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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Neural Remodeling

So here's the dream I was just having.

I was is a bathtub. Something dropped in the water (a bottle of shampoo or something) and I fished it out. But there was still an identical bottle of shampoo of shampoo in the tub. So I got it out too. This blip in physics intrigued me, of course. And then human greed instinct took over and I took off my wedding ring and dropped it in. Two rings. I dropped both back in and took out four rings. I paused to think and plan. Somehow I instinctually understood that there were rules (as oftened happens in dreams, the surreal seems "obvious"). 1) this would only work while the water was warm, 2) I couldn't add more hot water, 3)I had to be in the bathtub and the new matter couldn't cause the water to overflow 4) at some point the "magic" time would end and unless I was clever all my gains would disappear. I hollered to <1/2 to grab something valuable. My explanation only illicited boredom with a mild disdain for my childish greed; time would be better spent out of the bathtub doing real work around the house. So I am alone again making handfuls of rings trying to think of a way to keep them in the real world once the time is up. It seems I may have come up with a way to keep about 4 or 5 rings around, but compared to the potential value of gold piled up outside the tub it didn't seem impressive. Certainly not worth getting into a panic so I worked at a fairly leisurely pace dropping and harvesting rings. 1,2,4,8,16 *yawn* better start finding them all....

And upon waking I knew that this was Thai's fault. Not because of the recent bat porn link, but because of the ongoing quest to get me to see that the laws of conservation apply to human perception. I may not be all the way there, but it makes sense that an idea that challenges the mind's current and long-term concept of "The Way Things Are" would take some time to build.

I think the warm water was "focus" or "attention" or "awareness". Which we can only sustain for limited amounts of time (the NPR Virginia Wolf thing...). While we have our awareness focused we can imagine and "play" quite a bit, but we have to have a secondary awareness observing the imagination play to act as "scribe" or what-have-you so that when the magic time is over you have some recollection of the event stored in memory that you can access again. And perhaps act upon to bring into the "real world" (example: an artist imaging a new painting has to remember their "play" to later actually put on a physical canvas).

Honesty, I don't see why people feel the need to take drugs when the natural mind is capable of such weirdness on its own.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Our "civilization" is... flushing itself down the toilet

