Antidisestablishmentarianism is often (well, not all that often) claimed to be the longest word in the English language.
I happened to be thinking about language this morning when this word flashed through my mind. Well, not exactly a ‘flash’. A word of that length doesn’t flash anywhere but kind of meanders or crawls like a caterpillar – and it got stuck on some protuberance in my psyche and hung around for a while. I think it was while I was thinking about something I was going to write about here, which is probably why it never got written and in fact I can’t remember what that was now that the day has also meandered by and is now almost over.
So, instead I’m going to write about the word itself – it must have made itself known at this time for some reason or other.
Well then what does ‘antidisestablishmentarianism‘ actually mean?
I know you can look up in an English dictionary or make an online query to obtain the generally accepted meaning of the word but, as with many words, that generally accepted meaning is not in any way carried by the components of the word itself. Nowhere in this word will you find any reference or hint that it involves any connection with organised religion in any way.
Fortunately, English words are quite often fairly easily dissected as a result of the language being a hotch-potch amalgam of so many other languages, and this one is no exception. So we can safely work out for ourselves its true meaning.
It begins with a double prefix of ‘anti-‘ and ‘dis-‘. ‘Anti’ meaning ‘against’ or ‘opposing’ whatever it is that follows, and ‘dis’ meaning ‘not’ something (the something that immediately follows) or ‘opposite of’ that same something. I guess whoever originated the word either didn’t realise that this double negative prefix actually cancels itself out (makes itself redundant) or deliberately wanted to emphasise that double negative aspect for some reason. Either way, for our purposes, we can just discard both prefixes – leaving us with the remaining syllables ‘establishmentarianism‘.
Can you see where this is going? I think this is what initially intrigued me. I need to interject here with a smirk and a slight shaking of the shoulders in a semi-suppressed chuckle, because I know what is coming.
Let’s jump to the other end of the word – where suffixes lurk.
‘-ism‘ is a well known suffix. It means a practised system, a dogma, ideology, perhaps even an organised movement. All of which lie entirely within the realm of human philosophy and endeavour. While that positions whatever this is as being something to do with us – you, me and potentially everyone else, it adds nothing to the meaning of the word. And so we move on – a little further to the left…
‘-arian‘ is also a suffix which carries the idea of general human practices. So our word began with a discardable double negative and ends with an emphatic double positive – to which we had better give proper attention. It is something to do with our own human practices.
Removing our double prefix and double suffix we are left with a word that all of us I feel sure would instantly recognise – ‘establishment‘.
So, our word is the doubly emphasised human practice of establishment. And that is simply all it is. No other connotations can be applied to it, and it can fit into any number of different situations, because we humans love nothing more that establishing things – building things around us – helping to assuage our fears and insecurities – giving us the idea that we are stronger as a result of building and establishing the structures we can and have put into place.
But where has that gotten us today? In spite of all our human structures, rules, edifices, organisations, endeavours – or perhaps because of them – we are less secure, more fearful, more divided, dreadfully unhappy, terribly sick, oppressed, worn down, worried, mentally traumatised – and it has to be said – less free than we have ever been than throughout our entire history since we made ‘establishment’ our main goal.
I will leave this there, otherwise I may get a bit preachy, and I really want you to reflect on this for yourself – with your own thoughts, not mine.
Antidisestablishmentarianism – the double emphasised human practice of establishment – or, in another way of looking at it… once the ‘establishment’ has been reached to someone’s satisfaction, morphing – through some sort of ‘Great Reset’ – into the double emphasised establishment of human practice – a future with possibly very dark connotations for all humans made subject to those established practices.
Would that be freedom?
Think about it.