Saturday, May 29, 2010




: a sudden calamitous event bringing great damage, loss, or destruction; broadly : a sudden or great misfortune or failure

Another pleasant surprise from Mirriam-Webster in the final days of May. The etymology here is fascinating; the word derives from the Latin prefix "dis-" and the Latin "astro," meaning "star." I never stopped to think about these roots. Star-crossed. Planets misaligned. Ill-fated. DISASTER.

DISASTER is a word that covers the spectrum of gravity. One might use this designation to describe the destruction caused by a tsunami on the same day she stands in front of the bathroom mirror saying, "My hair is a total DISASTER." Modern english allows for these gross exaggerations. The same applies to other calamitous words such as: crashed, wrecked, devastated, decimated (which actually means to remove a tenth of or from), wasted, destroyed, pillaged, etc. All of which are applied to the individual human experience as often as they are used to describe a grander scale of destruction.

Should we regret robbing these words of their graver meanings? If one understands the human experience as a microcosm, then no. It's one thing to use the holocaust as a metaphor for your last night of debauchery, but to simply say you were wrecked or wasted or your choice in a late night companion was a total DISASTER is just an easier way to universalize the human experience. The Modern Destruction of Self. Totally relatable.

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