Cute title, huh ?
Over there on my loony blog, there is a link to an animal site (this takes place in the States, I can tell from the accent...) where you can watch a cat play for at least five minutes with a flush toilet. You can see the little wheels turning in its brain along these lines.... : WHAT is going on here ??? WHY does the water churn and swirl that way (we'll leave the answer to our favorite fractal expert...) ? WHERE does it disappear to ? And, cool, you can do it again and again...
Actually that cat is pretty smart to display its perplexity the way it does. If WE were a little smarter, and LESS denatured by the HABIT of living with flush toilets (there is a book out somewhere about the history of how we dispose of our... FIRST PRODUCT (Freudian lesson NUMBER 1, that's kind of cute, I didn't intend to make that pun, but since it works, let's go for it...)), we COULD ask ourselves lots and lots of questions about just WHAT they MEAN.
In the midst of my BIG existential crisis three years ago (my, how time flies...) it smacked me in the face just how... OBSCENE the idea of magically washing away our shit with drinking quality water is.
I NEVER use the word "obscene" lightly. It is an important word that packs lots and lots of judgment in it, and making judgments, while necessary, is fraught with peril.
Freud was mystified in the 19th century by our relation to our shit. He did NOT take into account the already pathological evolution that that relation had undergone in Victorian society. (Yeah, Thai, I'm saying pathological here. I'm not sure that there are REAL advantages to THIS alienation, and I see tons of disadvantages. We may not have a zero sum issue here, in the long run..)
The problem of shit is one that separates out... the COUNTRY rats from the... CITY rats. And this is very important. My grandmother (1888-1973) used an outhouse for a good part of her life, my mother (1920-1995), too. It was part of rural living. And when I came to France, I STILL saw people in the country using outhouses in.. 1985 or so.
No more outhouses, even in the country now.
So, what's the big deal ?
When you have an outhouse, your not so sweet smelling shit is CONSTANTLY there, reminding you that... there is a RELATION between you and your shit, and your body produces that shit, JUST THE SAME WAY THAT WHEN YOU DIE YOUR BODY IS GOING TO DISINTEGRATE INTO SOMETHING THAT SMELLS EVEN WORSE THAN SHIT BUT...
THAT REGENERATES THE EARTH, and ensures that future generations can continue to produce with/from the earth WITHOUT exhausting it, (and without having to whore oneself to that mega whore, Montsanto while buying lots of toxic products).
And... this takes place IN YOUR BACKYARD, not in some far away place (like a prison for the "evil doers" of this earth...) that you can conveniently NOT THINK ABOUT because, as we all know... out of sight is out of mind, and that's an incredibly NORMAL way for human beings to react.
So... in my book, as you can tell, flush toilets are a symptom of our incredibly twisted, neurotic relations to our bodies. And... while neurosis is NORMAL for us, and lots of shrinks spend time congratulating themselves that they are ONLY neurotic and not spychotic (not me, I've given up on that little consensual game) it wreaks havoc on our relationship to our bodies, and as a result, our relationship to nature. Neurosis is a sign of our incredible DIVORCE from our bodies, and higher up the line, from nature itself.
And you know me, (right Thai ?). It ALL hangs together.
Just a little example : I have been composting for more than three years now.
I collect my "shit" (vegetable decay...) for a period of about 1-2 weeks under the sink before mixing it into my big compost collector outside. It decomposes BEAUTIFULLY under the sink. (I keep the lid on, of course...)
When I did a little presentation to people to show people about composting, the reactions were... "Ew, yuccky". But.. it smells awful. (Actually, a well tended compost heap smells... better than your flush toilet when you've finished depositing your number 1.) That was their IDEA, their... PREJUDICE if you like. They were unbelievably surprised to realize that compost did NOT smell the way they thought it would (like THEIR number 1...) And these prejudices are keeping us from renewing the Earth the way that we USED to do before the industrial revolution society took over.
When you think about it... even the IDEA of shitting is on a par with.. ORIGINAL SIN for us. And we COULD be using the idea of shitting as a convenient ideological equivalent for original sin because now, y'all remember every disadvantage has its advantage, and although the idea of original sin humiliates the more rational of us, it was meant to keep us together, in line, and with a necessary dose of HUMILITY in our lives. Now, we no longer make the distinction between humility, and humiliation, and are little atoms which are light years away from being able to cooperate in meaningful ways...
This is not good for us, collectively. Believe you me.

By the way, I am (almost) the only one posting over here again, you lazy louts.
I know you're working and I'm not, BUT...

P.S. LOOK, yet another example of what I'm talking about. BLOGGER censured my title...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What is your College English lit major good for ?

