[lit-ideas] Re: Do You Have an Urgency?
- From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2006 12:22:55 -0700
On Aug 14, 2006, at 9:22 PM, David Ritchie wrote:
What's an urgency? It's what you have when you feel the need to
contact an administrator, as evidenced in the following note, I've
come home to:
... away from my desk until Monday...However, if you have an urgency,
please contact [name deleted] and
she can contact me by phone.
Allow me to elaborate. "Urgency" used as a noun to denote an urgent
need or situation can be found in the OED, listed as first used in
1647. However I had never heard or seen it used this way. Have you?
On reflection, I think it might well be a good word to revive and I
regret implicitly criticizing something just because it was new to me.
An "urgency"--something important but which falls short of the criteria
for an emergency. Well done, that administrator.
While I had the dictionary out, I checked on a couple of other queries
that had come up. Driving through a high desert that was studded with
sage, I felt the urge to call the landscape "chaparral" and
even--memories of childhood television here--"High Chaparral." Wrong.
The defining characteristic of chaparral is the evergreen oak. One
may, by extension, call a landscape dotted with tangled brushwood and
thickets, "chaparral" but sage desert must be called something else.
What though? If chaparral comes from the Spanish perhaps we should
look to Spanish for an answer, but I can't get any kind of T.V. show
name from "Artemesia, una especie parecida, arbusto." Maybe I need
more contact with vaqueros, about whom thus far in life Frederic
Remington has been my out-of-date guide. (What a weird read he is!)
On the subject of good weird reads, I have two to recommend. Karl
Sabbagh, "A Rum Affair; A True Story of Botanical Fraud," is in the now
somewhat tired category of book, the "gee-whizz, I didn't know the
history of science was so interesting" genre that Dava Sobel started.
And I should--disclosure--say that I am biased in the book's favor
because the academic dispute that is at the tale's core concerns the
flora of an island very close to where my great-grandfather lived. But
with those caveats, I recommend you seek the story out. It's currently
being remaindered, so you'll not have to pay much. Don Watson, "Death
Sentences" is also on remainder lists. Watson was a speech writer for
Paul Keating, one of Australia's prime ministers. In that role he was
often asked to translate civil service language into English. "Death
Sentences" is him letting off steam after years of exposure to
"Outcomes Assessment" and "shared understanding of core initiatives."
I find it funny and invigorating.
Final thought, different subject, more of a theological whimsy
actually. When my temperature rises with a fever, my mind wanders and
then sometimes catches on something, very much in the way that
driftwood catches on obstacles--flow, flow, flow...snag. I snagged on
"prelapsarian." It comes from Latin pre, before, lapsus, the fall,
thus the state of being before the fall. But "the fall" is a long way
in English from "the lapse"; complete downfall and confusion against
slight moral slip-up. So there, in near-delerium, lay I wondering
about a central tenet of Christianity...was Eve's sin actually a fall
or a lapse? I mean if you're going to call the first lapse, "the
fall," what term do you reserve for mass murder and all that follows?
"Sin." That doesn't sound right. There should be a progression of
sound, "fall," "more thunderous and frightening term," "yet more
thunderous term," "mass murder." "Sin?" Entirely too tinny. (Oblique
Monty Python reference).
There, I'm back and up with your debate. Except I haven't told Geary
to stay (but I will now), or insulted anyone, or said anything about
wandering around the house naked carrying buckets of ice. There are
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