An English In Kentucky


















Wednesday October 30th 2013  Tim Candler


     I'd like to find a word that yokes together what I'll  begin by thinking of  as "consumerism" and what I'll begin by thinking of as "tool making."  And I plan on achieving some sense of this conjoined meaning over the next several months, something I at least am excited about. As for "consumerism," I decided to confirm my own opinion by going to the copy of Chambers Dictionary, where, in the 1972 edition, the old fashioned understanding of "consume" still lingers.  "To destroy by wasting, to use up, to devour...." And on the definition goes into the direness, where it conjures images of a raging hell and people running around with shopping carts before a snow storm on Christmas Eve doing battle over a plastic wrapped Bunny Fro-Fro while clutching bottles of milk. Then, after Chambers waxes upon the word "consummate," which is a lovely way of saying "to perfect or finish," Chambers' authors go on to the word "consumption," without once mentioning the word I was looking for.  And  I wondered perhaps whether in the England of 1972, even  Chambers was too prudish to mention the word "consumerism."

     So you can imagine how thoroughly depressed I became when I realized that to find some reference to "consumerism" outside of my own imagination, I'd have to go all the way to The Artist's regions within our shared territory and heave down her 1961 Webster's Unabridged.  Which has a weight feel of something like four tons, and has very, very small print.  In the old days of course we could all see much better and we were all much more competent around heavy weights. Over time, our eyes have grown idle from clicking buttons to enlarge the reading experience. We have learned to avoid the index, we've lost our attachment to alphabetical order. We rely upon hints and search routines within the plethora of technical devices that dominate our sense of well being, without ever noticing this leash placed upon our thinking. And too, now that the shovel is sleeping, Webster's Unabridged was I decided good exercise.  A thought process and activity that engaged a good hour of my day. But quiet clearly in 1961 the Americans were also too prudish for the word "consumerism." And I guess all this unnecessary work on my part was a reaction to news that one of  the Senators, Kentucky foolishly sent to Washington DC, has been accused of plagiarizing  from Wikipedia, where along with an Ayn Rand in Hollywood solipsism called something like "Me, Me, Me,  Get Me The Hell Off The Planet I Want To Be An Astronaut " you can also find a meaning of consumerism that suggests it is:   "The theory that a progressively greater consumption of goods is economically beneficial."  But not my role to edit the whims of others.


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