#8 THE MEANING OF “METAPHOR”

It is one of those words that I am very fond of. “Métaphore” in French, “metaphora” in Latin and “metaphero” in Greek but what exactly does this word mean?

A metaphor is a figure of speech. Metaphors are the spices to a good biryani. (note: I just used a metaphor). Metaphors are extremely well-liked by writers or poets and you will often find them in stories and poems. Quite simply, metaphors offer a creative way to express something by literally using another. Metaphors can often be used to describe something complex in a relatable and arguably easy manner. They are not meant to be taken to be taken literally, like my earlier sentence for example. A metaphor is neither a spice nor do we put it in biryani now, do we? But you got the idea and that is the beauty of using metaphors in your writings.

Another example would the sentence “Let’s address the elephant in the room”. Now unless we are in a zoo, I would assume that the person who said this did not mean addressing to an elephant literally but rather the issue at hand.

Here’s the extract of one of my thoughts (a rough one that I have yet to finish before I post the whole thing) and the last example to make my point on metaphors:

“I am a broken leaf of the old tree

Unlikely to stay near the tree

I am a gliding leaf guided by the wind

Unlikely to know his destination

I am a drifting leaf guided by the river

Unlikely to go against the water”

Did you like it or did it feel relatable?, please let your views and I will try to finish and post it soon.

Metaphors are fairly easy to recognize albeit sometimes it may become confusing especially with “similes” involved. A simile is also a figure of speech quite similar to metaphors. The main difference is that a metaphor implies one thing to be another, a simile on the other hands makes a comparison of one thing to another.

Confused? Here’s some side by side to help distinguish:

Metaphor 1: Metaphors are the spices to a good biryani

Simile 1: Metaphors are like the spices to a good biryani

 

Metaphor 2: I am a broken leaf of the old tree

Simile 2: I am similar to a broken leaf of the old tree

 

Metaphor 3: I am a gliding leaf guided by the wind

Simile 3: I am like a gliding leaf guided by the wind

So yeah, you can use metaphors and similes interchangeably depending on your preference. As far as I know, both similes and metaphors are present and used in all languages whether English, French, Spanish, Creole, Hindi, Urdu, Mandarin etc. Metaphors and similes make language even more beautiful and allow a richer form of expression. Isn’t that a beautiful?

 

 

#7 THE MEANING OF “RHETORIC”

No matter which society or civilization we look at, progress/big changes have always stemmed from having rallied people behind a cause/system/individual/group of individuals. The causes in themselves might be controversial; Sometimes motivated by selfishness, self-righteousness, stereotypes, and animosity. So what makes it work then? How do certain individuals/group of individuals get the rest to rally behind their ideas or causes?

This is an old question with a constant answer known as “rhetoric”. A lot of people, philosophers, and writers among others have had a lot to say about rhetoric. The constant in most definition being  “making use of words in a convincing/persuasive manner”.

Below are some interesting elements about the history of the word:

  • The word Rhetoric has its ancestral roots in Greece
  • It transitioned to the Latin language and Old French before landing in the English vocabulary.
  • Plato of ancient Greece said rhetoric is “The art of winning the soul by discourse”
  • His student Aristotle said, ” it is the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.”
  • The Roman Marcus Fabius Quintilianus who became a rhetorician after having studied rhetoric (because that was a thing back then) said that rhetoric is “the art of speaking well”.
  • Naturally, we observe rhetoric being used popularly usually with a negative connotation to describe someone “using pretty, meaningless word to impress and persuade” (especially in politics)
  • While rhetoric is about words and can be used applied to all medium of communication, back in the days the most popular and prominent form of communication was oration.
  • Aristotle wrote a whole book on oratory rhetoric known as “Treatise on rhetoric” (available through public domain).

You could read it, or you could save the trouble by watching the main concepts condensed and explained in the video below:

So, of course, examples of rhetorics are found everywhere every day. Next time you hear anyone, be it a leader, teacher, activist or politician making a speech and you feel moved/convinced or you see people being persuaded. Ask yourself this, “To what end is rhetoric being used? Is this a charlatan at work? Is this a manipulator seeking selfish privileges? Is this a hateful bigotted individual seeking to create his idea of a perfect self-righteous world? Is this a genuine person seeking to bring forth change for the betterment of something be it society, education, medicine, culture, environment?”

