To find out I began a sentence in my iPhone’s Notes app with the word “On” followed by the day of the week and the phrase “the world.” For the rest of the sentence I selected one of the three words suggested by the predictive algorithm to find out what’s in store for all of us.
One thing I often say to visitors to the contemporary museum where I work is that when they look at something they don’t quite understand their brains will try to make meaning out of the new or strange thing by equating it to things they already know. That is, the experience of something new is filtered by the past: we are always moving forward with our eyes on history.
I recently heard or read something (maybe it was a podcast?) that said language works in a similar way: a new thing is named by its relationship to the past. Thus, we didn’t have “cars” at first, we had “horseless carriages.”
The podcasters were bringing this up in relationship to the clumsy name we now have for the latest vehicular technology: the self-driving vehicle. I have a name for it: automobile, which is a combination of the Greek for “self,” and the Latin for “movable.”
Yes, of course, I know people call their Priuses (Priuii?) and SUVs and Beamers “automobiles,” but I’d argue that the term has been wrong all long. None of those vehicles drove themselves. They all required an operator, or a driver, which is also an interesting word. And the act of driving, of course, is what makes a term “self-driving” necessary, because we understand “automobile” to mean a vehicle that is driven (though that isn’t literally what it means).
This kind of word repurposing is nothing new. The word “car” itself is quite old, from the fourteenth century, referring to vehicles with wheels in Latin (carrus), and also thought to be related to a similar word “carriage,” which just means to carry and is said to be from the twelfth century.
Anyway, this is just to say that it doesn’t seem unlikely that soon-ishly (maybe in twenty years) English speakers will finally be using the “automobile” correctly, in reference to self-driving vehicles.
I’ve never officially signed up for NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month — though I know many people who have, and today my social media feeds are filled with folks sharing their words counts.
I’d love to do it. And I agree with this great advice from John Scalzi that it can be done — you can crank out enough words for a novel-length manuscript in a month. And I also agree with these words of wisdom from Larry Brooks in a 2010 GalleyCat article: “Don’t finish. Make this the start of something.”
But I want to use this time to try something I haven’t done before: Outline a novel first.