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One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. -Nietzsche

  October 31, 2008

Le costume et la blague

A third of all English words are French, but their English usage is largely separated from their original character. Making this linguistic dilution worse, the playful notion of life inherent in the French personality is lost on English speakers who tend to cluster around utilitarianism or escapism, ensuring they will not be very close to the living spirit the French originally captured when coining their words.

The word costume in French can be traced to its original meaning of more than the literal translation of a formal suit. Its historical usage designated an outfit worn to create an appearance characteristic of a particular period, person, place, or thing. So a costume is for play-acting, with the actor exploiting himself for effect in the image he conceives for his imagined role.

A suit is not practical garb, but conveys a solemnity that is taken at face value and conferred to the wearer, granting him a degree of respect without requiring evidence that it is deserved. The costume is effective when it makes others imagine what is not there.

When you next see a suit, consider what it is saying and whether the wearer is unwittingly play acting, though without a linguistic reminder that he is merely an actor faking a persona through appearance.

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