20 May, 2016

Semantics — A to abattoir

[Words are units of metaphor, symbols strung together to convey meaning, the idea of something. Definitions are interpretations of meaning sussed out of usage—past, present, professional, colloquial, common and idiosyncratic. For the record, semantics means meaning, or the interpretation of meaning, specifically in relation to language. So yes, it is just semantics, but it is all just semantics.]

So...I am reading the dictionary (again), the New Oxford American Dictionary (NOAD). I'm also transcribing part of it--not every word, abbreviation, place, or name, but those words/parts of words I find of interest, which is most of them. This is not a transcription of that transcription, but a sharing of words as NOAD shared them with me. There are, in addition, some links and media and random ruminations regarding certain words, or ideas of words, or ideas about language, or ideas in general. 

Sadly, the OED is only available online for a very hefty price (I am using a hardcopy), so I will reference the Merriam-Webster online dictionary for linked definitions. The Online Etymology Dictionary is also a dear friend, so I will link to her often as well. 

I don't expect anyone to get anything out of this but me, though I would love someone to prove me wrong.

So, without further ado, may I introduce the word that introduces so many things in life:

An A-frame house--lots of A-ness


Yes, the letter 'A'. Also the word: 'A'. 

FIRST, alphabet, sound of, shape of, representation of, Symbol/Logic (universal affirmative), music, measurement, chess, grading, blood…blood!

Representations of A-ness. Representations of A-ness representing /replacing specific terms and general ideas, as in mathematics, similar to X in simple equations, i.e.,  a(x) + b(y) = c(z).


THE INDEFINITE ARTICLE: not any particular one; particular or certain; another, resembling; one; any, single; indefinite or nonspecific. The conflict is strong with this one.


The english metaphor of “a chair” is just some chair; “go get a chair,” means to grab whatever chair is available. I imagine “go get a chair” meant something similar in Ancient Greek, but with Plato’s Theory of Forms, “a chair” is the base conceptual model, or form, or idea, of what it means to be a chair. It is a higher form of being. A specific chair, as in the chair (definite article) with pink polka dots is an expression of what the Form of Chair can become, though the specific chair is NOT an example of the Form of Chair. In other words, the Form/Idea of Chair has the potential to become any specific chair, but any specific chair cannot become the Form/Idea of Chair; its specificity binds it.

Nabokov's synesthetic 'a'

—prefix meaning: NOT or WITHOUT, as in ATHEIST or ATYPICAL.
—prefix meaning: to, toward (aside, ashore); in a specified state or manner (asleep; aloud); in the process of (a-hunting); on (afoot); in (nowadays).  

Ashore, in an alternate linguistiverse
Something that represents so many beginnings also represents a lack or absence. It is not a removal—an ATHEIST doesn’t start as a THEIST and have it taken away by slapping an A on the front. It is a very frugal way to alter a word and, thus, its meaning, though the meaning shifts depending on the word it prefaces. ALIKE, with the first prefix, could mean to not like, though it of course means the same or very similar. ASHORE could mean without the shore, so far out to sea, or even deep inland.

 The paths language does not take are often as interesting as the ones it has. Etymology can be vital in this sense, or at least fascinating—to peel off the layers and years of meaning, to discover their roots, origins, and the influence of time and culture upon expression.


From the NOAD: "a nocturnal burrowing mammal with long ears, a tubular snout, and a long extensible tongue. " WOW! An extensible tongue?  Check this out!

 Having an expanding tongue is relatively close to my ideal alien mutation of retractable nipple tentacles. I am impressed, sir.

Aardvark is South African Dutch for "earth pig." Other than the mammal part, I don't see much pig in this creature, but it is interesting how colonialism maintains its presence in the name. One of the most effective methods for colonizing territory or exerting control over a spread of individuals is to control the language, either by imposing your own language on the people (think of how much French changed English after the Norman invasion, for instance, and then how French evolved from the Latin imposed by Roman conquest) or altering the meaning of existing words within the language itself (think: Scientology).

There are other, less insidious uses for alternate/layered word-meanings. Poetry is an example, as is philosophy. Poets often make use of multiple angles of meaning within a word, accessing its contexts, implications, historical references, etymologies, double-entendres, homographs and homonyms. Poetry demands economy and relies on metaphor and suggestion to emit various streams of meaning that mingle or intermix and sometimes drift apart, It is its own language unique to each poet, and its magic is evoked solely through words.

Martin Heidegger is a prime example of a philosopher who coaxes multiple meanings from otherwise common words. In one sentence, he can deploy three or four or even five meanings of the word "being" (Sein), like "the beingness of the being of Beings is being." Wheeee!


I have only one thing to say about the aardwolf:



An exclamation that the NOAD says is "used as an expression of anguish, horror, rage, or other strong emotion, often with humorous intent." 

