Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wrong words

Reading words used outside their original context can at times irk me.

"Utopia" is one of them, we all know what it means; telling someone that the island you holidayed on was 'utopian' means it was perfect. Well no it doesn't - 'Utopian' might because the word was used by Sir Thomas More in 1516 as the name of a perfect island. For his intended readership this would have made perfect sense "A perfect island with a perfect legal, political and social system! What's it called? Utopia, oh how very droll". U- (or ou-) from the Greek meaning not or no and -topia meaning place. Where is this perfect island - no place.

So for atheists Heaven is utopian, but then again so is Hell. To describe a bad place you use dystopia, to describe a good place you should use eutopia. I say should because as a word it seems to have been deemed obsolete, presumably because everyone uses utopia instead.

One other word is "anarchy" and for much the same reason. "It was anarchy on the streets" in other words a lawless mob smashing everything up. An- without, -archy rulers (authority), without rulers. Sometimes transcribed as without leaders this isn't correct, it's quite possible to have an anarchist leader - the difference lies in the power structure. No-one has power or authority over another. Think of it as a night out with friends no one has the power to say "We're doing this and you will be doing that" it's a collective agreement and yet amazingly it rarely involves pulling the golden arches of the local McDonald's and smashing in their windows.

Finally "proof". So many things have been proved and that's the final word on that subject - it means tested. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating" the test of the pudding is in the eating. When something is asserted as being proven as correct all it means is that it's been tested, a later test (or one done by someone actually qualified to do it) might show that assertion to be wrong.