Saturday, October 07, 2006

Word of the Day: Miasma

What a useful word this is! A tainted, defiling, toxic, poisonous, noxious, unwholesome atmosphere - like the swamps which birthed the Lernaean Hydra - miasma is a plural noun in more than one way. The singular, I suppose, would be miasm, which comes from the Greek miainein - to defile, make unclean, pollute, render unfit.

I think it's an appropriate word for our times, especially as I sit here with the local pollution index just having hit 101; this reifying indicator means that people with respiratory or heart ailments should not venture out into the bad air (Italian mal aria). As Lyte wrote in the second verse of that funereal hymn Abide With Me, "Change and decay in all around I see." In fact, the hymn itself is testament to this - it used to have eight verses; these days, we're lucky to have three. And of course, the actually quite cheering words of the hymn are made to sound terribly sombre by the music which doesn't quite match the triumphant iambic pentameter (well, at least in a number of key lines).

But, yes. As my senses, both immediate and extended, receive the data of these days, I have begun to sense that indeed change is upon us. The finger points and writes and, having written, moves on. As the yellowing tendrils of the living miasma rattle against our feeble defences, as the malaise of the age takes hold, we ache for a change of air, a change of scene. And perhaps, someday quite soon, as it was with that nomadic patriarch Abraham, we should get a move on. The tents should be folded and the beasts of burden knouted till they, complaining, drag our loads onward to the promised land.

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Anonymous Spinner said...

Erm. Lastest I heard was 130. It's definitely no ordinary haze and it has to do with it no?

Saturday, October 07, 2006 3:37:00 pm  

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