From time to time, I find myself desiring to read books which are not related to linguistics in any possible way. Mostly, this means that I want to read science fiction or fantasy books. So, yesterday, instead of working like the diligent student I am, I sat down and read Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card. It was a fascinating novel about Bean, a secondary character in the main book which preceded it, Ender’s Game. The premise of the story is that there is an alien invasion, and Earth has united to fight it by sending their best and most brilliant children to Battle School in a satellite circling the earth, to train them as admirals to fight in the coming war. I know, it sounds awesome, right? In reality, it is, because it’s not a novel about children – it’s about strategy. And the use of strategical theory is brilliant in both books. So much so, that when I found at the end of Ender’s Shadow a short page about influences and thanks, I immediately went to the library to find a collection of essays called Makers of Modern Strategy: from Macchiavelli to the Nuclear Age. I justified this distraction by claiming that as a linguistics student, I must improve myself in order to get into an MSc program, and ultimately, into journals and a tenure position. How better to improve myself than to analyse the lives of greater men who had been through things which probably had analogues to my own life? (This justification is of course, ridiculous, and therefore worked incredibly well.)

You may remember that I posted about the origin of Nostalgia back in the spring. Well, a similar thing occured which brought linguistics back into my mind. While I was reading about how Sébastian Le Prestre de Vauban, a famous 17th century French strategian, completely innovated the way sieges were done by using advancing levels of trenches, I came across the following sentence:

Saint-Simon, not content with dubbing [Vauban] a Roman, applied to him, for the first time with its modern meaning, the word patriote. [pg 74]

And there you have it. The first use of the word patriote with it’s modern meaning. Of course, the OED disagrees, and traces itback, in English no less, to 1577, a full 125 years before this usage. But that’s not really the problem: the problem is that I managed to find something that reminded me of linguistics, and so I felt obliged to work on my essay at 1:30am last night. And I didn’t pick up any strategical analogues to writing it, but one: don’t delay in doing something. Maybe I’ll do better next time.

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