Odd Words: Anomie

The Scream - AnomiePage 11 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition is another with a lot of known prefixes and thus not a lot of unknown words. Still, I found an interesting one: anomie.

Beyond Anomie: The Ante- Words

There were a couple of words that I knew on seeing them, but didn’t know existed. One was “antepartum” — the other side of postpartum. Although it doesn’t just mean before childbirth, but right before childbirth. I suppose that is because we have a general word for before childbirth: pregnant.

Another such word was “antepenult.” Since penultimate is the second to the last, antepenult is the one before that: the third to the last. I might have grabbed that word, but it is specially used to refer to syllables in a word. And I don’t want to make this series about odd words just odd words about words.

Thus, I picked anomie:

An·o·mie  noun  \‘an-ə-mē\

1. the condition of an uprooted race of individuals, or of their society, characterized by a breakdown of accepted values.

Date: 1930s.

Origin: Greek: ανομία, which means “lawlessness.”

Example: These all jostle for space under the banner of After Belonging, a theme evoking property loss, late-capitalist anomie, and the unshakable placelessness resulting from living most of our lives online or in “a time defined by mobility and transit.”Samuel Medina

Most definitions do not mention an “uprooted” people. And thus, it seems like like a great word for modern America — and to a lesser degree the western world. I blame it on Ayn Rand and the Masters of the Universe who came after — the whole “greed is good” crowd. People who think they own nothing to their society will eventually tear it apart.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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