Word of the day: myriomorphous

I’ve been rolling the word around in my mind for more than a week now, but my favorite new word appears only once anywhere I can find, including Google: myriomorphous.

Presumably it means “having many forms.” It’s a beautiful word. Eitan tells me that Sir Richard Burton also gave us the word gnosis. I don’t know if it’s true, but I can believe it.

Pseudo-profundity

Postmodern philosophy eventually comes to the conclusion that all meanings are tentative because nothing is absolute; categories break down, and meaning dissolves.

But what if the absolute, the pure, is not a factual or intellectual quality and is instead an aesthetic one? By not being factual, I mean that the pure is a matter of opinion, inherently unverifiable, and profoundly non-literal; by aesthetic, I mean that it is subject to interpretation, and is a question of mood and style as much as anything else. A field of snow could then be absolutely, perfectly, purely white despite footsteps, bird droppings, and whatever else; there need be no authoritarian, ideological clearing of that snowfield to guarantee its purity.

That would explain the primacy of cultural criticism over philosophy, for one thing. It could rescue purity from its fascist, racist, and authoritarian leanings, as it would be definitionally beyond proof or demonstration. It would leave the “pure” intact and unreachable — where it belongs.

Worst Quotations of All Time

Someone should collect a book of things that people wish they’d never said, a sort of signpost on the road to notoriety. Bill Clinton’s disquisition on the meaning of “is” (which, as a philosophy major, I greatly appreciated), Dan Quayle’s John F. Kennedy comparison, Gerald Ford on Poland, and so on.

I’m not sure why all of these are political; I’m sure that there is an equal wealth of not merely wrong or fatuous statements that people have made in business and art and elsewhere, but statements of such surpassing awfulness that they are without peer. And someone should collect them all in a book.

Names for West Washington

Recently, The Stranger wrote about eastern Washington State’s wish to be a separate state from western Washington State. The two halves are quite different: western Washington is much more liberal and urban; eastern washington is rural and largely conservative, and feels ignored by state politics.

The Stranger’s article suggested that Washington, DC could also become a state — its two liberal senators would offset the two conservative senators that would be added by Western Washington. That solves one problem, but not another: which state would be Washington? East Washington and West Washington are boring names, so let’s just give that to DC; they can have it.

One wag at dinner the other night suggested that East Washington could be Spokanistan after their likely capital, Spokane, but I think that they would take offense at that and I don’t really blame them. Perhaps since we would split the state at the Cascade Mountains, they could be Cascadia, a name that people in Western Washington would like to keep for themselves.

But let them have it. It’s a pretty name, and there aren’t a lot of other pretty names I could think of for that state. Western Washington could be Pacifica, after the lovely ocean we’ve got next door. Or — since eastern Washington is named after a mountain range — we could be named after our capitol, also a mountain range, and be Olympia.

I like Cascadia / Olympia as names for our new states.

‘mankind

I like using a single word to refer to the entirety of the human race. But I also like this word to be elegant and not too multisyllabic. “Mankind” is a little less inclusive than I’d like. But what about ‘mankind? It’s short for humankind, but a syllable less and not as much of a tongue-twister.