Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lusty As An Eagle

One of the fun things about using a prayer book written in 16th century English is that occasionally a phrase just pops out at me (and frequently sends me looking up archaic meanings of its words). The most recent one was Psalm 103, verse 5: Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things : making thee young and lusty as an eagle.

"Lusty as an eagle"? Just how much lust can something that was on the endangered species list until 2007 actually have? Obviously eagles are capable of reproduction, but when I hear the word "lust" the eagle is not the first thing that comes to mind.

When I looked the word up, however, I discovered that while lust has sexual connotations, the adjective that matches it would be lustful, rather than lusty. Lusty, like the old meaning of virtue, is closer to strong than to their modern meanings. I remember noticing when I was taking Latin in college that it was much easier to translate Latin into 16th century English than modern English. Word meanings have slipped quite a bit over the past four hundred years.

These days the pace of change has accelerated so much that Diane Duane has just produced a new edition of So You Want to Be a Wizard, even though the book is less than 30 years old (the New Millennium Edition is available at Now the heroine has an MP3 player, and when her sister drops a stack of textbooks she was carrying, there's a Kindle on the top of the pile. I have ambivalent feelings about this. It's certainly interesting to see what Diane changed, but do we really want to deprive young readers of the knowledge that there was a world before people routinely carried electronics with them everywhere they went? I admit that I do most of my reading on Kindle so that I can adjust the type size to something I can see, and I've heard of people putting their Kindles in water-tight plastic bags so they can read in the bathtub. I'm certainly not saying that technology is bad, but I feel we're losing our sense of history here.

1 comment:

  1. So You Want to Be a Wizard? Now that's a wonderful book, but isn't that the book where part of the tale is in making the book you're actually holding seem magical? I'm not sure, as it's been decades to be sure, so maybe in this case it has to be updated to make the Kindle or other eReader have the same properties.

    And I imagine there will be a generation, perhaps in our lifetime, who only uses physical books when going to the library at the school, and then one day perhaps only at the Public Library or a grandparent's storage.

    Flash forward another generation or six, and maybe the books you and I keep on our shelves with real emotional attachment will seem to the newest generation as though Papyrus or some rare parchment, better placed in a museum than in someone's arms.

    As we enter the Age beyond the Information and Networking Age, time begins to accelerate, doesn't it? I'm only 34, and I feel that if I look away for a moment, progress zips past! I'm not complaining, but I may be lamenting ...just a bit.