violence = 'personal or social domination of any kind'

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Nov 14 03:40:43 UTC 2010

I'm in no way criticizing your suggestion, Jon. My concern with PM usage
(and not just PM, but going back to de Saussure, phenomenology, if not
further) is that much of the vocabulary derived from Bourdieu,
Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Foucault, Metz, Lacan, etc.--as well as from
Heidegger, Habermas, Wittgenstein and others with similar roots--falls
into two categories, sometimes generated by the translators and
commentators and sometimes by the authors themselves. One includes the
calques from the original French and German, the other is imperfect
analogues (which is why many terms are left /in/ French and German
original forms). Either way, they fall into the "untranslatable"
category of the type recently mentioned on Language Log (by Geoff
Pullum, I believe). To be clear, they are not literally untranslatable,
but an English translation may require something other than the compact
form of the original. But there is some obvious interplay between the
use of terminology that perhaps obscures the meaning or, at the very
least, makes it less transparent, and the philosophy that the authors
purport to espouse.

The case of "violence" is no exception and falls into the first
category. The second category has plenty of examples, although, at the
moment, all that pops into my head is Heimat, which has little to do
with PM (except where it intersects with Heimatfilme and the New German
Cinema). (Of course, schadenfreude is another example of the second
category, but that has even less to do with PM.) [PS: OK, also consider

Nor do I propose excluding all jargon from standard dictionaries.
Something I've been meaning to suggest that appears to be missing from
the OED (but not from Wiki) is "underwater" (or "under water") in the
sense of "negative equity". A recent headline, for example, attracted my
attention because it read, "One in Three Chicago Area Homes Under
Water". I would certainly suggest this for inclusion.

OED is not alone in missing this--of all the dictionaries under OneLook,
only three had the respective definition: Wiktionary, Wordnik and under Collins English Dictionary, Complete and Unabridged
10th ed. (2009). The former two defined as a general finance term, while
the latter was more narrow:

> (of a stock option or other asset) having a market value below its
> purchase value

[Actually, I just noticed that Farlex's The Free Dictionary has an
identical definition, but does not reference it. InvestorWords and
Investopedia also have entries, but these are not really dictionaries.]

I've seen the term applied both to stock options and, obviously,
mortgages (price of home lower than outstanding debt, as in the Chicago
case). A more traditional, if narrow, interpretation of "underwater" is


On 11/13/2010 1:46 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> Victor, you may be right. But the jargon of the "postmodernist" (a broad
> category, BTW) is endemic to the liberal arts, or was until very recently
> after a run of about thirty years.
> Like you I doubt that much of it should go into a desk dictionary, but my
> eye is always on OED, which supposedly includes everything of any
> interest. I circulated among grad students who lived and breathed this
> stuff. To pass over postmodern usages in silence would be akin to doing the
> same for Freud and Jung. (Who at least didn't try to redefine common words
> as their opposites, and who, unlike the PMs, didn't seem to be angry or
> obstructionist all the time.)
> And to clarify generally, once again, I don't insist that the exx. I post
> are necessarily significant, merely that they have that potential. Even if
> "litigate," for example, was little more than a slip of the tongue, it shows
> the strength of certain associations that the word has attracted: tedium,
> length, pointlessness, arbitrariness. A strange array, when you stop to
> think about it. When enough people make similar slips, an
> additional definition emerges, like it or not.
> JL

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