Monday, May 04, 2015

So Crappy in Love—Semantic Shift in Democracy

There are things we not decide democratically—no democratic majority in the world would tell technologists how to make the airplanes we hope to be safe in. But when it comes to language people hardly seem to care about semantic crash landings. Even academic linguists insists on it being democratic and finding fascinating to follow people into the linguistic quicksand and research there. The problem I see, is that humans are supposed to involve logical thinking, contrary to animal sounds. They are supposed to, but in reality the majority still seems to be closer to animals, whereas a minority does the deep thinking. Hardly anybody cares about logic.

In German language happened semantic shifts which are clearly nonsensical. Some positive vocabularies really became a very negative meaning, although it doesn't make sense. Things worthy to remember (merkwürdig) today has the meaning of strange, odd, alien. This is like the word remarkable would change to exactly that negative meaning. Absonderlich once had the meaning of particular/extraordinary, but today it also means odd, strange, alien. To me it looks like these shifts happened when Germany overcame the Ancient Regime: Monarchs and aristocrats had been extraordinary people who did all those things worthy to remember. They spoke French, dealt with high arts and science, seemed pretty aloof. People did not guillotine them in the late 1800s, but it seems they did it to their language. It obviously has to do with democracy, but also has the quality of cutting out brain areas for human language. Because if you dump linguistic logic, you dumb yourself down. In English there seems to be a semantic shift with the word "pathetic". Pathos was the classical art of orating, but it also turns negative. The majority uses "pathetic" to make people ridiculous, who complain unjustifiably, to make them look kind of whiny. That's not the original meaning of pathetic! Pathos was misused by Hitler and in a mean and misleading way. But the early labor movement also involved pathos to draw attention to social distress, and in cases like this pathos was honest and meaningful. There will always be those who betray arts, but this is no reason to reject art. Today it's worse than that: A concept of art shifted to negative and trivial, which looks like devolution indeed. Personally ridiculing somebody's attitude is also misleading, if it distracts from real political issues. Today that's often the case if people involve the expression "pathetic".

There are cases like this, which happened globally, and disfigure Latin loanwords. Tempus means time, so how can we consider tempo speed? It's obvious, lazy, ignorant people dropped the miles and kilometers in front of the word tempo. When it comes to ancient Greek and Latin, I find this matter pretty serious, because our logical thinking bases on these two languages. This is the cradle of western intellectual culture and if we neglect that we will decline. I'm not willing to follow the majority on a path of devolution. At some point in my life, when I understood this problem, I did some deep thinking and divorced myself from the majority. Common sense is good for organizing your daily life, but when it comes to high arts and humane discipline you have to think way deeper. The majority considers this a huge waste of time and most scholars on universities seem to adjust. This should not be a matter of democracy. We invented democracy to control the political power of kings and state rulers. Nobody suffers if engineers decide how to design airplanes, like it wouldn't be a drama if professors insisted on the correct meaning of language. People then can choose whether they want to follow their advice or join stupidity. Looks like, the professor, people tend to admire, is too stupid to do his or her job. While studying there, they really feed them a lot of nonsense I wouldn't care to deal with. So are mainly autodidacts upholding intellectual culture?

Once I visited a discussion on Hadenberg's military reform in Prussia at the Historiale event in Berlin. There a doctor of history lectured on the history of reforming, claiming, Reform had been just religious reformation before Hadenberg. I was able to name several original dictionaries and other books from the early 1700s in Germany, using the words "Reforme" or "Reformation" for military issues or education. People tend to insist, a doctor is a doctor and what a doctor says goes. They will shrug your original sources off and that's what the organizers of Historiale did to me. I had seen them as an association of deep thinking history friends, but I was wrong. There will never be true spirit in a popular mass event like this. It was a painful experience which made me feel very lonely, but after all it was an intellectual liberation. After all it might be a blessing, to not having been able to study history at a university. Because it's obviously not about sincere scholarship. Etymologist who claim languages developed sort of mathematically often despise original source and feel like their coffee grounds reading was real. I won't object if they just tried to deduce what is lost in ancient languages, but as to see in this article, language tends to develop in rather illogical ways which are unlike mathematics. And if etymologists think they have the only truth, they can be terrible tyrants. You can construct something which seems to make sense, comparing several languages, but it's likely all mock if you neglect sources. Whenever I refute an etymologist with a source like this the other side resorts to destructive debate style. It's tyranny, not intellectualism.

Theoretically it might happen, that in the year 2500 people will say, "I'm so crappy in love." If you then try to explain, that crap wasn't something nice at all, people will answer, that language changes and it's all about democracy. Others will doubt, crappy really comes from crap, because it's spelled pp instead of p. Still others will just laugh at you and give you advice not to think too much. If crappy changes to the meaning of happy, a deep thinker is powerless. All you can do is divorce from majority and prefer to communicate with other deep thinkers. It's not about feeling special and fancy, it's refusal to sacrifice the ability of deep understanding.

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