We are told that this coming Monday is known as “Cyber Monday,” a commercial observance created by the folks who bring you out-of-control-materialism. Not to be outdone by Black Friday and Local Saturday, the people at the electronics megacorporations are not featuring a day on which you can do all your Christmas Shopping online.
For those of you who still use an electric typewriter and a dial telephone, “online” means that you can oder all your holiday gifts on a computer, never having to remove your pajamas, slippers, or day-old beard. Just cozy up into your office chair, click on the computer, and go to it. Just be sure you have your credit card(s) handy, as there is nothing free online. In a matter of days the UPS or FedEx trucks will begin to arrive with all your packages, and you have never walked through a big box door, been frustrated by the lack of parking, or gotten someone’s elbow in your ribs when jostling for the check-out lane. You can go back to your newspaper, television programs, or shoveling snow from your driveway, having accomplished your purchasing tasks for Holidays, 2013.*
Cyber is a word that came into common use in the 1960′s. It had been around in the form of cybernetics, a scientific system which had been around since the late 40′s.
“Norbert Wiener defined cybernetics in 1948 as “the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine.” The word “cybernetics” comes from the Greek word κυβερνητική (kyverni̱tikí̱, “government”), i.e. all that are pertinent to κυβερνώ (kyvernó̱), the latter meaning to “steer,” “navigate” or “govern….”
But it took a couple of decades before the concept of cybernetics, or the word cyber became familiar to the average American. I first encountered it in the book Future Shock by futurist Alvin Toffler. In the book he forecasts (in the 1960′s) exactly what we are experiencing now. Computerization has become dominant in our society, and we are more and more dependent upon its application. Some would say that we are overly-dependent upon cybernetics for our life.
So there you have it. On Monday you can wake up, crank up the computer, and do everything you need to do for the holidays. Or, you can go out today and shop in a locally-owned store and support local businesses. Or, you can do what I will do. Over the next several weeks I’ll go a little bit at a time into stores where I know I can find the things I’m looking for. That’s called the “old fashioned” way of shopping, and I understand that I’ll pay a few dollars more for the items I purchase. But somehow it seems more appropriate for the season.
Graphic Credit: National Geographic
*If I sound a little cynical, I am.
There is one meteorologist on our local TV who insists upon using the word forthwith over and over again.
- A storm is going to hit forthwith.
- The cold front has begun to affect one section of the state forthwith.
- People should take caution forthwith when driving.
- We can expect a change in the temperatures in the southern part of the state forthwith.
Now I’m not complaining about the fact that this particular professional is using the word incorrectly. He is perfectly correct every time he uses it. My point is that it is an over-use of a word.
We all know how that happens. You are moving along innocently through a book, an article, an interview, a seminar, or whatever, when you hear a word that catches your attention. It’s a great word, and fills a void that you have had. You use it once, then twice, and the next thing you know you’re dropping it every time you have a chance. It’s not abnormal. We’re all vulnerable to this.
Words have a special magic about them. They can take over when you least expect it.
A sign that you’ve gone over the top is when people start rolling their eyes in the middle of one of your sentences. Or when you hear someone in your group begin to repeat the word forthwith over and over again in her conversation. She’s probably trying to send you a message.
Forthwith is a 13th century English word, and is commonly a part of the conversational language of people in Great Britain. It does not have that accessibility in American English. So, it’s not a half-bad thing to use caution when tempted to employ a foreign word or clever new word too frequently.
The other day I overheard a conversation in which the woman who was dominating the coffee klatch was clearly taken with word “mancave.” She must have loved the word, as it became part of nearly every sentence. Can you think of the mental gyrations one must have to go through to find a way to use something as obscure as “mancave” more than once in a conversation?
I was tempted to mention this issue to the meteorologist at our local station. I thought it might be a good correction, received well. But the last time I made such a call was when the lead meteorologist continually pronounced the word temperature as [TEMP-a-choor.] It seemed to me that someone who was a licensed, degreed, professional in the field should set an example for watchers by pronouncing it somewhat correctly. I was rebuffed over the phone for being petty. I won’t try that again. I’ll just stew in my juices every time I hear it mangled.
Photo Credit: John Tomaselli
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