This Article is the Eighth Deadly Sin

Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - 11:29am

NOSELL

Sherry Chen

I love sinning as much as the next guy, but when it comes to literature and writing, there is one cardinal sin that truly irks me. The eighth deadly sin, more insidious than its seven predecessors, is the non sequitur (a conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement), the tangent, the digression. It’s funny and bizarre at first, but when it drags on for too long, it becomes grating. There is media, literary or otherwise, that is able to pull off going on tangents well, and then there is media that is not able to. But before delving into some of these sinful works, it’ll help to trace back the etymology of these words with the assistance of the Oxford English Dictionary, one of my favorite sites. My other most visited sites are isitchristmas.com (by the way, it’s not Christmas today. Christmas celebrates the birth of the religious figure Jesus Christ, though the actual date of the historical Jesus’s birth was likely not Dec. 25. There are many theories as to why Dec. 25 was chosen as the day to celebrate this event, but it remains uncertain) and michigandaily.com ;). 

The usage of ‘non sequitur,’ for example, dates back to 1450, as used in Melbourne’s “Pilgramage Lyffe Manhode” to indicate some sort of article of clothing. It’s unclear how our current usage relates to this definition, but the OED indicates that a play on words may link the two. This, however, is uncertain. Philology and etymology can inspire deep appreciation for the beauty of our language, like why knight is pronounced “nite” instead of “kuh-nee-ght” (spoiler alert: we can thank the Normans for that. You may have heard of the Norman Conquest of England — not to be confused with the Lana Del Rey album titled Norman F*cking Rockwell. The title song of this album and the album itself were actually nominated for Grammys. Unfortunately, the song got snubbed, not unlike “Cats” got snubbed this year at the Oscars. And James Corden’s costumed appearance at the awards ceremony did nothing to assuage the pain I felt over “Cats” not being nominated for its phenomenal visual effects. In all honesty, the only comfort that could have soothed me was if every speaker who followed was dressed as an anthropomorphic cat, but, knowing the snobbery of the Academy Awards, this was unlikely. Nevertheless, other parts of the night did excite me. “Joker” winning awards for being too edgy was so exhilarating, and it should have won more. I will always believe “Joker” got snubbed for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Production Design, Best International Feature Film, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Screenplay, Best Short Film, etc. because it was too deep and philosophical for the Academy to understand. At least Joaquin Phoenix stood up for what he believed in when he won his Oscar and talked about how angry he was that cow orphans exist. The Joker himself philosophizing on how we live in a society was inspiring. The world is so dark and twisted these days that it is so enlightening to have a voice of reason in these times of madness. His life really is a comedy… Much like the first half of the winner of the Best Picture category, “Parasite.” “Parasite” might have been shallow and meaningless compared to “Joker,” but I’ll accept it as the winner that “Joker” was supposed to be. But I digress… — which was the successful campaign to invade England marked by a decisive Norman victory at Hastings in 1066. The resulting influence of Norman-French in this period permanently changed the English language), or why ‘yeet’ is a word. 

Words can undergo much more radical changes than the mere loss of syllables, of course. For example, did you know that the word ‘nice’ originally was meant to denote stupidity? I think a lot of things are “nice” in the sense that we use it today, but one of the nicest things on this planet is food. I’m not talking about bland white-people food, like casseroles or unseasoned chicken breasts, I’m talking about the good stuff, like Kraft Mac and Cheese, and that purple ketchup from the ‘90s. One way to really spice up your Kraft is to add some seasoning, some extra cheese or some bacon bits. Personally, I love peppering my Kraft with cilantro, from the herb coriander. Apparently, it’s possible to blend cilantro into a dipping sauce and even a cocktail. I can’t imagine dipping my fries into cilantro sauce, but to each their own. I can appreciate the variety of preferences some can have. 

What I don’t appreciate is the lack of variety in a few of the University’s dining halls. South Quad in particular draws my ire. I love fruit, yet all that MDining can scrounge together is a limited selection of melons, pineapple, bananas and apples. Where is the watermelon, the dragon fruit, the blueberries, the strawberries, the raspberries, the durian, the loquat, the cherimoya, the kumquat, the apricot, the coconut, the jujube, the cloudberry, the European blueberry, the damson, the gooseberry, the boysenberry and, most importantly, the kiwi? Where are my brown fuzzy little ovoids filled with green goodness? 

Speaking of kiwis, which are one of my favorite fruits, the Apteryx mantelli (the bird kiwi) is one of my favorite animals, and not just because these birds look like the fruit in question. I like the kiwi bird due to its association with the beautiful island country of New Zealand (Speaking of the Oscars, Taika Waititi, director of the Oscar-winning “Funny Heartwarming Nazi Film” and the upcoming “Romeo and Juliet” adaptation, “Thor: Love and Thunder,” just so happens to be from New Zealand. Much like the kiwi bird, Waititi is emblematic of much of what New Zealand represents: beauty incarnate.); New Zealanders are even often called kiwis. Assigning names to groups or individuals is often an endeavor loaded with meaning, and oftentimes the name assigned holds cultural or personal significance. 

For fear of going off into a tangent, I won’t discuss the historical significance of names and titles, so I’ll list ten names and their etymological roots instead. The name ‘Julianna’ comes from the name ‘Julian,’ which traces its way back to the name ‘Julius,’ which denoted ‘youth’; ‘One Directioner’ derives from the hit boy band ‘One Direction,’ and is used to talk about fans of said band; Christ comes from the Greek Khristos, deriving from khriein, meaning ‘to anoint’; the Jewish/German name ‘Schlissel’ comes from an occupational title for a “maker of dishes”; ‘Reggie’ is a nickname for the longer name ‘Reginald,’ which comes from Old German and literally translates to ‘ruling with power’; ‘Belieber’ is a combination of the pop idol Justin ‘Bieber’ and the word ‘believer,’ used to discuss fans of Justin Bieber — many artists have fans with humorous names, and even the fan bases of these artists often have names. One example is Beyonce’s fan base, dubbed the ‘Beyhive.’ 

Beyonce’s transcendence as a music artist is hardly done justice by this name, but it seems that this higher plane of talent runs in the family: I have recently discovered that Beyonce has a sister, Solange. Her latest album, When I Get Home, is a beautiful discussion of race and femininity. This sister duo is not novel in their familial talent, for they are preceded by the 19th century authors Charlotte and Emily Bronte. And, of course, the Brontes follow a literary period of satire, during which Laurence Sterne’s novel “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman” was published, which is a perfect example of a piece of media built around the idea of tangents and non sequiturs. A more modern example of media that plays with non sequiturs is “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

And that is why tangents are the eighth deadly sin. I’ll see you all in hell.