My regular readers perhaps have in mind that scene that I think I reported here where I was staying in an Albuquerque REAL youth hostel (you know, the kind of place where you can find real drifters, marginal people, some crazies, in addition to the hordes of scrubbed, fresh faced, sweet smelling, identical looking youth from all continents now that youth hostels (hotels ?) are SUPPOSED to attract...) two summers ago, to the despair of my younger bro who seemed to think that over 50 year old me could either get raped or have my head sawed off by a pen- knife-wielding, Greyhound-bus-traveling schizo.
Whew, that was a long sentence. Are y'all still with me ?
Anyways, I spent an evening rocking on the porch with a 40 year old unemployed man with a chip on his shoulder and a "why me" whine in his voice who kept telling little ole serene me that he just couldn't possibly understand how ANYONE could consider an English major, and subsequent unemployment, to be GOOD for anything. (But.. what's it GOOD for, he kept saying stubbornly..) And I obligingly repeated that an English major in the humanities was, in my book, the entrance to that select club of.. civilization.
You just can't EXPLAIN to some people why it's better to be civilized than it is to be... a barbarian. (Note : Do NOT presume that my definition of "barbarian" follows any predictable configuration... I had this discussion the other night with some bourgeois colleagues who seemed to think that cannibalism was that fine line that separated the barbarians from the civilized, and they did not seem particularly fazed when I pointed out that it was OUR "civilization" that had come up with industrialized death camps...)(Note 2 : Do NOT presume either that the syllogism English major= civilization morphs into.. -English major = -civilization...)
So... today I have been messing around on the Internet, and fell into the black hole of's literary criticism section. (Actually that's a euphemism for "client appreciation". Everybody knows that literary criticism died years ago.)
And discovered WHERE all of us English majors are hanging out these days...
WE are doing literary criticism (online reviews..) for FREE, for !!!!
(Gratuity is the future for mankind, trust me on this one.)
I could spend hours reading some of those reviews which are really really excellent.
Sigh. As irony would have it, the most intelligent reviews, the ones REALLY written by all of us unemployed intellectuals often get one or two stars because "WE'RE" so intellectual, so passionate about what we're doing that the average reader gets bored and zaps.
Back to the drawing board, and my next Amazon review.
(Incidentally, the FRENCH are so much less generous on this subject. NO online reviews, or almost none, and don't hold your breath thinking that there are fewer unemployed lit majors over here, because that's a lie. They're just... less generous, that's all.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

So our next topic of conversation

This video was left on SD

It is long and you can watch it all if you want to (if you have not already) but I am really more interest in talking about time 9:45 onwards.

You all know I am not a conspiratorialist, and yet as Deb reminded us during the discussion on child (shall we say) injuries, our thoughts and sense of damages on any given subject are highly influenced by the degree to which others in society weigh their significance.

If society is nudging us towards a "world community", is this a problem?

Even if this causes Americans to lose some national identity (and you all know I tend to think of myself as a "patriot" in the traditional sense of the word), does the loss of this part actually matter?

What battles are worth sacrificing to win a war?

But what is the war?

Some manifolds just piss me off...l and yet I have to admit they exist.

Some people's morality filters are just broken and need "readjustment" ;-)


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mad Men : The Carrousel

A new Heathcliff anonymous (or is it yoyo in disguise ???) put in THIS link on the last post :

(How about that, Thai, I am inviting you to dinner...)

I have never watched Mad Men, and had never heard of it before. I am... back in the Stone Age as far as American TV is concerned, in fact, as far as MOST TV is concerned.

This scene is particularly interesting when juxtaposed with... scenes from Nodame Cantabile (see previous post).
It is a moving scene. Sentimental, to a certain point without being maudlin.
In my mind, this scene is as American as... apple pie.
It illustrates just what being American IS, what the national aura or myth or whatever of American is :
A nice, earnest,honorable, honest young man in love with his wife who wants to do good in the world. (Hint : ALL of those words are weighted and mean something in this little equation...)
Why take exception to that ? WHO could possibly take exception to that ???