Rhetoric is a tool that wields a lot of power and has been used both to emancipate and manipulate, to do good and to do bad. If history has taught us anything, it is that as a collective force we are able to accomplish great things but also a lot of evil, misguided, bad and cruel actions.

#6 THE MEANING OF “MACHIAVELLISM”

To describe someone as Machiavellic is in no way a compliment! Machiavellism is a term that originates from the Renaissance era and has since been used extensively in a negative way, especially in politics.

Below are some interesting elements about the history of the word and its author :

  • Machiavelism according to the online dictionary Meriam-Webster is the political theory of Niccolò Machiavelli.
  • Niccolò Machiavelli himself was an Italian writer, diplomat, and politician of the Renaissance era.
  • The theory is of view that politics is amoral and any means however unscrupulous can justifiably be used in achieving political power.
  • Nicolo Machiavelli has had a lot of influence in political thinking and some consider him the father of modern political science.
  • The most notable work of Nicolo Machiavelli “the prince” (written in the 1500’s) is highly controversial, some even consider it evil.
  • “The prince” seems to endorse immoral behavior, such as dishonesty and killing innocents, as being normal and effective in politics. The writer himself seems to be of opinion that it is okay to deceive, manipulate and kill the innocents, friends and enemies alike if it helps secure power.
  • At its core, Machiavelism is about deception, manipulation, and self-survival. One extract is as follows “Men are so simple of mind, and so much dominated by their immediate needs, that a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived.”

In the present, the term seems to have found firm footing in psychology as well. Machiavellism made its entry in psychology in the 1970’s when two psychologists (Richard Christie and Florence L. Geis) developed what they called “the Machiavellianism Scale”. The test, later on, became known as the Mach-IV test. Those that score high on the text are likely to believe that in order to achieve success, one must be deceptive. They are likely to prioritize power over love and connection, they don’t believe that humankind is by nature good. They are unlikely to trust people, a behavior they might often see as naive.

A study published in 2013, found that those who identified strongly with Machiavellism were also very likely to suffer from depression.

Machiavellism also became one of the three personality traits to define Dark Triad and one of the four personality traits to define Dark Tetrad. A dark triad is an individual who scores high on Machiavellism, psychopathy, and narcissism. Dark tetrad takes the concept one step further and adds sadism to it. One advice: stay away from a dark triad or a dark tetrad, they only bring trouble.

And just like that, a politician, through his actions and his book earned one of the most notorious eponyms in history.

 

 

 

#5 The origins of Salary (through salt)

The history of Salt and salary are intertwined. In present day, we make extensive use the term salary. But what is a salary? where did this word come from? 

Salary originated from “sal” and “Salarium”. Here are some interesting facts both about salt and salary:

  • Salt is precious and necessary for life
  • Humans need salt to keep their cells inflated
  • Humans need salt to regulate blood pressure
  • Humans need salt in order for electrical nerve impulses to function properly
  • An average of 6 grammes of Sodium Chloride is recommended for a day
  • Foods such as animals and plants contain natural salt
  • Salt is also harvested
  • Salt was also used to preserve food or hide odour in meat
  • Salt was at one point was treated as a currency
  • Due to its popularity and preciousness, it is said that during the era soldiers were given sal/salarium as allowance to purchase salt or paid in salt (historians still debate which one)
  • From there on, originated the expressions such as “being worth one’s salt”
  • Or the Hindi version “Maine aapka namak khaaya hai”, literally translated to “I have eaten your salt” which means being dependent on the person for a living
  • Salt was also referred to as the “White Gold”

Another word that the roman gave us through salt is “Salad”. It was custom for the romans to add salt to their green leaves and from there on you know the rest of the story. It’s amazing how something like salt gave us words like Saliferous, Salinise. Salad and Salary.

 

#4 The meaning of “Kafkaesque”

Franz Kafka’s stories all shared a particular characteristic  “the main character is aloof, kind of a prisoner of his circular reasoning. Procedures are bewilderingly long, complex and the laws and rules governing the procedures are confusing/unknown/unclear. This particular characteristic is what gave birth to the term “Kafkaesque”.

