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Sunday, October 3, 2010

I'm Going to Coin Another Word

It can be argued that when someone such as I resorts to making up a word, it's due to deficiencies in his own vocabulary. With so many words in the English language, with so much nuance possible, there must surely be a word already for the concept our hapless neologificator is trying to convey. I don't deny it.

On the other hand, that's not going to stop me. If, as you read this, you find yourself muttering dark imprecations at my lack of erudition for not knowing x, then by all means add a comment. Be as abusive as you like (as long as you include the word).

Let's face it; there are too many words out there for one man to know them all. I feel confident in saying that there isn't a person on the planet who knows every esoteric and technical term in the English – or any other – language. I've no idea how many words there are in English (nor does the Global Language Monitor, despite claims to the contrary), but irrespective of the number, we can rest assured that the more words one knows, the more likely one is to frequently encounter new ones.

Now that we've cleared that up, let's get on with our New Word of the Day (for a fairly broad value of 'day').

Today's word, boys and girls, is 'asignifier'.

'Asignifier' can be defined thusly: a word in common parlance that is entirely devoid of meaning. Such a word is used regularly, but those who use it – and those who hear it – accept that it has some significance, but would be hard-pressed to give a definition that neither lapses into self-reference nor spirals into vague inanity.

This doubtless applies to many, many words, but I'm thinking of one in particular: 'spiritual'.

Now, there are many valid meanings to spiritual; I'm not talking about them. A swift perusal of my current online dictionary of choice reveals many definitions. I've no objection to any of those. However, there are many people today who consider themselves spiritual, but have no real religious faith; they merely consider themselves to be one with the cosmos. Or something. If you visit someone who has a wind chime or a dream catcher in their house, there's a distinct possibility that they think of themselves as spiritual. Alas, because you're visiting their home, it'd be rude to some out with a 'what the hell are you talking about?', so the question usually goes unasked.

So it's fairly easy to define the word in terms of those who use it; a spiritual person is one who believes in some or all of the following, but without any formal religious underpinning of those beliefs: reincarnation, homoeopathy, chakras, auras, astrology. They'll be vaguely anti-science, and almost definitely anti-GMO. They probably don't believe in a specific god, but they've no problem with phrases like 'playing god'. They'll readily accept scientific concepts like anthropogenic climate change, but equally they'll be sure that vaccinations are nothing but a tool of the corporations. There's a significant chance that they're vegetarians. For them, Gaia isn't a metaphor but a physical presence. They hate chemicals (or at least those chemicals that fit their own amorphous definition of the word). They've probably read at least one book by Deepak Chopra, and possibly a book utterly unrelated to science that misuses the word 'quantum'. They'll accept anything that suggests that mankind is the worst thing that happens to this planet.

In short: hippies.

I can't fucking stand hippies.

So why hippies? I've no great problem, after all, with religious people in general, unless they try to inflict their drivel on me.

Part of the reason, I suppose, is that I fulfil a few of the above criteria myself. I'm a vegetarian. I've little problem with current climate-change models. I've always had environmental tendencies. I consider vaccines to be vital to the continued well being of millions – if not all – of us, but I've no doubt that pharmaceutical companies, at their upper echelons, comprise mostly fuckers who subvert science and the scientific method for short-term profit (case in point).

But I'm not a self-hating vegetarian. It's 95% of other vegetarians that piss me off.

Anyway, that's spiritual people. But as definitions go, it's rather unwieldy, and addresses the symptoms, but not the root disorder. What does the word 'spiritual' mean? I've struggled with this for some time now, and all I've gotten from that study and reflection is an automatic irritation towards those who use the word to describe themselves.

Yes, this could be hubris. I realise that I'm saying that because I don't know what the word means, it doesn't have meaning. I've tried, though. Oh, how I've tried. I've listened with an open mind to these hippy fuckers prattle on, but their sound and fury inevitably comes to naught.

Actually, 'meaning' probably has a lot to do with it. People want their lives to have meaning; they want to be here for a purpose. I don't understand this at all, but I accept that there are many, many people who feel that way. And one could argue that by accumulating their own set of beliefs rather than accepting a job-lot of crap from one religion or another, they're a rung above the traditional adherent. But they're still a couple of steps from the bottom of the ladder.

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