Saturday, December 09, 2006

Victor David Hansen Blog

Victor David Hansen gets whimsical.
“Has there been an upsurge in the vocabulary of cynicism, sarcasm, and nihilism? On the old philologist’s dictum that words alone reflect reality (in graduate school, we were often asked in seminars on Xenophon or Thucydides to support grand assertions about ‘democracy’ or ‘freedom’ with precise words in the ancient Greek vocabulary [together with citations to ancient texts])**—do our newly created phrases tell us something about our postmodern mind? I heard on campus last week a barrage of the usual slang: ‘Whatever’; ‘I don’t think so…’; ‘Duh?’; ‘Hellooo?’; ‘See yaaa’.

“I was wondering whether on the farm our ancestors used to employ the same language—as in…

‘Cyrus, are we going to in get the crop?’

‘Emma, did you get the butter churned?’

‘Langford, did the freeze hurt the blossoms?’

“And when you compare the relentless smirking and snickering of a David Letterman or Bill Mahr [sic] with past variety hosts of the 1950s, or TV shows like Desperate Housewives or Sex in the City with Bonanza or Paladin [actually, HAVE GONE WILL TRAVEL- mk], then we get a good glimpse of the rapid devolution to a postmodern society. Not that we don’t have genius and flair in our midst, but the gap reminds me a lot of the change in temperament of a Juvenal or Petronius compared to an earlier generation of Horace and Virgil. While Trimalchio and his bunch argue over stuffed song birds and dancing catamites, some legionary is on the Rhine or Danube holding back the tide. One wonders about an audience’s taste that went from Fibber McGee and Molly to Howard Stern in less than 50 years.”

Dancing catamites? What? Is he upset that we’re not listening to radio comedies any more? If it’s any consolation, I still do. Though I prefer Vic and Sade to Fibber McGee and Molly. And I’m a liberal! And Howard Stern sucks. Oh wait. I mean, “Howard Stern is further evidence of the devolution to a postmodern society.”

BTW, according to Wikipedia: “A catamite was the younger partner in a pederastic relationship between two males in the ancient world….” What that has to do with soldiers “holding back the tide” beats me the hell out of me. It seems to me that a country’s taste in popular culture and its foreign policy bear little in common, outside of the whole bread and circuses thing.

*This is my problem with “education.” Just because you can cite some ancient in the original language, in “precise words” how does that lend credence to whatever “grand assertion” you may have about “democracy” or “freedom?” Reason, not footnotes! Cicero said that. Not.


Blogger Merle Kessler said...

Um, that would be have GUN will travel. Crikey.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, the metaphysical state of having gone, but not yet traveled, could be interesting, too... but that's a different matter.

Personally, I think an "upsurge in the vocabulary of cynicism, sarcasm, and nihilism" can only be a GOOD thing. Perhaps one could improve one's word power, by merely paying attention to cynics, sarcastics (is that a word?), and nihilists!

Sarcastiphiles? Sarcasters?

1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But I really liked "Have Gone, Will Travel." I mean, what else are you going to do when you've gone?

5:04 PM  
Blogger Merle Kessler said...

Wasn't David Carradine's series called "Have Gong, Will Travel?"

5:26 PM  

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