Agnostic (non-theological)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Dec 7 03:04:22 UTC 2010

At 9:03 PM -0500 12/6/10, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>I probably should have added that I don't see anything "incorrect" about
>it either and the grumbling by the Houston writer is just another
>example of the Recency Illusion. As for my only tracking the usage back
>as far as the 1980s, unfortunately, that's the entirety of my English
>speaking experience. In no way was I implying any sort of refocusing in
>the 1980s--just merely citing my own experience (yes, purely anecdotal,
>I know).
>As for indifference, the example I am thinking of has nothing to do with
>the business world (and business was the context of the original
>post--context to which I did not subscribe in mine): "Have you decided
>on what to request for the luncheon, chicken or swordfish?" "I am
>agnostic on the issue. Just pick one." If you would like, I can give you
>names and numbers of two people whom I know to have been using the
>phrase for well over 20 years in just this kind of context--sarcastic,
>to be sure, but accurate nonetheless. This does not preclude other,
>perhaps more common, uses, such as being skeptical or--the more
>traditional, I suppose, given the etymology--undecided.
>This does not speak directly the original question, that of
>hyphenated-agnostics. (And, speaking of which, has anyone noted this
>particular usage of "hyphenated", e.g., "hyphenated-Americans",
>"hyphenated nationalities", "hyphenated holidays"--e.g.,
>"Hanukkah-Christmas", etc.?)
On this last, 'tis the season to celebrate the blended holidays as
well.  We had "Chrismukkah" as a WOTY candidate in one category a few
years back if memory serves, and when I was in Berlin exactly 5 years
ago the city had banners up all over town (especially around the
Jewish Museum) celebrating "Weinukkah" (Weihnachten + Hanukkah) with
posters designed by Art "Maus" Spiegelman.  Apparently "Chrismukkah"
is in fact a calque of "Weinukkah".  Somehow, "Christmukkah" wouldn't
work as well, even with the traditionally silent "t".


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