Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Circe ensures that Odysseus' men speak gibberish, or is that piggerish?
Gibberish: 1550s, imitative of the sound of chatter, probably influenced by jabber. Used early 17c. of the language of rogues and gypsies. -Online Etymology Dictionary 

What is etymology [late 14c., ethimolegia "facts of the origin and development of a word," from Old French et(h)imologie (14c., Modern French étymologie), from Latin etymologia, from Greek etymologia, properly "study of the true sense (of a word)," from etymon "true sense" (neuter of etymos "true, real, actual," related to eteos "true") + -logia "study of, a speaking of" Online Etymological Dictionary] good for? 

Aleister Crowley was a keen student of etymology and Walter William Skeat.

The Encyclopedia Britannica (and Wikipedia, which quite plagiarizes the EB) tells us:

Walter William Skeat (21 November 1835 – 7 October 1912), FBA English philologist, was born in London on the 21st of November 1835, and educated at King's College School (Wimbledon), Highgate School, and Christ's College, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow in July 1860. He was an expert on Middle English and produced editions of Chaucer and William Langland's Piers Plowman. His four volume Etymological English Dictionary is of most interest to us and was a favorite of Uncle Al.
Let us quote and quote again the Master Thelemite to get an idea [IDEA, a (mental) image, notion, opinion. (L., —Gk.) 'Idea is a bodilesse substance,'  Holland, tr. of Plutarch, p. 666. ' The fayre Idea;' Spenser, Sonnet 45. — Lat. idea. — Gk., the look or semblance of a thing, species.— Gk. iSitv, to see.— .^W ID, to see ; cf. Skt. vid, to perceive, know. See Wit, verb. Der. ide-al, from 0. F. ideal,' ideall' (Cot.), which from Lat. idealis; whence ide-al-ly, ide-al-ise, ide-al-ism, ide-al-ist, ide-al-is-at-ion, ide-al-ist-ic, ide-al-i-ty (most of these terms being modern). - Skeat] of his use of etymology.

“The fact is that very few of us know what words mean; fewer still take the trouble to enquire.  We calmly, we carelessly assume that our minds are identical with that of the writer, at least on that point; and then we wonder that there should be misunderstandings!” - Aleister Crowley Magick Without Tears, Chapter XXVI: Mental Processes—Two Only are Possible

“Indeed, I want you to go even further; make sure of what is meant by even the simplest words. Trace the history of the word with the help of Skeat’s Etymological Dictionary.  ..  This will soon give you the power of discerning instantly when words are being used to hide meaning or lack of it.” - Aleister Crowley, MWT

"Would you describe your system as a new religion?"  A pertinent question, you doubtless suppose; whether it may happen to mean anything is—is—is—well, is what we must try to make clear.
True, it's a slogan of A∴ A∴  "The method of science—the aim of religion.&  Here the word "aim" and the context help the definition; it must mean the attainment of Knowledge and Power in spiritual matters—or words to that effect: as soon as one selects a phrase, one starts to kick holes in it!  Yet we both know perfectly well all the time what we do mean.
But this is certainly not the sense of the word in your question.  It may clear our minds, as has so often happened, if we examine it through the lens of dear old Skeat.
Religion, he says, Latin: religio, piety.  Collection or paying attention to: religens as opposed to negligens, neglecting; the attitude of Gallio.  But it also implies a binding together i.e. of ideas; in fact, a "body of doctrine."  Not a bad expression.  A religion then, is a more or less coherent and consistent set of beliefs, with precepts and prohibitions therefrom deducible.  But then there is the sense in which Frazer (and I) often use the word: as in opposition to "Science" or "Magic."  Here the point is that religious people attribute phenomena to the will of some postulated Being or Beings, placable and moveable by virtue of sacrifice, devotion, or appeal.  Against such, the scientific or magical mind believes in the Laws of Nature, asserts "If A, then B"—if you do so-and-so, the result will be so-and-so, aloof from arbitrary interference.  Joshua, it is alleged, made the sun stand still by supplication, and Hezekiah in the same way cause it to "go back upon the dial of Ahaz;"  Willett did it by putting the clock back, and getting an Act of Parliament to confirm his lunacy.  Petruchio, too "It shall be what o'clock I say it is!"  The two last came close to the magical method; at least, to that branch of it which consists of "fooling all the people all the time."  But such an operation, if true Magick were employed, would be beyond the power of any magician of my acquaintance; for it would mess up the solar system completely.  (You remember how this happened, and what came of it, in a rather clever short story by H.G. Wells.)  For true Magick means "to employ one set of natural forces at a mechanical advantage as against another set"—I quote, as closely as memory serves, Thomas Henry Huxley, when he explains that when he lifts his water-jug—or his elbow—he does not "defy the Law of Gravitation."  On the contrary, he uses that Law; its equations form part of the system by which he lifts the jug without spilling the water.
To sum up, our system is a religion just so far as a religion means an enthusiastic putting-together of a series of doctrines, no one of which must in any way clash with Science or Magick.
Call it a new religion, then, if it so please your Gracious Majesty; but I confess that I fail to see what you will have gained by so doing, and I feel bound to add that you might easily cause a great deal of misunderstanding, and work a rather stupid kind of mischief.
The word does not occur in The Book of the Law. -Aleister Crowley, Magick Without Tears, Chapter XXXI: Religion–Is Thelema a "New Religion"?

