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Tomorrow

   
 

Take a Man at his Word!

   

 

  

 

The tension is unbearable.  Tomorrow, with all the promise that the word holds, finally, the nation takes a collective sigh of relief for the moment is at hand - America votes!

At eCognoscente, we've particularly noticed that this election has been a cultural war of sorts, and particularly a war over language and words.  At times, a war on words.  Obama was characterized as a latte-drinking, New York Times-reading elitist and was pummeled for his eloquence by the Republicans.  Palin was the hockey mom who flaunted her incoherence with her disjointed, grammatically incorrect sentences and her ignorance about Supreme Court decisions, the role of the Vice President and the First Amendment.  McCain of the Straight Talk Express resorted to air quotes and facial gestures when words failed him.

The word cognoscente means to be culturally in-the-know, and derives from the Latin cognoscens, cognoscent, present participle of cognoscere, to know.  We've got a stake then in this cultural war!

We had said at the start of the Obama McCain face-off that this election would be about cunning.  Cunning derives from the Middle English, present participle of connen, to know, from Old English cunnan.  And so, both cognoscente and cunning ultimately derive from the same Indo-European root gno - to know.

Gno.  To know.  Derivatives besides know and cunning include uncouth, ignore, noble, diagnosis, and narrate. 

And if we had said that this race, this time around, would be about cunning, then it was because we looked at two of the meanings of the word cunning - skill and guile.

Cunning can mean (i) skill or adeptness in execution or performance, dexterity, or (ii) guile.

And we had so wanted this election to be about skill defeating guile.  Guile in politics is as old as politics itself: voter suppression, mischaracterizations, name-calling, scare tactics, outright lies….   Skill would be a ruthlessly effective campaign, intelligence and knowledge, agility with language, rhetoric used to sway, oratory used with prowess.  

At eCognoscente we are in love with language and we appreciate skill, words wielded with agility.  We think Flaubert put it marvelously when he said: May I die like a dog rather than try to rush through a sentence before it is perfectly ripe.

James Wood writing in The New Yorker had a piece on words and Sarah Palin's invention of the word 'verbage' that he so poetically said was "so close to garbage, so far from language."

The Police sang: Poets, priests and politicians have words to thank for their positions.

At eCognoscente we believe that words matter, that language matters.  That knowledge matters.  This election, we want to reaffirm the power of language.  And if this election is about words, then it is rightly so.  Barack Obama, and we have through this campaign noted his dexterous use of the English language, said at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in the famous speech that catapulted him onto the road to the Presidency: "Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope?"

Can guile be defeated by skill?

In the end the right to vote is the simplest form of language.  Making a choice.  We say Yes to Change!

 

Read: Verbage, James Wood in The New Yorker 

 

Tags:  literature  language  obama  politics

 

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