Sunday, October 7, 2012



What particularly interested me out of the above segment was the following quote:

MADDOW: Today, President Obama sent to the Federal Register this notice. Look, "Consistent with section 202D of the National Emergencies Act, I`m continuing for one year the national emergency previously declared on September 14th, 2001. Because the terrorist threat continues, the national emergency declared on September 14th, 2001 and the powers and authorities adopted to deal with that emergency must continue in effect beyond September 14th, 2012. Therefore, I`m continuing in effect for an additional year the national emergency that was declared in 2001 with respect to the terrorist threat." What does the word "emergency" even mean anymore if we establish one for a year in advance? And what we`re calling an emergency now is starting its 12th straight year? It will be a good day in America and a good day in the English language when the word emergency is allowed to get its meaning back.

All right, that's an interesting question, but even more interesting is where did the word emergency come from in the first place? I have a friend who is very interested in what is currently termed 'emergent theology', which is about a theology that being born in response to what we think we know about the world, physics, etc. now. So, does emergency have any relation to this sense of emerging? I feel it must, but can't quite pin it down. Not all emerging is an emergency, after all...


Emergency does come out of emerge--in a way, it's "emerge's" own emergency. The definition of an emergency is "an unforeseen occurrence requiring immediate attention". Emerge, which means to rise out or up (rather than to merge, which is to dip, sink, plunge--think "immersion", or "submersible" sink) is from the 1560s, while emergency doesn't appear in written form till 1620. It all stems from the usual middle French, which in turn stems from the usual Latin. 

I spent a fairly fruitless time trying to get how emergency came to have its more specific meaning of "crisis", but didn't really get anywhere, and actually came upon a couple of blogs that had trodden these paths before. You can check them out HERE and HERE if you want to try and find something I missed. They're interesting, even if there is a lot of invective against Judge Judy in the comment threads on one.

I suppose in a way, an unforeseen occurrence always has some potential for crisis about it. And of course, as I can never remember enough, the drift of words changes their meanings quite often.

As apparently now one can be called by presidential order...


  1. I also wonder why emergency always carries a negative connotation. Might not "an unforeseen occurrence requiring immediate attention" be a positive experience, like, say, falling in love with someone at first sight?

  2. That would be a "love emergency", Julie. And of course it would require immediate action...

  3. Sorry, I just reread that and saw that that was exactly what you were saying.

    I think it might be similar to the way crisis simply means turning point,but is almost always interpreted negatively,not neutrally. It think it's probably a very human tendency to suspect that any change will be for the worse.

  4., say, falling in love with someone at first sight?

    "Emergency Room of Love." Sounds like a soul song from the early 1970s.

  5. Right now I am kind of in the ERL Peter. Have a crush on someone in Japan!

  6. Didn't Aretha Franklin ride the freeway of love in a pink Cadillac? Why not get rushed to the emergency room of love in the pink ambulance of love for a transfusion of love?

  7. If in fact, they have those in Japan. Well, if if the color is pink, they might.

  8. You can probably get a love transfusion from a vending machine here. But you will have to make sure to complete the transfusion while standing next to the joudohanbikey (vending machine), otherwise a fully suited up guard will chase you down.