Archive for the ‘Vocabulary’ Category

New words

April 16, 2007

I learned a couple of new words today.

teratology
1. A discourse or narrative concerning prodigies; a marvellous tale, or collection of such tales.
2. Biol. The study of monstrosities or abnormal formations in animals or plants.

pancalistic
This one isn’t in either my dictionary widget or the OED, but here’s the context (from Umberto Eco’s Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages:

As Genesis taught, ‘God saw all that he had made, and found it very good.’ And the Book of wisdom taught also that God created the world according to number, weight, and measure. As we shall see, these concepts were taken to be aesthetic as well as cosmological, and also as expressions of the Good, the metaphysical Bonum.
     It was the Scriptures, then, extended and amplified by the Fathers, which produced this pancalistic vision of the cosmos.

Any guesses? Here’s a hint: pan + cal + istic, and think Greek.

“Cal” is the same as the first part of “kaleidoscope” (a Greek word if ever there was one), and “pan” is in many of our words: e.g., pantheism, pan-American (but not pancake).

Click the link below to see the definition.

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More NOI(se)

February 26, 2007

The NY Times’ discussion of the Nation of Islam made me laugh this morning:

Imam Muhammad Siddeeq, an Indianapolis cleric and senior aide to Mr. Mohammed, said that for the Nation of Islam to survive, it must turn more toward mainstream Islam.
[. . .]

He echoes many others in arguing that the Nation should abandon some of its teachings. The Nation holds, among other teachings, that the group’s founder, W. Fard Muhammad, was the Mahdi, or savior, sent by God to Detroit around 1930 and that spaceships hovering above the earth will eventually play a major role in smiting sinners and rescuing the righteous.

“Those are ideas for kindergarten, a trip to Oz,” Mr. Siddeeq said. “Those are not ideas for people living in the real world.”

A savior in Detroit? Spaceships? BAAHAHAHAAA!! This is nothing more than the NOI trying to outdo Christianity and “normal” Islam. The Christian savior appeared on earth in a worse place than Detroit, and normal Muslims have their sacred meteorite they kiss (the more ancient version of NOI’s “spaceships”). The comedy is so good that I can overlook the confusion of having 99% of their leaders differentiated by only a single vowel (Mohammed vs. Muhammed). They quote someone later on who may as well be named Mr. Everymuslim: ” ‘We are not imitators of Arab culture; that would put us in an inferior position and make them our superiors,’ said Muhammad Muhammad, a 40-year-old adherent from Oklahoma City.”

Another choice quote, from the man who may succeed Farrakhan:

“There are a few black politicians and a few millionaires and a couple billionaires, but the fact is that our people are dying,” he said in an interview. “Our struggle to integrate and be accepted has left the masses behind.”

The article itself notes that NOI encourages black separatism. So what this guy means by his seeming paradox is that there are “masses” who want to be separate, and other “masses” who are the dreaded Other . . . the non-blacks, non-Muslims. NOI has been “struggling to integrate and be accepted” by the wrong masses, leaving the right masses behind.

The article also says that NOI is popular in prisons because of its “struggle against racism”. Here we have entered the realm of the New Liberal Vocabulary. In the NLV, racism does not mean the unequal treatment of all races; it means lack of preferencial treatment for blacks (or more generally, for ethnic minority groups–unless that minority happens to be white). By the way, nowadays “racism” is often applied to non-race issues as well. If you are suspicious of Islam, for example, because of the fact that 99%+ of suicide bombers happen to be Muslim, you are both “Islamophobic” and “racist”. Islamophobia is bad because fear of ideas, unless they are GOP policies or Christian teachings, is irrational and should be considered a medical condition. And why people say that so-called “Islamophobes” are “racist” is beyond me–race has nothing to do with it. I’ve been called racist in this respect before, but I’d be suspicious of anyone, regardless of skin color, who thought it was laudable to blow oneself up in a crowded marketplace.

Oprah has spoken

July 19, 2006

I’ve been getting an “Oprah has spoken” ad in the “sponsored links” section of my Gmail recently. You’d think that the e-mails that triggered them were about Oprah, but no: one was a discussion about contraception and undergraduate morality, and the other was from someone telling me of a weekend of endless vomiting and diarrhea.

You do know that Oprah is one of the secular goddesses of our time, do you not? When Oprah speaks, it’s like an oracle. Or, an O-racle. That’s why her magazine is called “O.” In fact, I hear the OED is introducing a new adjective in its next update: “oprahcular: pertaining to prophetic words spoken by Oprah.”