Saturday, April 18, 2009

K Street

There's a small backlog of words I don't know piling up, but I thought it was time to take another tack, and go back to things in general I don't know, such as (see earlier posts), where in the world certain countries lie. Gotta mix it up a little from time to time, don't ya know.

I saw this headline on Slate Magazine tonight: "Obama's Botched War on K Street". Now it would be an easy enough thing to just click the link and find out from context what K Street is. I must assume it is not Wall Street, as that's already an easily understandable symbol, and I'm guessing it has to be in either New York or Washington, DC, but what in the world is it referring to? For one thing, I can't think of any sector of society that Obama is warring right now. The adversarial stance doesn't really seem to be his style. True, he sent the automakers home to retool, but I'd think that the simple word Detroit would have stood in there. The most recent controversy would lead me to think this has something to do with the CIA and the torture memos, so that would mean that K Street lies in Washington. The only other possibility that comes to mind is banking, as opposed to Wall Street, but as far as I an tell, he's been bending over backwards for them, not warring on them, so that is probably not right.

All right, all right. I don't have a clue what city K Street lies in. Time to click that link...

Okay, none of the above. 'K Street' refers to the lobbying sector and is based on a Washington, DC street where many lobbying firms have their offices. The Slate article calls Obama's war--yeah, it sounds familiar now--on lobbyists botched because it doesn't really make a distinction between good lobbyists and bad lobbyists. You can read more abouut both here, if so inclined.

Monday, April 6, 2009


I've got a couple of other blogs going, and in a perfect world, I would update one of them before I confess even more ignorance than people already know me to have. But the truth is that I would like the misspelled word of my last blog not to be the one to greet me every time I open the page, which I do a lot--not because I am so dazzled by my own writing, but because it's basically the way I see if anything new has popped up on some of the other blogs I follow.

Besides, recognition of ignorance comes on its own timetable, and not mine. In an ideal world--again--I would be so far from ignorant that I would only feel the need to post here about once a year.

Unfortunately, that's not the case.

I was having a conversation with my sister in which she was describing a situation of being overwhelmed or buried or burdened by something, and she asked me if 'consumed' was the word she was looking for. I said, "Maybe 'subsumed'?" So she asked, "Maybe--what does 'subsumed' mean, exactly?" And I said, "Uh..."

Yeah--I knew right away that a blog post was coming on.

Okay, I could probably use 'subsume' semi-accurately in a sentence--or at least interpret it semi-accurately in a sentence. The sub- prefix makes it easy to fake it. There's an 'under' aspect to it. I would probably use it to mean 'buried within', 'overwhelmed' or 'taken over'--as in, "his personality was subsumed in his father's overbearing one". We'll see shortly if I'm right about that. Meanwhile, there is also a more primary ignorance to be dealt with.

It occurred to me that there are a lot of '-sume' words--consume, subsume, resume, presume--and though with the rest I can more accurately define them, I still don't know what that '-sume' is all about. It has got to be some sort of very foundational root, like 'to be' or 'to know', but I can't find the common element. With, under, again, before--all attached to this suffix. So how does it work to make them say what they do?

Time to find out...

Okay--I was probably offering the word inaccurately to my sister, though it might have just squeaked by, depending on what we were actually saying. Probably not, though. "Subsume" means to include, or classify or incorporate something into--or under--a larger group or general principal.

I didn't come close to getting the '-sume' right, either. It comes from the Latin sumere, which means 'to take', among other things. I have to admit that at first, this didn't make things much clearer. But reading through the definitions, I was surprised to see how many idioms using 'to take' have passed into our present day language. So we can make these sort of rough matches: subsume--to take under. Consume--to take in. Resume--to take up again. Presume--to take for granted--or to take ahead of time.

Who knew that 'taking' was so fundamental to our language, and therefore our nature? Oh, sure--you all did. Easy to say that now.