or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Grease Is The Word

A couple of days ago I was writing about language families and I said that Turkish was a European language. On Friday, I was reading this fantastic blog about Volume 1 of the Left Behind series and came across this:

"Almost every end-times writer I respect believes the Antichrist will come out of Western Europe, maybe Greece or Italy or Turkey."

Turkey, traditionally, is not regarded as part of Western Europe, what with it's being in Asia, but if we're going to have any hope of reconciling all of the things in our Antichrist check list then we can't allow ourselves to be constrained by such tired geographic conventions.

Turkey? Asia?

Well, yes and no. It sort of sits on the borderline. Classically, it was considered part of Asia, but nowadays it considers itself more European: following World War I, Kemal Ataturk began a series of reforms to bring the country more in line with modern Europe, and it's applied for membership in the European Union.

None of this affects what I was writing about the other day: I just didn't want anyone to think I hadn't done my homework.

You really ought to read that blog, by the way. (It's not a blog by itself, actually, but a subsection of a blog called Slacktivist.) Just go here, scroll to the bottom, and get ready to lose a few days of your life. The author starts at the very beginning and analyzes the first "Left Behind" book in chunks of a few pages each. He's merciless. You'll quickly get the sense that the "Left Behind" series is the worst kind of hackwork imaginable, and no subsequent post will do anything to dispel this. And the blogger isn't even a godless heathen like me; he's a Christian who hates what Jenkins and LaHaye have wrought in the name of their demented brand of Christianity. Seriously. Read this. You won't regret it.


Every time I think of or run across the word "desuetude"--which is not that often, though it did pop unannounced into my head yesterday evening--I think its root is the word "suet", which is ridiculous and nonsensical, but there you have it: that's what I always think.

"Suet" is, revoltingly, related to "sebum", the usefully greasy ick that your hair follicles pump out to lubricate the hair shaft so that your hair doesn't hurt when it grows (really) and that can lead to sebaceous acne if the glands get blocked. "Sebum" is the Latin word for "tallow" or "grease".

"Desuetude", on the other hand, has nothing to do with grease. It means "a state of inactivity or disuse", so when something falls into desuetude, it is no longer used or practiced, as a law or as social mores.

I only tell you this because its original root, Indo-European "s(w)e-", is stunningly fecund, and yet, as rarely happens with these ancient word stems, every single word has a clear link to the original meaning. It's just breathtaking.

"S(w)e-" is a reflexive pronoun: it refers back to the self, as do "myself" and "themselves". In fact, "self" is one of the offspring of "s(w)e-", through Germanic ("selbst" is the equivalent in modern German).

As for the rest...well, you can wait 'til tomorrow, right?


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