October 31, 2007

Words in the mainstream: detainees

Filed under: Politics,words — crcb @ 10:40 pm
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Mood: who cares?

<orwell>Thank goodness we don’t have prisoners at Gitmo (or elsewhere). Prisoners are liable to be mistreated, maybe even tortured, but we’re just hosting some detainees. They’ve been detained. Traffic was heavy, and they’re running late. </orwell>

Even relatively liberal sources, such as NPR, use this word.

Whoever frames the terms of the debate, wins.


September 27, 2007

Sin and femin

Filed under: language,words — crcb @ 9:19 pm
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Mood: monergistic

I was thinking about sin the other day, because I was thinking about preaching, because I was reading P.B. Shelley. From the concept of sin, I wandered over to the word itself.

I don’t know how far I agree with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, and I don’t know what other languages are like, but maybe it says something about Anglophones that we don’t have an antonym for sin, either as a noun (“a sin”) or a verb (“to sin”). We have virtue, but that’s the opposite of sinfulness. We don’t virtue, and we don’t commit a virtue. We have common phrases, like “a good deed” or “doing good,” but no single-word contrary.

But is the single-word criterion irrelevant? We learn spoken language before written, and we speak in phrases, not words. If I read the first clause of this post out loud as I would naturally say it, and listen carefully, what I hear is word-clusters, not individual words: Iwasthinking aboutsin theotherday.

There are times, though, when a single word for good deeds or doing good would be useful. Might I coin one?

“Virtue” comes from the Latin vir, “man,” which is also the root (no pun intended) of “virile.” For the opposite of “sin,” I offer “femin,” from the Latin femina, “woman.”

There! Now I’ve done my femin for the day.

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