“Word Magic” and mavericking votes

While feeding my Yijing OCD of reading all I can get my hands on related to it, I found the following passage in Richard Smith’s latest book, “Fathoming the Cosmos and ordering the world”:

A certain “word magic” gave early hexagram line statements social and psychological power. Long ago the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski pointed out that word magic could be found not only among so-called primitive peoples such as the Trobriand Islanders, whom he had studied, but also among Westerners in his own time. Advertising slogans, political campaigns, and legal formulas, for example, al provided illustrations for Malinowski of the magical power of words. They represent, more or less, what more modern scholars describe as “performative” utterances, statements that have the ability to create what they refer to, such as the seductive phrase I hereby promise.

Word magic, as Malinowski observed, can describe conditions that are “objectively” false but subjectively true. That is, language is capable of reflecting a kind of “pragmatic” truth that is “reasonable” in terms of addressing certain psychological needs of the individual and “sociologically true in the sense that it affects intentions, motivations and expectations.” Much of the appeal of the Yijing as an explanatory device can be understood as a product of this sort of word power, specially in a society such as traditional China’s, where plays on words were so powerful and where the written language exerted inordinate social influence by virtue of its seemingly intrinsic magical qualities.

All of a sudden, “maverick,” “9/11,” “terrorism,” “change,” “country first,” “fight with me,” “McCain,” “Obama,” “Biden,” “Palin,” started making a different kind of sense to me.

By the way, it was interesting to find out that “maverick,” as a transitive verb, means:

1 West : to brand and take possession of (an animal) as a maverick

2 West : to obtain by dishonest or questionable means

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