The underpinnings : this nice, earnest, etc etc young man is in an advertising conference. He is talking about.... how to EXPLOIT human psychology in order to SELL a product. (Yeah, I know, we all have to put our food on the table somehow, right ?)
So... is there something wrong with USING what we know about human psychology to SELL something ?
A lot of that depends on what kind of value/interpretation you put on the act of selling something to someone, right ? And on... WHAT you're selling ? If you're selling SHIT, and you know you're selling shit, then... the act of selling becomes a way of...duping, tricking another human being into doing something that he would NOT do if he were properly informed. And, YOU are deprived of the life sustaining possibility of.. believing IN what you're DOING (i.e... SELLING) AND the commodity/object/service that you're selling.
Along the lines of what I said in the last comment, WE have added another manifold (ah hah, Thai, I think that I have FINALLY used your word correctly, you may applaud...) when we step back to see the dimension of human spychology to incorporate it into our TACTICS, strategies, whatever, to obtain what we want. And this is NOT innocent ; there is a price to be paid for this new manifold (cynicism, insincerity, suspicion, paranoia, lots of things come to mind).
Back to apple pie.
This young man is so... EARNEST. I identify. This scene is... like well, Hemingway when in one of his novels he has a male character say to a lover, following lovemaking :"did the earth move ?", or something along those lines.
You just want to punch this character and say : lighten up !!! The sky is NOT falling ; the sun (also rises) tomorrow morning !
Which is where Nodame Cantabile comes in. You would NOT see this kind of scene in Nodame, which is fraught with emotion, sentiment, whatever. The characters may take themselves seriously, but... the SHOW does not take ITSELF seriously.
We are a very very complexed nation, in my book.
God, I went through 20 years of psychoanalysis to attempt to escape from Apple Pie.
Sometimes I think that I will be eating it.. in my grave...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Things are more complicated than you think...

This one is for the "evolutionists" in our midst, probably everyone, I think...
Patience. You'll have to wade through my introduction.

For the past four years I have participated in a psychoanalytic group where we read the (Jewish...) Bible together, Genesis. Last year, I abruptly pulled out of it, due to my... disaffiliation with... psychoanalysis, AND with... Judaism, which, in my book, remains predominant in our Western world, in the disguised/diluted form of Protestantism.

The first year, I immediately took exception with the biblical status alloted to... the animal world. A cursory examination of the creation story (and in the group there are no Bushies, ok, these are psychoanalysts who do NOT even believe in God, if you please ; France is a very secularized, atheist country...) allows you to perceive that... the status of animals is UNDER the status of human beings, and, THUS, MAN IS NOT AN ANIMAL, he is not included in the animal world for the Jewish religion. This point of view is fundamental to Judaism, as seen in the texts. Now... a "Jewish" person (what does that mean ???) MAY tell you that he believes in... evolution, BUT... IF HE IS JEWISH, he DOES NOT BELIEVE THAT MAN IS AN ANIMAL. Period. This is... the logical conclusion which imposes itself from the creation story : "God brought forward all the animals on the earth to the adamah, and... the adamah stuck names on them (sigh, that good old classification game..)." You have to wait for... the creation of "isha", woman (not Eve...) for the adamah (like a generic name for the species...), for "Adam" to find an help meet, an aid, but the text suggests that for "Adam", even the woman is not a real partner, someone to talk to, and not... AT, or ABOUT, at first.

This is a little more subtle than you might imagine. Because, you can scoff at the literalist ideas that the world was created in 6,000 years, that man was created by God, etc, etc, and think that the literalists are from another planet (which my Lacanian psychoanalyst friends do, by the way, just like many liberals in the U.S....) BUT... STILL reason like... man is NOT an animal.
AND... this is precisely what my shrink friends do when they say... but... we talk, we have language, OUR language says so much more than all of the other animals, we know what death is, we dig graves, and have funeral rites, and THUS.... WE ARE NOT ANIMALS (like the others...)
But... if you say this, then... how can you be a GOOD DARWINIAN like you think you are ???

Next point : IF we are animals, then... our status in our own eyes is going to depend heavily on... JUST HOW we perceive animals. AND... how we perceive animals has a history in our civilization. It depends on... (you knew this was coming...) the biblical creation story, AND, Descartes, animals as little machines, 18th century classification and reductionist thought, and the whole bit.
So... if we think that animals are shit, are little machines that we can stick into classifications, and manipulate, use for chiantific experiments, park in enclosures, send off to the concentration camp feeding lots/slaughtering houses, just HOW are we going to see ourselves ?
My shrink friends do NOT see the conflicts in their beliefs.
They STILL want to be human exceptionalists.
But... they say they believe in evolution.
Complicated, huh ?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Nodame Cantabile

