deconstruct

Discuss word origins and meanings.

deconstruct

Post by Archived Topic » Wed Nov 17, 2004 11:49 pm

"Other notable stars deconstructing the decade include musician Jason Mraz...."

"Kerry's campaign, perhaps trying to deconstruct his he-can't-help-it patrician persona, dubbed his lead-up to Boston road trip Kerry's front porch'' tour."

"National Geographic Channel's (NGC) new series 'Seconds
from Disaster' deconstructs, moment-by-moment, the chain of events leading to some of the world's most infamous disasters."

Deconstruct has 2 conventional meanings; (1) disssasemble and (2) apply the theory of deconstruction, which is kind of abstruse and doesn't ring a bell. The way it is used above, however, seems to suggest a new meaning; eg, to reexamine or review, perhaps with the object to do it better next time

Comment? Thanks
Submitted by dale hileman (Apple Valley, CA - U.S.A.)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Topic imported and archived

deconstruct

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Nov 18, 2004 12:03 am

Dale, in the examples you have supplied I would suggest that the following different meanings for 'deconstruction' are implied:

1) 'Deconstructing the decade' presumably refers to one of those TV shows in which well-known personalities review and interpret the showbiz phenomena of a given period. This usage builds on the connotations of the 'theory of deconstruction' (i.e. the critical methods prescribed by that particular camp of literary theory).

2) 'To deconstruct [Kerry's] he-can't-help-it patrician persona' means 'To improve or reinvent the public perception of his he-can't-help-it patrician persona'. This usage stretches the dictionary definitions beyond breaking point, in my view.

3) ' "Seconds from Disaster" deconstructs [...] the chain of events...' In other words, ' "Seconds from Disaster" analyses and interprets [...] the chain of events...' This is essentially an instance of the 'disassembly' meaning.

Only the sloppy use of 'deconstruction' in 2) above (which accordingly doesn't qualify as legitimate in terms of currently accepted usage) therefore embodies a new meaning for the word.
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

deconstruct

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Nov 18, 2004 12:17 am

Dale, I would agree with you that DECONSTRUCTION, as far as I can tell from recent usage, has taken on a different meaning than what most dictionaries say. The dictionaries refer to

1) disassemble and

2) A type of critical ‘analysis’ born in the 1960s in literature and philosophy associated with French philosopher Jacques Derrida (born 1930), which among other hairy stuff questions the ability of language to represent reality and that assumes that language refers only to itself and says, for one thing, that when one analyzes what an author says one should base any interpretations on the philosophical, political, or social implications of the use of language in the text rather than on what the author is trying to imply — the “meaning” of a text bears only accidental relationship to the author's conscious intentions! The aim of the movement was to expose unquestioned metaphysical assumptions and internal contradictions in philosophical and literary language, and emphasize the meaning of words in relation to each other rather than to objects in the real world. – got that? (<:)

But right or wrong (and ‘wrong’ according to the dictionaries) ‘deconstruction’ now appears to also be:

(a) A blend of your (1) and (2) where the disassemble into component parts seems to have been combined with the ‘analysis’ part of (2) to give the meaning of ‘disassemble and analyze’ [‘deconstructing the decade’ and ‘deconstructs, moment-by-moment’]

(b) The meaning of (2) is so abstruse as to be understandable only to a few hotshot English and philosophy majors and what has happened is that the ordinary Joe has skipped that one and erroneously taken ‘deconstruct’ to not only mean disassemble but to ‘unbuild,’ ‘wipe out,’ ‘obliterate,’ ‘erase’ – DESTROY. Thus ‘deconstruction’ for them has turned into ‘destruction.’ And it is likely that whoever made the Kerry statement has probably used it in this way and doesn’t really know what ‘deconstruct’ means (officially, anyway) – but they are not alone! And if enough folks make this mistake, which actually sounds like a reasonable definition, it undoubtedly will become accepted usage and will soon appear in dictionaries in your neighborhood! But truth be known, unbeknownst to them, they are not actually completely and totally wrong for the crux of what Jacques Derrida was advocating with his ‘deconstruction’ was to analyze and ‘reinterpret’ in accordance with his ‘wacko’ (sorry Jacques, err ‘abstruse’) principals. So if you stretch, squeeze, and massage ‘reinterpret’ you might almost, but not quite, have a reasonable “Kerry campaign, perhaps trying to ‘reinterpret –> reshape –> reconstruct –>destroy / wipe out / erase’ his he-can’t-help-it patrician persona, . . .”

(Random House and Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionaries, 20th Century Words by Ayto, Oxford English Dictionary)
__________________

Ken G – July 26, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

deconstruct

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Nov 18, 2004 12:32 am

Eric, Ken: Thanks again, you guys are really good. It's too bad, however, that there are only about four of you in the entire world--or at least on the Internet

Clearly, the new "deconstruct" constitutes another example how the language is deteriorating in this Alice-In-Wonderland climate of intellectual anarchy; a lot like "paradigm" or "venue," words lately assuming practically any meaning the writer wants them to, so as convey a false aura of sagacity

