[NetBehaviour] interesting new language

Max Herman maxnmherman at hotmail.com
Sun Mar 15 18:54:40 CET 2020

I sometimes think of the word "new" as a noun, or imagine what a noun "new" might mean.  For me it hearkens back to a Victorian British street slang perhaps.  Cynical but boisterous and moderately well-fed folks, not necessarily educated but urban and vocal, improvising in the age of coffeehouses and non-monarchial public sphere formation.  A time where newly information-rich urban populations burgeoned.

But if Shakespeare used "news," and I think he did, the noun "new" must be even older.  Could it have emerged spontaneously, by necessity once for the first time, when someone said as if by accidental mutation "what news?" instead of "what's new"?  People hate keeping phrases the same.  If you say to a kid "what's new?" enough times they'll start saying "what news?" or "new what's?" or "what's what?" or whatever.  Nature abhors a vacuum, and vacuity, which is to say, temporally speaking, stasis.

But as if algebraically, let's say "let 'new' be equivalent to 'single quantum noun of that which is new.'"  This is an example of the algebra that applied category theory (Spivak) uses to articulate networks by way of functors, and to articulate the networks of relationships between diverse scientific disciplines.  We are saying, "let there be a set of things that are new, and then let there be a subset of those new things which are single quanta; each object in that set of single new quanta we will call a 'new'."  Now we have another set populated with items, each of which is called a "new."  (Here a new, there a new, everywhere a new new, so to say.)  Then applying grammatical morphisms someone might utter "what are the new news today?"

Thus our phrase may derive from one person asking another, "what are the new quanta in the network?"  It's one of the first human questions, or maybe it is the first question and in a sense the set of all questions.  The question can stay somewhat the same day to day, but the answer will inexorably change, or as Shakespeare wrote "Like as the waves make toward the pebbled shore / So do our minutes hasten toward their end, / Each changing place with those that came before, / In sequent toil all forwards do contend."  This is partly the message of Ovid, and of Lucretius.

Therefore I would propose an hypothesis: "See Ovid 2019" as one of the set of conditions resulting from SARS-CoV-2.

https://archive.org/details/cattheory/page/n11/mode/2up [Spivak]

From: NetBehaviour <netbehaviour-bounces at lists.netbehaviour.org> on behalf of Edward Picot via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Sent: Sunday, March 15, 2020 8:38 AM
To: Bjørn Magnhildøen via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Cc: Edward Picot <julian.lesaux at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [NetBehaviour] interesting new language

Yes, I like Max's dives into word origins. You feel the grittiness and shrillness of the here-and-now is turning into something more considered and more cultured. And I like 'Our whole immune system is like a library' as a quote.


On 13/03/2020 19:37, Bjørn Magnhildøen via NetBehaviour wrote:
i think that's nice deconstruction of 'news' as a virus
hysteria brings out the best in people

On Fri, Mar 13, 2020 at 6:09 PM Max Herman via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org<mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>> wrote:

Hi all,

Some odd emails are arriving.  Such as, from the local Theater, announcing that my tickets to Twelfth Night are canceled, as are performances of The Bacchae and a new work called CenterPlay.

Canceled by what?  A non-living yet self-reproducing molecule.  An ironic creator of empty theaters, unplayed plays both Shakespearean and hockey.  How novel!

I got another email from the Public Broadcasting System called "what you need to know about the Novel Coronavirus."

Novel, is a word, it means book, or narrative, new narrative, nouvelle, and in this sense is old as Don Quixote or Moll Flanders, not that new anymore (though perhaps newer than Hamlet Prince of Denmark).
At one time it meant "the new books" arguably, neobiblia, novi libri.  Corona means crown, but going farther back meant garland for military service, from the PIE "bend," as in, you bend a branch of leaves so that you can place it on someone's head, "they fought."  (Art is from a similar PIE root for joint, arthritis, arm, a bend that bends?)  An identifier of something done and of identification.  Virus means poisonous fluid, possibly from PIE "ueis-" to melt away, flow, rot perhaps?  I often think of the PIE root weid- to see, but I don't know if they are related.  Flow, see?  I try to imagine two hominids trying to talk to each other at some point, one more motivated, the other patient, one scribbling with a stick or spoken words, saying "see?  see what I mean?" scribble scribble chatter chatter.

So, book-garland-poisonflow?  In any case, it all seems very like haunting, very like memory.  The novel is what we don't know yet, right?  A virus isn't new if we have memory of it.  Our whole immune system is like a library.  We each have our own, but we also are part of each other's.  Similar perhaps to how libraries are connected.

All of which calls to mind Hippocrates I think.

Best regards,


Chapter Four: Hippocratic Medicine and Greek Tragedy https://brill.com/view/book/9789004232549/B9789004232549-s005.xml

PS - sadly or happily, that same Public Broadcasting Service email announces Niall Ferguson's new TV show Networld, tragically or comically, debuting on March 17, the night I was supposed to see Twelfth Night, the night on which Saint Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland.  https://www.pbs.org/video/niall-fergusons-networld-preview-cpi5cf/?utm_source=whattowatchnews&utm_medium=email&utm_term=secondarypromo6&utm_content=20200228&utm_campaign=networld_2020

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