Posts Tagged ‘little people’

A LINGUISTIC OBSERVATION

December 1, 2009

The words “socialist” and “social” are linguistic cousins. They were very much linked in the ex-USSR. The word “social” meant “relating to human society and its members; characteristic of living together; enjoying life in communities.” People lived in a socialist state, they belonged to “friendly” social classes: workers or peasants. “Intelligentsia” (teachers, doctors, engineers, journalists, writers, etc) was considered less “friendly” – it did not belong to either class and was categorized as “social layer”, or “insertion”.  The social work (understood as arranging all kinds of public events, or being “responsible” for academic achievements of the students, for sports at an enterprise or university, for issuing a wall newspaper, etc) was a considerable advantage when mentioned in any resume.

Nowadays the word “social” is undergoing the pejoration (deterioration) of its meaning. It looks like it will have the same lot as the words “sly” (formerly meaning “clever”), “silly” (“happy”). “wench” (“girl”). We are going to start with the program of “social housing” (cheap apartment buildings for poor people), at present older people prefer “social transport” (earlier called “public” – municipal buses, trams and trolleybuses, the metro), they also buy “social bread”: “normal” bread costs twice as much. By switching over into “social consumption” you are sliding into the periphery of life, with a perspective of becoming a social outcast, a “pariah” in the circles you used to be in.

The opposite is also true: an expensive tie bought at a boutique in the city centre, or a trendy car you drive are the signs of success. In that case you’re are a tough guy. And toughness is appreciated. Just the same as ouright lie, clan solidarity, mutual distrust, primitive thinking.

All that rings the bell. A Greek philosopher was saying something like that more than two thousand years ago.

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