Sometimes the only thing that prevents the understanding of a word is a little perspective.
Language is a means of communicating with people. And if you’re being understood, and saying what you mean to say, there’s sometimes no express problem in not actually understanding the word you’re using. In short, sometimes the origin stories of words aren’t really considered. Words just are. They just mean what they mean. And we just use them.
Now, the word I’m talking about is something so mundane, anybody reading might wonder why I’m bothering. I’m talking about the noun, “news.” As in that stuff you get on twitter, over the internet, from a newspaper, through the radio, or by way of your local or national television news network. Sometimes, even, you get news by word of mouth.
This is a word I had never really considered before. I really didn’t need to consider it. I knew what it conveyed, and so did those I was directing it towards. I doubt if I ever felt compelled to look it up in a dictionary before. And it’s not like misunderstanding this word, if at all, poses such a threat to the debasement of language as Orwell might have warned against in “1984” and “Politics and the English Language” (though, this is certainly open to debate, especially in the United States where editorializing and opinionated reporting is largely supplanting substantive news provision, made all the worse by our ready self-sorting in light of one outlet’s professed biases—in short, maybe we should worry about not knowing the true meaning behind the word “news” because maybe what we’re getting these days isn’t “news”).
Really, all it took for me to realize the inherent meaning of “news” was to try to say the same in another language. Speaking in french in high school, I tried to tell someone that I had news to share, and said: “J’ai des nouvelles.” (Please forgive me if my memory is faulty as to how to actually say “I have news” or the equivalent in French. It’s been a while, and maybe my french teacher was just humoring my abysmal attempt.)
“How strange,” I thought. “All I’m really saying is that ‘I have (J’ai) plural new things (des nouvelles)’ to share with someone.”
“Wait, that’s exactly what I say in English too! … HOW did I never realize ‘news’ is just the plural version of the word ‘new’?!”
This may be old news for some of you—heh, well actually that would mean it’s “olds” for you, not “news”… Sorry, I’ll go sit in a corner and think about what I’ve done.
In all seriousness, you may have always known the word “news” was, at base, simply the plural of “new.” But, I didn’t, and in the small chance that I might change someone’s perspective the way mine was changed, I thought I’d share. And really, in and of itself, this is a perfect example of why I’m doing this blog; why I enjoy looking into the roots and stories behind words—because, far too often, what I discover turns my world upside down with a totally unconsidered perspective. It’s the same way the weightlessness at the top of a hump on a rollercoaster can help you realize that weight is entirely relative, and dependent on nothing but the forces on your mass.
What else might I be unaware of, just outside my perspective, blocked by nothing more than assumptions, easily discarded through a simple experience or turn of phrase? Of how many things am I unaware? The only thing I’m sure of is the answer to that question could fill tomes. Or at least a couple of haphazard blog posts.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy.
Newly received or noteworthy information, esp. about recent or important events: I’ve got some good news for you.
-(“The news”) A broadcast or published report of news: he was back in the news again.
-(“News to”) Informal information not previously known to someone: this was hardly news to her.
-A person or thing considered interesting enough to be reported in the news: Chanel became the hottest news in fashion.