Tag Archives: meaning

Don’t grok shibboleths, do you?

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‘Course you do.
Shibboleths are the little worms in the heart of your pride,
the delusions of shifty strangers,
the sly winks when sincerity can’t wait.
Think of a black dude yelling at another
in a drive-by mouthing, ‘Yo, niggah!
Now, see, that’s a shibboleth,
the illusion is the sense of control.

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A shibboleth is a word, sound, or custom that a person unfamiliar with its significance may not pronounce or perform correctly,” and adds that it may refer also “to any ‘in-crowd’ word or phrase that can be used to distinguish members of a group from outsiders…”

It was a long battle for society to learn how harmful and demeaning racist words are and to turn away from their use. In the USA, the worst of these epitaphs was the “n word.” So it may seem surprising that it is now used by young black males to refer to each other. They do it, I think, because they can and not be stopped by anyone. But even more importantly, they do it because white people can’t, and who are yet forced into an ill-at-ease situation upon hearing it. It is, in its way, an act of self-empowerment and esteem building.

Grok‘ is a term coined by Robert A. Heinlein for his 1961 science-fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, where it is defined as understanding so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed.

Thank you for reading Don’t grok shibboleths, do you?. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken during a trip to New York City. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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Shouting

Say not a word, none is needed.
With a nod, a kneel, a stand, a seat,
a look, a touch, a smile—
with a step to the side and a seat to the rear,
this is you, say it loud.

Here is the real of it: these are the magics
we use to cast ourselves forward
in a world that does not want us.
The rest is the story we live with:
said yesterday, quoted today, repeated tomorrow,
they are the on-our-back claw marks
of what none of us can now recall.
If there is a meaning in it at all, it is this:
who we are, for all we are, is what we are—
and that can never be said, let alone known, only done.
And yesI knowjust how ironic this is.

The passage below is from The Horse, the Wheel and Language: How Bronze-age Warriors from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, by David W. Anthony. It is a book on the Proto-Indo-European language, the language that is the most distant mother tongue of the mother tongues now spoken by more than 50% of the peoples on Earth, including English. I was reading it over the 2012 Holiday week:

In the 1780s, Herder proposed a theory…that language creates the categories and distinctions through which humans give meaning to their world. Each particular language, therefore, generates and is enmeshed in a closed social community or “folk” that is at its core meaningless to an outsider. Language was seen…as a vessel that molded community and national identities.

It was the line “that language creates the categories and distinctions through which humans give meaning to their world” that caught my attention, as too the part about language “molding a community.” In my Faith it is said, “Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.”

It struck me then that our body language is as much a language that builds our community and our world as do words, and perhaps even more so, and how important this aspect of society is, as we build our personal, “spiritual folk.”

Thank you for reading Shouting magic. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

PS: I usually write my poetry on a computer but this poem was started in longhand on a flight. I thought you’d appreciate seeing the insanity that is my thought process when I start a poem…

the first draft of this poem

the first draft of this poem

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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Filed under Poetry