The Epicenter of Culture

I apologize in advance for this. It’s one of the posts you probably should skip. It has nothing to do with music and is only here because I want to say it and I have a blog so nyah, nyah, nyah, I get to say it. It smacks of language policing. It’s probably not nearly as amusing as I think it is. And on top of that, it happened because I was reading about the tragic earthquake in New Zealand, so it’s slightly callous as well.

The following interchange took place over the breakfast table between me and my housemate Nate –

me: I feel a sense of relief when I run into the word “epicenter” in a story about an earthquake. It’s so often misused to mean something like the real real center. But in fact it means the place on the surface nearest the actual center (which is not the actual center).

Nate: So the center of culture is actually five miles beneath New York City!

me: Good one, Nate!


“Epi” means “upon” not “really really.” (Although I have to admit that my dictionary surrendered and has “center” as the second meaning. Sigh.)

We must do something about laxity and slipshod standards and . . . and . . . and usage of which I disapprove!

An Apology
BTW, this odd little post has had more hits than anything on the site of late. I can’t imagine why. (Unless it’s Nate’s friends and family.) I didn’t tag it or write it with SEO in mind. In fact, I’m embarrassed that I’m attracting page views that may not be deserved.

If somebody who ends up here by mistake would leave a comment explaining what sent them here, I’ll be happy to change tags or something to try to keep that from happening.

About charles thiesen

I live in Dorchester, MA with five housemates and a cat named Chat Cousteau. I write novels and ride a recumbent bike, among other things.
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16 Responses to The Epicenter of Culture

  1. Charles (& Nate by association),
    Truly this has literary kinship with O. W. Holmes & the humorous Autocrat of the Breakfast Table tradition. It’s just a variant kind of NYT cross-word puzzle puzzle, not to be too too redundant!

    Nate’s wonderful response to your denotative clarification of “epicenter” extends the connotative implication to a 3-D cultural surprise…and humorous truth. This superiority of language truth rubs shoulders with the city-centrism we’re all accustomed to in the US that New York is the cultural capital of our civilization. Nate deserves kudos for actually determining where the smug truth is buried…beneath the city at a distance yet to be determined (subway level? Batman & other evil doers’ secret hideouts).

    Finally, before closing this extended epicentric aside, let us not forget that worshipper of all 70s things New York, Fran Leibowitz, who says in her recent documentary about her life in the upper strata of cultural performers in the last generation…that cultural actors are not a democracy but an aristocracy based on superior natural talents…and that the dumbing down of NYC by encouraging hickville tourism and the invasion of the rich into Manhattan to save it from bankruptcy was and is a travesty to this aristocratic arts milieu. Actually, I think Charles & Nate deserve a certain footnote to this controversy because Fran drives a former cab she parks deep underground near Time Square at considerable expense…thus, suggesting a lead on the true center of the epicenter of the war of gifted artists & the swarming herds of boring rich & gullible rubberneckers on the streets of Manahatta.
    Aristocrats of the Breakfast table…Boston chapter…carry on, Brahmins!

  2. ravishd says:

    I’d hate to think I had anything to do with anointing Fran Leibowitz as anything important to Cultchuh with a capital Cee. But . . . whatever.

    Good to see you Jim. Thanks for your perspicacious comment as usual.

  3. Hmmmmm… Does it have to be 5 miles under the city? I was thinking more along the lines of the subway; I’ve heard some damn fine musicians performing at some of the stops!

    • ravishd says:

      I don’t know, Roy. Nate said five miles. But you’re right, some of the best art in the metropolis (NY, Boston, any place with a subway) is underground. And not five miles underground.

      Hey, good to see you here. Thanks for commenting.

  4. The AntiChrist says:

    I was sent here by some self-promoting blogger who sent me an email with a link in it because he wanted more page views. He also thought (correctly) that I would appreciate and agree with the sentiment of this post.

    As you know, I’m a bit of a stickler for proper use of the English language so you’re preaching to the choir with this post as far as I’m concerned. We all have our pet peeves. Personally I get nigh catatonic with rage when people talk about something being “extremely unique” or any other phrase that qualifies an absolute.

    All of this is really picking at nits considering 90% of the people I interact with on a daily basis don’t seem to understand the difference between “you’re” and “your” or “Their”, “There” and “They’re”. I fear for the republic.

    • The AntiChrist says:

      Ummmm, do I have a wordpress account that I’ve forgotten about or does it have an algorithm that automatically puts the most appropriate icon pic next to a comment?

    • ravishd says:

      My first top priority is to pro-actively avoid clichés like the plague. Glad I managed to trick you into stopping by.

  5. John Owens says:

    Is the blog here, or five miles beneath here?

    • ravishd says:

      Interesting question. Wish I had an interesting answer. Hey! How’d you get your J to be your icon here. Did you have to log in or something?

      (BTW it just occurred to me to be incredibly impressed that you, of all the Johns in the world, have managed to make the J your own. Awesome, dude.)

      • John Owens says:

        When I joined Gather I didn’t have a way to scan a photo, so I went and got some public domain clip art. I lucked out in that most places, for some reason, the border doesn’t appear, so it looks like a floating J next to a bunch of boxed icons. Distinctive.

  6. Aniko says:

    Hmm. Your descriptivism is getting a bit flaky around the edges, isn’t it? :P

    (Some of my challenges are “less” instead of “fewer” – which I think you’ve declared fine – and “should have went”.)

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