G. Mackenzie Bacon, On the Writing of the Insane (London, 1870):
The noun air line (“chiefly U.S.,” says the OED) originally referred to the shortest distance between two points: a straight line, as might be drawn on a map. During the nineteenth century the term became a selling point that American railroads incorporated into their names.
In 1910 Ferdinand Graf Zeppelin began operating his airships on scheduled routes between cities in Germany, and that was the beginning of the airline industry as we know it now. Count Zeppelin tagged his business DELAG, but that word was only an acronym, not yet a name ready to escape into breathed air as an independent noun. Still flat on its ground, it stood in humble compound form only for Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-Aktiengesellschaft (“German Airship Travel, Inc.”). Nor in the English that Americans understood in 1910 was the name air line yet ready to slip the surly bonds of earth and fly.
But by 1910 life was playing around with the mooring ropes. The more famous of the two twentieth-century American magazines named Life was a mid-century weekly that specialized in photojournalism, but the earlier Life was less an illustrated history of its time than a word game played for eternal stakes. It was a humor magazine, and on January 6, 1910, it put the words air line into play and began doodling some thoughts on paper about what they were actually saying, not what they were merely meaning.
On December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers had made their first powered takeoff, and six years and a few days later it’s obvious that the cartoonist still hasn’t actually seen a wing. But he always has known the language of air. He came to crying life on the day it began filling his lungs, and now the play with the mooring ropes has spun off a name. There it is, written across what in 1910 is still probably called a pier: United Air Line. It has no plural ending because it actually is united. It is a single line segment with a beginning and an end: an air line, extending (say the other words on the pier) all the way to London.
But the London at the other end of the line isn’t a city in England. It’s a word, it’s in you, and it’s on schedule to be reached happily ever after.
Source: New York Public Library, https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-d121-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99. Post-processed in Photoshop. The original cartoon is captioned “Bon voyage.”
On Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2018, a man with an AR-15 rifle strolled into a high school in Parkland, Florida, and killed fourteen students and three teachers. Unusually, the event remained in the news for days afterward. In consequence, President Trump made a television appearance in which he hinted that he might be in favor of some form of gun control.
President Trump’s Republican party joined in the mourning. On March 1, Republican strategist Rick Wilson searched his language, found the word “horror,” and gave it a larger meaning by connecting it with other bad things, this way.
Trump has seen the fresh-faced, well-spoken Parkland kids, with stories of the genuine horror they witnessed, their push for strict gun control, including the banning of semiautomatic rifles, particularly AR-15s, and for a general rollback of Second Amendment liberties.
Those who witnessed the killing, Mr. Wilson’s language explained, had experienced, in the recent past, horror. But in the present, those who possess semiautomatic rifles may be about to experience rollback. Read literally, that metaphor rollback refers not to a thing, such as a statute governing the sale of firearms, but to an occurrence taking place across time: a change; something not (for instance) written down but in process of being written down. And if the language of statute teaches itself to contemplate rollback, the Second Amendment, whose “well regulated militia” originated with the slave patrols that prevented liberty and killed those who sought it, will be in peril of losing its unchanging ideal meaning as a liberty an sich. It may prove to be rollable back from that interpretation, like a rock from before a tomb.
That would be a horror far worse than anything merely genuine, for once the rock has been rolled back, what can the changeless idea of the genuine mean? In Mr. Wilson’s sentence, the word, having lost its meaning, makes the whole predication ungenuine. “The horror they witnessed,” with no modifier, would have been simple and clear, and a modifier signaling itself to be a rhetorical limiter, such as “the so-called ‘horror’ they witnessed,” would have established a unity of tone with the rest of the sentence. But in “the genuine horror they witnessed,” the nakedness of “genuine” just looks like a typo. It tells a truth that its speaker himself refuses to think. Abstracted from life and the human, it is a verbal phenomenon reduced to nothing but its physical minimum, sound. It would be a word if it had a referent, but it doesn’t have a referent. It is only a lyrical sound.
The party of semiautomatic rifles throws back its head and howls the lyric. It is a next step in the evolution of music.
Source: Rick Wilson, “When you let a closet Democrat like Trump lead the GOP, this is what you get.” Washington Post, March 1, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/03/01/we-kissed-conservatism-goodbye-when-we-let-trump-lead-the-gop
According to an article by Tad Walch in the August 8, 2017, Deseret News, a high-ranking member of the hierarchy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was recently excommunicated. The reason hasn’t been made public, but
The church also confirmed that Tuesday’s action was not due to disillusionment or apostasy.
To the waste land he goes, a scarlet thread tied to his horns. But his faith remains unsullied and his illusions still work their sleight of heart.
O Cigar, dispeller of holy Illusion in a cloud of smoke.
At Amazon.com, one of the customer reviews of Cristanne Miller’s Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them is signed by Angelo. Angelo gives the edition only three stars out of five but calls it “Great” in his (or its) subject line and then completes the sentence this way:
as the price. Weight of the product fees good in my hand and it’s very nice looking. If your looking for value in a product this is it. will buy next time. my family need to change a new one , best service.
It could be a bot. On the other hand, it could be a sign that language in the Trump era is becoming a self-driving vehicle.
In 2015 I posted a note about the word “Jew” as differently understood by the Victorian Catholic poets Coventry Patmore and Gerard Manley Hopkins. At the time, I thought that the two poets’ correspondence about the word might help us understand the then topical issue of boycotting out of existence the country named Israel and the concept named Jew.
But as of 2017, those two-year-old thoughts of mine have gone anachronistic. Language, including the word Jew, no longer seems to work in all the ways it did two years ago. It has lost some functions and acquired others. So I’ve updated my note. WordPress has filed the revision in its original 2015 position and linked it to its original 2015 title, but the text you’ll reach is new when you click