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The Shame - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
The Shame
I'm beside myself with embarrassment. In my entry about circumcision this morning, I provided a false etymology. Even worse, I deceived my own daughter with the same lie. I didn't mean to perpetuate the deceit, but that doesn't make things right. So, without further ado, let me state, for the record, as bobo_amargo so graciously pointed out, that the word "incident" has a different parentage than "incisive." While the latter does, in fact, come from the Latin "cædere," meaning "to strike" or " to cut," the former actually derives from the Latin "cadere," meaning "to fall" or "to die."

My confusion came from an undergraduate lecture that I either remembered too dimly or didn't comprehend to begin with. You see, I had thought that those two Latin verbs were from the same Indo-European root because my instructor had made a play on words that centered on the phrase, "when the strike falls." But I've looked up the words in the Oxford English Dictionary and a few etymological dictionaries and can find no evidence to support my ill-founded conviction that "incident" and "incisive" are related.

The worst part of this discovery is that it is accompanied by the realization that I have done precisely what I rag on Martin Heidegger for doing: playing fast and loose with the history of words. I hope this isn't the start of something more serious. If I start looking at photos of Hannah Arendt with inexplicable longing -- already a possibility, given that she was definitely my type -- and am overcome with the desire to remove my shoes and dangle my feet in a Black Forest stream, I will know that I am infected. Maybe I should have a glance at Theodor Adorno's The Jargon of Authenticity in the hopes that it will serve as the zinc needed to forestall the worsening of this false etymology-inducing virus.

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From: bobo_amargo Date: August 16th, 2006 08:39 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)


It's rare that with the same maneuver I can come both to your and to Heidegger's defense, so I leap at the strangely invaginated chance. I hope -- and have some evidence in the post in question -- that the correspondance you decry is not so horrific as you make out. After all, even you will likely grant that, whatever one may think of some of the conclusions he drew from them, the feats of philosophical ingenuity that were prompted by Heidegger's bizarre interpretations of certain Greek and Indo-European roots were nothing if not tours de force. I say, kick away the "faulty" ladder in a confessional footnote (as you have done), and you still have -- dare I say it? -- the elevation.

Also, you didn't lie to -- i.e., willfully mislead -- your daughter. You told her what you thought, at the time, to be the case. You were wrong -- or, more accurately, a bit off (it would be interesting here to compare Heidegger's gradualist sense of how truth happens to, say, that of the prevailing analytic philosopher). Most of the set of current beliefs that Skylar, you, and I together hold are (likely to be) wrong (especially on the non-Heideggerian, truth-here-now diet by which you punish your mnemonic ravenings [I'm guessing that the shame in your title is meant to be at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek]), which is why "p, but I don't believe it" isn't a contradiction.

Oh, and two cheers for authenticity.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 16th, 2006 09:05 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: Schamlippen

My tongue spent so much time probing my cheek that it's sore now. So, yes, the word "lie" was chosen because it lies. Still, I did feel bad for not checking. I'm usually more restrained, but was caught up in the meanderings of my strange choo-choo of thought. As for Heidegger, the reason I rag on him is that his etymologies trick me into flights of fancy that are then dashed against the powerlines of verifiability. I'll think, "Wow, I never thought of that connection. Awesome!," and then realize that there was a reason why I hadn' thought of it. It doesn't happen much anymore, to be sure, but I still find myself duped from time to time. Anyway, thanks so much for catching my slip. I'd hate to have misled people for any length of time.
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