Words ("In the beginning was the word.") have ancient roots through different languages from different lands.  Etymology attempts to discover those roots and those places. At times the time and place are relatively recent and can be specifically determined and cited.  We also know that some words are incredibly old and may find their births in the grunts of the most ancient men. 

Gibberish [GIBBERISH, nonsensical talk. (E.) Holinshed speaks of • gibberishing Irish;' Descr. of Ireland, c. I. ' All kinds of gibberish he had leamt to know;' Drayton, The Mooncalf (R.) Formed from the old verb gibber, to gabble; Hamlet, i. I. 116. This is merely an imitative word, formed as a variant of jabber, and allied to gabble. The suffix -er is frequentative, and the base gib- is a weak form of gab. See Gabble, Jabber, [t]- Skeat] is noise from a mouth that may totally lack such roots, or perhaps gibberish is an atavistic return to those most ancient times when men made noises that became indicators of things both material and conceptual.

We have the phenomena of the gibberish spouting newsreader. Youtube allows us to study the spectacle of a human being, who is paid to speak clearly and understandably, suddenly finding this essential skill in full flight from his grasp. The human voice is revealed as a generator of noise without meaning. I find it ghastly and terrifying. Here are some:

Serene Branson at the Grammies got a lot of attention. 

Last year Texas Rangers announcer Dave Barnett lost it.

Gibberish can be funny. This is a scene from Blazing Saddles.  This kind of gibberish consists of recognizable words that do not make obvious sense.  Professor Irwin Corey was a master of this art. The next video shows him performing in 2011, well into his nineties. He has internalized and become his character.

There are inevitable conspiracy theories to be found about these events. Government microwave weapons are said to be aimed at us. And this could very well be true.  But I do not know. 
What do Jim Carrey and Charles Manson have to do with this?

Some blame migraine headaches for this. Some attribute it to strokes.  People need to explain these things in a materialist way.  The alternative is frightening.
In a religious context we can claim that gibberish is glossalalia [from Greek glōssa, “tongue,” and lalia, “talking”].

Speaking in tongues is said to be a gift of the Holy Spirit.  Does God want us to be incomprehensible? Perhaps.  Maybe just letting go and giving up all pretense of meaning is good for us. There is a lot of settled junk in the mind and stirring it all up may be useful. 

Do I have any answers? No.  I am merely musing on the horror of  finding no meaning exactly where we expect it the most: language.  There is the obvious horror of gibberish and the subtle horror of those who speak real words which obscure rather than illuminate. Too many of those people are in positions of authority in our world.

It is also very easy to consign what one does not understand to the category of gibberish. 

1 comment:

Dennis said...

We murder every word we present. Through some time we glean meaning. Hence language can only be perfect through numerology. Dennis