Thursday, June 5, 2008

This Rose by Another Name Still Reeks

Almost every day, my 8 year old asks me something like: "Why is 'bacon' called 'bacon'?" or, "Why is it called 'red' instead of something else?" or, "Why is it a 'hypostatic union' instead of 'hypostatic onion'?" Well, ok. I'm making the one up about 'red'.

All these questions remind me of Juliet's WHEREFORE and the nature of nomenclature.

JULIET:
O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.

ROMEO (aside):
Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?

JULIET:
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
In this little passage, there is a treasure trove of wisdom concerning semantic values and nomenclature, which is to say the accidental signification of a thing (or person in this case). A thing is called such and such by accident. The syllable or series of syllables that call to mind the essence of thing has nothing to do with it's essence, except perhaps in the case of onomatopoeia. In Juliet's case, accidental signification of her beloved as a Montague is keeping her geniune love from flowering. Yet in other situations, accidental signification can be used to justify more sinister acts.

In the world of Political Correctness, we often try to better the value of a thing by changing its name. We call it 'sexually active' and not 'promiscuous' or 'active homosexuality' instead of 'sodomy'. It's all about legitimacy. And when it comes to sex, making arguments for legitimacy are always at the expense of true intimacy.

So it came as no surprise to me to read THIS ARTICLE about economically suffering bordellos starting to advertise in Nevada. (you may not be interesting in this article, but I recommend it if nothing else than to learn why the ACLU is an evil organization)

According to the article:
"...in addition to the corporate taxes they do pay, a "sex tax" is actually
something Mr. Flint said many brothels would welcome, because it
would legitimize them in the eyes of the Legislature and the public."
Do you see the real problem? A 'bordello' is just a name to legitimize 'brothel', and 'brothel' is just a name to legitimize 'whorehouse'. Agnostic and Atheistic Capitalists fall for the taxation legitimization route, but it's the subtleties of language that undermines the philosophy of even Christian moralists. Proof of the effectiveness of this semantic game is the reaction many of you have in reading this. I'd bet that you don't react as negatively to 'active homosexuality', 'sexually active', or 'bordello' quite to the visceral degree that you do 'sodomy', 'promiscuous', or 'whorehouse'. Yet the latter terms get more to the point, and the proprietors of such houses of ill repute know that as well as they know that they can put spin on reality by choosing certain accidental names rather than others.

They even usurp common phrases: "We market Donna's [whorehouse] as a home away from home for truckers."

Yeah. A home away from home. Has a nice, wholesome ring to it, doesnt' it? The problem is that nice, wholesome rings are usually the first thing to be discarded when a trucker walks into a whorehouse.

Such is the purpose of semantic witchcraft: to undermine the reality of a word signifying a reality. In the romantic world of Juliet, this changing of a name could have saved two lives, but in the world's oldest profession, legitimization causes the death of souls.

1 comment:

Peter Chen said...
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