Humorous intent, you say?

When I tried to link to the definition on Miriam-Webster, I got the following message:
Aren’t you smart – you've found a word that is only available in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary. To view the full definition of argh, activate your free trial today.
Yeah, no thanks. And for the record, I searched for "aargh." INTERESTING that some words are accessible without charge while others require a subscription. 

I do have an unabridged OED in one volume —it's about two feet tall with Bible-thin paper and multiple pages per page; it came with a magnifying glass. I regard it more as a deadly weapon than a browsable dictionary. 


I summon thee

People have been counting for a long time. The word itself conjures the concept of some kind of magickal item, an object or totem used in ritual. Perhaps it seemed that way to those observers who did not comprehend mathematics, the uneducated and ignorant (you know, the Donald's people). Numbers are summoned, a human concentrates his energy on this strange object, moves some beads around, and produces the figures as requested. 

Also, fuck Merriam-Webster. I've switched to dictionary.com. 


A name of the devil.
Also of hell.
Sounds a lot like Avalon.
Or a Death Metal band.
Apparently also a melee hero with low mana dependence in a game called Dota.
Dota stands for Defense of the Ancients, which seems to be an offshoot of Warcraft.
There's a thing called Abaddon Books, which is part of Rebellion Publishing, but I can't tell if it's an arm of the publishing company or a bookshop. Perhaps a book series?
The LDS says Abaddon is "the place of the lost" in one Bible and "destruction" in another.
There is also a board game.
A font.
I found this drawing:

Like Babel in reverse.
The Online Etymology Dictionary has this to say:
late 14c., used in Rev. ix:11 of "the angel of the bottomless pit," and by Milton of the pit itself, from Hebrew Abhaddon "destruction," from abhadh "he perished." The Greek form was Apollyon.
Why does it strike me as so romantic?


Opposite of "for'd," re: port & starboard, on a boat. So, kind of aft, but not. I should finish writing that thing about the Titanic; I hallucinated a Yeti.


To wholly give into something or to leave/desert. An interesting crossover. Almost everyone I know has abandonment issues, including me. We're so hyper self-aware, we rely on the presence and existence and affection and reflection and validation and love and friendship of others. And not just any others, but others like ourselves, i.e., human. 

No wonder we're so terrified of being left alone.
Or of completely giving in. Commitment. As if feelings or opportunities or relationships were quicksand, and leaping in means one can never come back. The void, limit experience, Ereignis. Nietzsche and Foucault in a passionate embrace....

...so I was looking for some kind of cackle/laugh to accompany the mental image of N&F, but what I found instead are all of these reallyreallybadly produced videos about how Hollywood is run by Satanists and you have to do some homosexual Illuminati ritual to get a record contract, etc. I added a link to the least painful one to watch (that I had the patience to look for), but I won't embed the fucking thing. 


Synonyms include: to belittle, dishonor, defame, humiliate. 

I usually consider this word in relation to what I do to myself, such as, "I abased myself before the court in a final plea for mercy" (true story). Some authors live in this territory; Kafka comes to mind. It's like his characters won't abase themselves, so his stories have to do it for them. I also think of Polanski, who always cast himself as sniveling cowards or bumbling idiots or delusional crossdressers. I still think he cast Isabelle Adjani in The Tenant just so he could make out with her. I would have.

Which makes me think of my favorite dialogue from that movie, to which I so relate these days: "What right has my head to call itself me?" Indeed.


dictionary.com makes this word sound synonymous with abase, but I always took it to mean more embarrassed or rattled than defamed and dishonored. There could be some shared hues, as to embarrass often makes one feel belittled, like Madame Bovary being told the heroine she so admires only exists in her books, or a room full of housewives in Topeka reading D.H.Lawrence for the first time. 

It should double as an exclamation: "Abash! Abash! To the devil with you!"


From the Middle French, to beat down. I wonder how we got from beating someone/thing to "lessen, reduce, decrease," and then I look at the 5th usage on dictionary.com, which says:
to remove, as in stone carving, or hammer down, as in metalwork, (a portion of a surface) in order to produce a figure or pattern in low relief.
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I get it.
I guess.


This word is so awesome, but so simply translated, that it doesn't get enough attention. Admittedly, it doesn't sound like what it is, but it conjures so much when used appropriately. Instead of the business-end, which is what slaughterhouse conveys, it is full and sensual. 

You can imagine standing ankle-deep in a warm froth of blood; lick the acrid iron from your lips, the stench is that overwhelming; hear the snorts and squeals of animals marching toward death, their nerves humming on the nape of your neck. You want to run, but they can't. You want to turn it off, but it assaults every part of you, flays you living, burrows in your bowels, boiling over bent and broken.

Like that.
Or, slaughterhouse.

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