April 18, 2002
I recently saw a pharmaceutical industry ad on TV that showed a young woman explaining how she had benefited from new drugs taken for her breast cancer. “Ten years ago, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here today,” she said gratefully. I understood generally what she meant, but her statement is curious. After all, ten years ago, she could only be sitting somewhere ten years ago. What exactly was the statement supposed to mean? One possibility is something like: “Ten years ago, there was little likelihood that I would be sitting here today, ten years later.” To an advertising manager, that no doubt sounds too coldly statistical. What may have been meant is: “Had I been born ten years earlier and contracted cancer at the same age as I did, I probably would not have lived as long as I have.” That sentence is hardly a memorable sound bite. Clarity is not always euphonious.
April 2, 2002
I was invited to attend a Tenebrae service on Good Friday. This is a service associated with Holy Week, at which candles are used and are, one by one, extinguished, leaving the church in darkness. I was disappointed that I was unable to go to the service, as I have never actually experienced Tenebrae. The name comes from the Latin for darkness, which seems appropriate. There are several potentially useful English words, admittedly obscure, that come from the same root. Tenebrific, for instance, can refer to something that tends to darken or obscure, or it can simply mean obscure or dark. One could, I suppose, use this word symbolically, though this use may be uncommon. (Whereas the first speaker was insightful, the second was tenebrific.) This is apparently a newer word than tenebrous or tenebrious, which both mean dark and gloomy. Dark-and-gloominess is, of course, tenebrosity. The most wonderful word of this rather odd lot, however, is the five-syllable tenebrionid, which is someone who avoids light. I must find a use for this word.