Below are some interesting elements about the history of the word and its author :

  1. Franz Kafka worked in an insurance company in Prague, which is where he saw how pointless and time-consuming too much of beaurocracy becomes.
  2. Many of his protagonists were office workers, who in order to achieve their goals, had to go through the Kafkaesque ordeal which often made success pointless in the end.
  3. His most popular works include “The Trial” and “The Metamorphosis”.
  4. He apparently asked his friend to burn his works but the latter published it anyway after his death.
  5. As it can be seen from his works, he was very meticulous in his decriptions while writing.
  6. He is believed to have been detached and has preferred a solitary lifestyle since most of his main characters seem to be this way.
  7. The works of Haruki Murakami, one of the critically acclaimed contemporary author, are often “Kafkaesque”.
  8. Haruki Murakami admits that Franz Kafka’s work has had much influence over him as he grew. “The Castle”, one of kafka’s work is on the list of top 5 books that Haruki recommends reading.

So when you go to the hospital in order to find out what you have in order to feel better and you get tossed all around, waiting in those queues, filling those papers which won’t be used or will get lost and be explaining to somebody who tells you to explain to another. Where in the end, you get to a doctor who prescribes things but is unclear and you still have no clue what you have and instead of feeling better you’re feeling worse due to all that stress and activities. I guess that is Kafkaesque.

 

#3 The meaning of “Orwellian”

“Orwellian” means to use language as a means to deceive and manipulate. As we often observe, the practice is highly prevalent in politics but also elsewhere such as in corporations, religions or simply by individuals.

Below are some key elements about the word Orwellian:

  1. Orwellian is derived from the name of author “George Orwell”.
  2. Geoge Orwell is the author of novels such as “1949” and “animal farm”.
  3. George Orwell was a pen name used by a British author, his true name is “Eric Blair”.
  4. The constant pervasive surveillance that we often refer to as “big brother is watching”, also originated from Blair’s novel 1949. Big brother was a character in the novel.
  5. Eric Blair was a fervent supporter of democratic socialism believing in values such as liberty, equality, and solidarity;
  6. Through his works and throughout his life, he fought against anti democratic forces.
  7. He was curious about the “why” and “how” anti democratic ideologies proliferated and were accepted.
  8.   He found that language played a key role; controlling the narrative meant you could influence thoughts and opinions of people.
  9. His two best-known works (1949 and Animal farm) serves as a warning against such practices.

One of my most favorite books is “Animal farm”. His works often depicted social injustices and repressive or authoritarian governments.  I recommend everyone to read his works namely  1949 and animal farm. A lot of his works and ideas are very much relevant, even in today’s world (or especially in today’s world). Afterall we still live in an “Orwellian” society.

 

#2 The Origins of Nobel Prize

 

What is the Nobel Prize anyway? and why is there so much noise around it? To understand the Nobel Prize, we have to go back to its creator. Below are the essential elements:

  1. Nobel Prizes are awarded in five distinct fields namely Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Litterature, and Peace.
  2. It is, in fact, the last will of the Chemist and poet Alfred Nobel.
  3. Alfred Nobel is the man who invented “Dynamite” and made a fortune out of it.
  4.  His invention was both used for destruction during wars and for construction purposes.
  5. Alfred Nobel did not marry, he was known to be very passionate about science and literature.
  6. The largest share of his fortune is dedicated to a series of prizes we now refer to as the Nobel Prizes.
  7. Nobel Prizes can only be awarded to a living person.
  8. Each Nobel Laureate’s prize consists of a medal, a personal diploma, and a cash award.
  9. The word “Laureate” is actually derived from “laurel wreath” which has Greek origin to it.
  10.  The “Laurel wreath” is a symbol of victory and honor. It is a circular wreath made of interlocking branches and leaves of the bay laurel

The Nobel Prize Laureates to be awarded for the year 2017, will be announced in October (in a few weeks really). Now that you know the origins, I hope you can appreciate the event a bit more. “To peace, literature, and science!”