Over the last six months or so, the mariner increasingly hears the word “existential –ism, -ist, -ly” etc. The word has been adopted by the media to mean a number of things. Most often, the journalist really means empirical or experiential – both words related to observation of the physical world or physical events via the five senses. A day or two ago, mariner heard a commentator say, “If we don’t stop them in Syria, we face an existential invasion in the United States.” Could he mean, “…we face the experience of an invasion…” Actually, more correct in existential terms, the word “face” alone is sufficient and more akin to the meaning of existential.
Jean-Paul Sartre, the first philosopher to define the word existential, posits the idea that “what all existentialists have in common is the fundamental doctrine that existence precedes essence.” In simpler words, one’s experience of living is more important than any event in life. Hence, the description of an individual who may do careless things to enhance their sensation of existence is a common, if simplistic, example.
The reader may opine that the mariner is nit-picking. This can’t be denied. In this world of texting abuse, emoticons, and eagerness to affix any human condition to –gate, and further, to obscure pronunciation in speaking “purposefully” as “purpsly” or “purposely” – one of many thousands of abused pronunciations, and by deserting words altogether by touching fingers to pictures, we approach the subtlety of Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The mariner’s passive-aggressive attitude about words stems from that time when a simple word that conjured a moment in life full of happiness and self contentment was stripped away forever with no word to replace it. That word was “gay.”
Mariner has a friend who is an outstanding linguist and philologist. He suggests that language is a living thing changing as usage by humans change. That may be well and good but not all change is beneficial to general communication. The mariner will not bother the reader with his opinions about the ISIS of American English: the word “got” kills a dozen words a day.
That’s enough for today; skoeet.