Last night my reduced family (child one has flown the nest and is living as a couple in town, that's the fourth year med school student, TOO SERIOUS, TOO ERECTOR SET, but, time will tell...) spent two hours in front of my daughter's computer watching Nodame Cantabile (my husband too, by the way...).
Many thanks to my 19 year old daughter for introducing me to this little gem in 12 episodes, two special episodes, and two films that will come out toward the end of the year (in Japan, of course). It is the second Japanese series that I have fallen in love with in a year, and I told her : "Whoah, not too many series" because I don't want to become a no-life...(Some people would raise the question as to whether I am not ALREADY a no-life. If I am, my no-life is not FILLED with the computer, but with many alternative activities...) In Japanese, a no-life is a "okuyu", if I remember correctly.
I gave up on American television when I was 19 because... I found it boring, stupid, whatever. Even public TV had some kind of aura that just couldn't capture the interest of someone who was reading Thomas Hardy, Alexander Pope (link back to Hell...), sci fi. American TV was monumentally shitty.
And when I came to France, and discovered the TV of 1979, whoah, I fell back into it, because French TV at that time was CLASSY CLASSY. When Mitterand handed our first network over to the private sector in 1982 or so, it went downhill really fast, and I will no longer watch it either.
But... back to Nodame Cantabile.
I am putting my human ethology hat on, for a few comments.
The series is about a group of kids in a music academy. There are the "normal" kids : competitive, little robots that are on a running track to fame and fortune in an orchestra, or as soloists. They get along well in an elitist world where they are ground into the ground by the competition, pushed to the limit in... the world that WE have created in OUR vision of the way things... SHOULD BE. (You know, the best of the best, etc, you KNOW the dominant ideology these days, don't you ? If you don't, just take a little stroll on... Sudden Debt, and you will see it playing out...)
And then there are the... NOT normal ones. The sensitive ones. The.... EXTREMELY gifted ones who don't survive OUR ideology. They CAN NOT or WILL NOT become little submissive robots, evacuating all their emotions. BUT... their gifts are tremendous.
And the series shows what happens when... the not normal kids are ALLOWED to BE WHO THEY ARE, to do things THEIR WAY, to develop at THEIR pace, and not at OURS, at the teachers' pace.
It also shows what happens when the "normal" and the not normal get together.
EVERYBODY gains from this experience.
And another thing : the series shows people who are feeling and expressing emotions : tenderness, pain, love, people who can openly express their... fragility, (not weakness...).
They/we must recognize OUR interdependance.
Nodame is a joy, because the series is joyful and not cynical. The characters are HUMAN, not... robotic. And... it WILL transform Japanese society. BECAUSE : when we see people behaving this way, even if it is a fiction, we identify with them, we share their emotions which become our own. And the MORE we see people feeling and expressing emotions like tenderness, the more it will become ACCEPTABLE to feel and EXPRESS publicly these emotions.
And... our society will CHANGE, as it MUST, on this point.
Last comment : I am sharing Nodame with YOU, and with other friends, but NOT... my spy friends. These people are... forensic pathologists who snip and clip, peel back the skin, and DISSECT, DISSECT EVERYTHING.
I'm... tired of dissection. It was a family... trait that I no longer want to continue.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Make Of It What You Will

In response to Deb's comment about schizophrenics accepting the diagnosis or not

Here is the data I've compiled; make of it what you will. You may question the quality of the research, the method of analysis, and the logic of the conclusions. It is your choice whether to perceive it as your reality or not.

Your perception is yours alone to manage. Its a huge, unwieldy responsibility. There are certain default mechanisms available if you prefer autopilot. I wish you luck.

Hmmm. This seemed important enough for its own post at the time, but now it seems short and weird. This seems to happen to me frequently after I wake up

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dover Beach

This is my second attempt to post this. We have been having connexion problems, and I see spectres of the zero sum problem involved in the fact that it is at this very moment in time when we have the technological means to reunite us all, all over the planet, that our tendencies toward individuation and privatization can sap this very achievement in the very same movement. Is this clear to you ??

