“Farewell to the arts,- to eloquence” – Mary Shelly, “The Last Man” (1826)
Weird things happen to language during a crisis.
We have no way to describe what’s happening, so we invent new phrases.
During the “outbreak” of the “novel coronavirus”, we comfortably added new phrases to our daily lexicon.
None are more popular than “social distancing” or “essential workers.”
“Essential workers” is an interesting phrase. Essential is the adjective form of “essence.” Ask a 14th century etymologist and they will tell you it means “that is such, by its essence.”
Essential is from the late Latin word essentialis, derived from essentia.
Essentia means “being, essence.”
To be an “essential” worker, you are the very essence of civilization.
At the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC), Michelle Bachmann said a lot of things that weren’t true. She said she got the information from a self-published book, Presidential Perks Gone Royal. It’s written by a Republican lobbyist.
Bachmann trusted a book’s facts. Nothing wrong with that. However, with the filters for publication down, lies and truth are indiscernible. Promotional muscle is all one needs to propagate self-published propaganda.
Journalism used to show us the truth. That happened in this case. But for how much longer? How long are people going to keep paying for something as boring as facts?
It’s an uncertain descent into darkness when you start thinking about heady questions like the future of books. In my short story, Digitally Remastered Classics, I try to ask a lot of those questions.