[lit-ideas] Re: Satisficionados

On Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 11:21 PM, Richard Henninge <
RichardHenninge@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

>
> This misses, I'm afraid, what Wittgenstein refers to as the Witz, or
> "point," more specifically, the "joke" of the expression "government work."
> The expression was decidedly not meant as a stopgap measure until a better
> solution came along. In particular, the worry about deadlines and such is
> not a government problem. Instead, the expression, which can also be heard
> as "close enough for government work," is an indication of the work done by
> an organization and its employees who have secure jobs based primarily on
> seniority and whose work is not subject to market forces. The government
> hires contractors who compete with each other to get the jobs. Their work
> will be measured with argus eyes, but if the government does the job itself,
> they can jokingly say, "good (or close) enough for government work" and move
> onto the next task.
>
>
>
I happily agree that, to the best of my knowledge, Richard is right about
the origins of the expression "good enough for government work" and the
point in its original context. Where I heard the expression most often,
however, was when my father or uncles, ardent fishermen all, were doing
last-minute repairs before heading off to fish; time pressure was involved
because of their desire to catch the tide at the point when the fish would
be biting. Another, similar context, was temporary repairs to tractors, lawn
mowers or other mechanical equipment, when a breakdown interrupted a job
underway (plowing the garden, mowing the lawn, using a chain saw to cut up
firewood, that sort of thing). The context, in other words, was neither
market nor bureaucracy, though the men using the term were familiar with
both. In this context, the original metaphor was diluted but the sense of
 "not really ideal" remained.
FYI, I use the term "diluted" here to refer to the weakening of metaphor
that occurs when an image is taken out of its original context and used by
people unfamiliar with that context, a point I take from anthropologist
James Fernandez's Persuasions and Performances. A favorite personal example
is "running around like chickens with their heads chopped off." When I was
growing up, there was a period when my father was laid off from the Shipyard
and we were growing our own chickens. I have vivid memories of the axe
descending on the necks of hens that had stopped producing eggs and the
bodies still jumping and twitching as the blood spurted out of the headless
necks. I  wonder what the image evokes to people who have not had this
experience.

John

John

John

-- 
John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
Tel. +81-45-314-9324
http://www.wordworks.jp/

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