Matthew Arnold, the late 19th century author of "Dover Beach", one of the greatest, and best loved poems in the English language, was a very modern man. He lived through.. what WE are living through (there really is no excuse for our constant exceptionalism, the human condition has remained the same for millenia now...). He was a poet, a critic, a genius. And... Dinky, there is NO WAY to prechew poetry, unlike philosophy, history, and the rest...

"The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits -- on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone ; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night air !
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen ! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery ; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another ! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain ;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night." 1867

Samuel Barber set "Dover Beach" to music, and Fischer-Dieskau recorded it. I can not read the poem without hearing the music now, but... no matter. Both music and poetry are beautiful.
If you read the third strophe aloud "the sea of faith...", you will notice that it is in two breaths, and that at the end of the second breath, you will be dying for air, and will be forced to inspire on.. "ah love". Very well done, that. Try reading the poem aloud. Poetry is made to be read aloud.
Thai, this poem structures Ian McEwan's book "Saturday", about a day in the life of an eminent London neurosurgeon, a day during which his assumptions about his world, his work, his ethics, everything, are put to the test. You would enjoy this novel, I think. It would... challenge you.

This is not zero sums, but... I think that it is fair to say that historical apres-coup, the fact of looking back on our collective history has the effect of convincing us that the world in which our predecessors lived MUST HAVE SEEMED less confusing, less problematic, more simple, sometimes BETTER to THEM than ours does to us...
This is sheer delusion...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Need For Interns

(In a previous post I lamented that I needed interns to delegate some thinking to. This is what the title alludes to.)

1) Creatures have evolved many different mechanisms for eyesight. Is the same true for consciousness? Or do we all have the same mechanism, but at varying degrees of depth? I've observed my pets stopping to reflect before taking action. Something is going on in those little heads.

2) Can we tell which neurotransmitters are evolutionarily the oldest? To reverse-engineer something as complex as the mind/brain it seems best to start with the basics. Do "lesser" mammals have as many types of neurotransmitters as humans? It seems counterintuitive, but then I've been surprised before (i.e. we don't always have more genes).

3) What is currently the most self-sustaining community on the globe? What is the most nutritional dense crop that can be grown in WA soil? Is it more efficient to have crops for goats in this climate? How (and how fast) can soil be created? What is the best way to desalinate/purify water?

Sorry for the survivalist motif of the last one, but I get edgy when the price of gold spikes.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


This post is the first of two. Since we are a spin off of a financial blog, and in keeping with my last post, I am giving you the etymological history of the French word for money : "argent".
My idea is to compare this etymology with the one I will trace out in the next post on "money", courtesy, once again, of the OED, so we can see how two different societies have constructed their language, their attitudes about filthy lucre.
This text is MY translation of an entry in "Le Robert, Dictionnaire Historique de la Langue Française" (historical dictionary of the French language). In what follows, I will lace French terms with the English translation.

ARGENT : a masculin noun from the high period (881), from the latin argentum, which designated the metal, (silver), silverware, and starting from Plautus, coin/currency. This noun, part of a vast series, is derived from arguere, "brightness, splendor, whiteness", whence the verb arguere, in the archaic sense, "to make shine, to give light", later giving rise to "to prove, demonstrate, convince", in the figurative sense (i.e. argument). The metal is called "the shiny", as "or" (gold) is called "the yellow". This appellation can be found in Greek, in the Celtic languages... It is perhaps an appellation borrowed originally from an Indoeuropean word.

IN FRENCH, "ARGENT" refers to IN ITS FIRST SENSE, and STILL TODAY, the precious (white) metal (silver). (My emphasis, you guys... YOU GUESS WHY !!!)...Since the 12th century the word has a particular symbolic meaning (blason) : it symbolizes whiteness, and splendor.

