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!
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.
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!
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.
To know. Derivatives besides know and cunning include
uncouth, ignore, noble, diagnosis, and narrate.
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.
can mean (i) skill or adeptness in execution or performance,
dexterity, or (ii) guile.
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
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.
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
Police sang: Poets, priests and politicians have words to thank
for their positions.
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?"
guile be defeated by skill?
the end the right to vote is the simplest form of language.
Making a choice. We say Yes to Change!
James Wood in The New Yorker