Bought two good finds, Pythagoras' Trousers: God, Physics and the Gender Wars by Margaret Wertheim and John Ralston Saul's The Doubter's Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense.
Saul lists certain words and gives them alternative meanings. His definitions range from the irreverent to the profound. Some examples:
Jogging. An urban sport whose principle long-term effect is to cripple middle- and uppermiddle-class professionals. Enthusiasts include orthopedic surgeons and running-shoe manufacturers.-------
Hard Work. The work ethic remains a popular explanation for the success of the West. This doubtful argument relies heavily on comparing humans to insects such as ants. Above all, the work ethic has a feel about it of low-level morality aimed at the poorer of society.
Foreigner. An individual who is considered either comic or sinister. When the victim of a disaster-preferably natural but sometimes political- the foreigner may also be pitied from a distance for a short period of time.
Intelligence. The ruling elite's description of its own strengths. It follows that this is the primary measure of superiority among humans.
Inferiority complex. Individuals whose primary drive stems from their feeling of inferiority are a threat to the public interest. Not only do they tend to seek power in search of self-affirmation, their insecurity actually helps them to achieve it. Once there, they seek to demonstrate the inferiority of those under them.
Bankers. Pillars of society who are goint to hell if there is a God and He has been accurately quoted.
Yacht. One of the belongings from which a [monied person] can fall down and drown when the relationship between his inferiority complex and his banker is no longer viable.
First class. Should a plane crash, those seated at the front are almost guaranteed a clean death. Their passage to the next world is eased by a decent last meal, unlimited alcohol and enough leg room to meet their end with dignity.
Anorexia. A condition aspired to by most middle-class women.
Control. Ideal of managers and housewives. The enemy of creativity and growth, whether economic, social or individual. One of the most destructive characteristics of a modern society. What is it exactly that they are trying to control?
Descartes. Gave credibility to the idea that the mind exists separately from the body, which suggests that he didn't look down while writing.
Doubt. The only human activity capable of controlling the use of power in a positive way. Doubt is central to understanding. The elites of organised societies define leadership as knowing what to do. Their response is to doubt, consider and deliberate. That is, to question, contemplate and weigh carefully.
Happy Hour. A depressing comment on the rest of the day and a victory for the most limited Dionysian view of human nature.
Politeness. A mechanism of control distinguished by urbane, smooth, courteous, refined and other agreeable mannerisms of social intercourse. We are conditioned to think of this control in classic Marxist terms as a phenomenon of vertical class culture. The citizen's job is to be rude- to pierce the comfort of professional intercourse by boorish expressions of doubt. Politics, philosophy, writing, the arts- none of these, and certainly not science and economics, can serve the common weal if they are swathed in politeness.
War. Children love war, especially civil war. In peacetime parents think children can be told what to do. Civil wars are wonderful because suddenly children can be grown-ups. It's an opportunity to get rid of their parents, sometimes permanently. Instead of being bribed with toy guns and games, they can shoot real people.
Sex. Despite being a common activity, demand always runs ahead of supply. This has made sex the market-driven aspect of personal relationships, running somewhere behind property in the schema of economics. Demand, in sex as in commerce, is an irrational mystery. The long-term contractual approach requires property arrangements such as marriage. In the speculative pay-as-you-go market, it is often linked to meals and entertainment. In either case sex has become the most succesful bull market of the last three decades. Theoretical demand stretches so far ahead of real supply that sex has become the opiate of the people.
Venereal. From Venus, the goddess of love, this word refers to the reality of desire. With the rise of Protestantism and science the word "disease" was tacked on in a revealing combination of categorisation and moralising. "Which disease?" "The disease of love."
This book has inspired me to create a new label for this blog, "Word of the Day." I will attempt to furnish you, my dear readers, with either humorous or profound definitions of every day words. On this note, let me begin with these words.
Love. A set of complex mathematical calculations whose main purpose is to extract gains and minimise losses without eliciting feelings of guilt, greed or selfishness.
Falling in love. A condition in which one is attracted to another who is either a mirror of oneself or a complement of what is lacking in oneself. Also known as Masturbation.