The meaning "monnaie métallique" (currency) appears early (1080), first for "monnaie d'argent" (silver currency), then in the XII century for all metal currency. The "ideas" attached to the word become more and more abstract as currency increasingly detaches itself from PRECIOUS (me again, ha !) metals : "billets" (bank notes) REPRESENT (me...) "argent" (metal) and ARE... "argent" (currency). However, starting with Old French, the means of payment was designated by a word initially concrete (deniers, pécune) (and not "ARGENT"me). The fact that the word "argent" has been substituted for these CONCRETE words, or "or" (gold) in modern French can be attributed to financial history which accorded the greatest importance to "argent" (more coins in silver minted, I think...) Usage has also played a great role. "argent liquide" (cash) "argent comptant" (immediate payment, cash or check) "argent de poche" (pocket money)....
The word "argent" is one which has the greatest number of slang, and familiar substitutes.

Comment : I LIKE THE FRENCH. Look, the PREDOMINANT sense of the word STILL is... the precious metal.
The process by which the word "argent" came to represent "currency", in French, is an example of what linguists call "metonymy". That means that since the greatest number of coins were initially made of silver, the meaning "currency" was derived from the makeup of those coins. Another example : in French we say "boire un verre", to drink a glass. Of course... nobody drinks a glass, you drink.. the contents of the glass. But if you think about it, NOBODY talks so precisely as to eliminate metonymy. You would sound really weird if you did...

Friday, October 2, 2009


You guys asked for this one, so you're getting it. First observation : I am a dictionary dog. I dig into the dictionary like a dog digs into a bone. When I was in fifth grade, my spinster home room teacher had "pink tea" for those students who misbehaved in class. Pink tea meant staying after class and copying entries from the dictionary. Guess what ? I loved it !!!! Like I loved that teacher...
Second observation : it really is buttwork giving you guys this number, because I am currently manipulating the OED, that's short for the Oxford English Dictionary, in two HUMUNGOUS volumes that you have to consult with a magnifying glass. This is very awkward going, so I hope you appreciate...

1) The method of digging silver ore. Obsolete. The sole sense recognized in English dictionaries down to, and including Todd, 1818. (I think that you can appreciate the terrible irony in this. WHAT was silver ore dug for, among other principle reasons in 1818 and before ???? if not.... FILTHY LUCRE, that pale drudge twixt man and man, as Shakespeare so aptly puts it.)
2) Chem : the method of handling apparatus in experiments, Pharm, the preparation of drugs. 1828
3) General : the handling of objects for a particular purpose, manual management ; also, making motions with the hand. 1840
4) The act of operating upon or managing persons or things with dexterity especially with disparaging implication, unfair management or treatment (of documents). 1864.

The verb "manipulate" was constructed using "manipulation" as its point of departure.

Commentary : (Geez, I really love this type of stuff, it gets my imagination riled.)
First comment : this is essentially a 19th century word, coined (lol) with the industrial revolution. AND... it is a word that has semantic links to filthy lucre, as stated above.
You will notice that INITIALLY this expression is NOT abstract ; it deals with an action done by the HAND, a part of the body. BUT... we could say that the more ABSTRACT this noun becomes, the more it detaches itself from the physical body, the more it takes on a pejorative sense, and persecutory connotations.
How about a little history here ?
What is happening to THE HAND as an "object" that is not an object to us in the 19th century ?
What kind of "manipulation" is it doing ?
Compare factory work (taylorized) with string instrument making.
The HAND is not doing the same thing at all, is it ?
And, we SHOULD know that our brains, our minds, our intelligence, are intricately tied to WHAT OUR HANDS ARE DOING.
And when our hands are not doing beautiful, meaningful, creative things, or creating beautiful objects to last and be cherished, well then, maybe the road is just paved for that last sense of manipulation, where our lost dexterity comes around to persecute us ?

(This number was brought to you by... the OED, and NOT Wikipedia, if you please...)

The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits