem to be from older languages. My kingdom for a single word that is genuinely and originally from the English language! But I digress. Thanks to Latin, I’m able to do just that.

Aristo
Aristotle

Anyway, epitome. From Latin, via the Greek word epitomē, which derived from epitemnein, meaning “abridge”, a conjunction of epi, meaning “in addition”, and temnein, meaning “to cut.” So, let’s see, “in addition to cut,” maybe “an additional cut,” abridgment, how did we get to where we are with today’s most prevalent meaning, a “perfect example of a particular quality or type?”

Read more ruminating