I'd love to expand on this but I get prolix and don't want to abuse Jim Ransom's hospitality. But once more, thank you--all 2 of you
Reply from dale hileman (Apple Valley, CA - U.S.A.)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

deconstruct

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Nov 18, 2004 12:46 am

Dale, I’d better reveal a bit of my own sloppiness before I get a swelled head. Depending on which dictionary you consult, one of the meanings of analyze (Random House Unabridged Dictionary) is to separate (a material or abstract entity) into constituent parts or elements” (the antonym of one of the meanings of ‘synthesis). So if you consider that definition, it is redundant to say, as I did, ‘disassemble and analyze.’ However, the definition I had in mind was “to examine critically, so as to bring out the essential elements or give the essence of: ‘to analyze a poem’; to examine carefully and in detail so as to identify causes, key factors, possible results, etc.” (also Random House Unabridged Dictionary) – which, if you get picky, you could still say contains some ‘disassemble.’ But if one accepts the ‘American Heritage Dictionary’ definition, “To examine methodically by separating into parts and studying their interrelations,” then ‘disassemble’ is a subset of ‘analyze’ and it is questionable whether it should be mentioned at all. Obviously, I went with my interpretation of Random House in my discussion! Of course, if you look in the Oxford English Dictionary, they will provide you with 12 definitions, addressing specifically ‘literary,’ ‘grammatical,’ mathematical, logical, philosophical, . . . analysis, which I will here forgo, since, as is obvious to the most casual observer, not being prolix weighs heavily on my mind! (<:)

Ken G – July 27, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

deconstruct

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Nov 18, 2004 1:01 am

All,
Kerry's campaign, perhaps trying to deconstruct his he-can't-help-it patrician persona, dubbed his lead-up to Boston road trip Kerry's "front porch'' tour

M-W Online says "disassemble" can mean "disperse or scatter." So it doesn't seem too far out of bounds to me that Kerry's campaign is trying to disperse or scatter his patrician persona--or just to take it apart. Once you disassemble ("deconstruct") something, you haven't gotten rid of it, but you have the option of putting it back together or abandoning it.

Lois, July 27, 2004

Reply from Lois Martin (Birmingham, AL - U.S.A.)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

deconstruct

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Nov 18, 2004 1:15 am

Lois, There is a technical flaw in what you said. The verb ‘disassemble’ has two senses ‘transitive’ and ‘intransitive.’ Merriam-Webster says that the transitive sense means to ‘take apart.’ A ‘transitive sense requires an object and they give as an the example ‘disassemble a watch’ in which ‘watch’ is the object. For the intransitive sense they provide, as you said, the definitions ‘disperse,’ ‘scatter.’ The intransitive verb does not require an object and they give as their example, ‘the crowd began to disassemble.’ Another example would be ‘These shelves disassemble quickly for easy moving.’

The Kerry campaign usage of ‘deconstruct’ is in the transitive sense “perhaps trying to deconstruct . . . .,” ‘his he-can't-help-it patrician persona’ being the object of the verb. And therefore its definition of ‘disassemble’ would have to also be in the transitive sense – so that the ‘disperse’ and ‘scatter’ definition would not apply in this case.

Ken – July 27, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

deconstruct

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Jul 23, 2005 4:24 pm

Speaking of DISASSEMBLE, some think that H.P. should be. In this morning’s N.Y. Times we had:
<2005 “Some Disassembly Required: [[article title]] Hewlett-Packard's new chief executive [[Mark Hurd]] has attacked the unwieldiness of the company, which sells a dizzying array of products. But are there bolder moves ahead?”—‘N.Y. Times,’ 23 July>
__________________

Ken G – July 23, 2005
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

deconstruct

Post by haro » Sat Jul 23, 2005 7:26 pm

Thus spake Dubya, "Disassemble -- that means not tell the truth." Ken, who are we to question that? I just wonder how long it will take for the dictionaries to add this new meaning.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Hans Joerg Rothenberger
Switzerland

deconstruct

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Jul 23, 2005 9:11 pm

Han Joerg, It just doesn’t pay to stray from what your speechwriters have written – it will get you every time! And Junior was even thinking of, upon his retirement, taking up a career in lexicography as a follow-on to his former great successes in oil, the military, and baseball. Of course, he may have trouble doing that because of the atrophy - and there really wasn't that much there to begin with - since he hasn’t had to do any thinking on his own since those glory days (in the private sector) of oil & ball. But, and it is sad to say, he may not have the services of his faithful puppeteer who very well could be in jail by then - hmm, I wonder what the rules are on outside calls. (<:)

Ken – July 23, 2005
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

deconstruct

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Jul 23, 2005 9:44 pm

Maybe they will be forced to communicate via the prison's glory hole.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: -- Looking up a word? Try OneLook's metadictionary (--> definitions) and reverse dictionary (--> terms based on your definitions)8-- Contribute favourite diary entries, quotations and more here8 -- Find new postings easily with Active Topics8-- Want to research a word? Get essential tips from experienced researcher Ken Greenwald

deconstruct

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Jul 23, 2005 10:32 pm

Erik, It couldn’t happen to two nicer guys! (&gt) And, by Jove, does this give us new insight into the origin of the expression ‘hole in the wall’?

Ken – July 23, 2005
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

deconstruct

Post by haro » Sat Jul 23, 2005 10:38 pm

"In my country we go to prison first and then become President." -- Nelson Mandela 2004
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Hans Joerg Rothenberger
Switzerland

deconstruct

Post by spiritus » Sat Jul 23, 2005 11:32 pm

( Resisting the urge to doze, as we watch this thread become an example of that which is prolix. )
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Che Baraka

deconstruct

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Jul 24, 2005 7:25 am

If I were to observe that your postings on this site are consistently the most soporifically prolix of all, Che, I would not be the least bit surprised.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: -- Looking up a word? Try OneLook's metadictionary (--> definitions) and reverse dictionary (--> terms based on your definitions)8-- Contribute favourite diary entries, quotations and more here8 -- Find new postings easily with Active Topics8-- Want to research a word? Get essential tips from experienced researcher Ken Greenwald

Post Reply