09.12.08

Time to change

Posted in Figuratively Speaking at 9:35 am by Marion

FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING

One of the scariest moments for me as a journalist wasn’t when a sheriff found me hiding behind his door listening in on an interrogation (coercion, I might add), but rather on the days when the robotic out-of-town consultants declared, Change is the new journalism, so get used to it.

They had no idea what change meant to a page editor trying to make deadline … the utter fear it evoked to hear the words, new pagination system, how nightmarish their systems were for the people expected to use them. There was a certain arrogance, too, in their pronouncements, for those of us who entered journalism to give a voice to the voiceless and other lofty ideals. They seemed to say, Abandon ideals, ye who enter here … you are now our technology minions.

That period of my life ended almost 15 years ago, and today, as a self-employed writer, I find my attitude toward new technology is quite different. No longer imposed from on high, new tech and upgrades are my choice. Granted, I have to learn all about them in order to install and program routers, printers, operating systems and programs, but that also takes the fear of the unknown away. I have to master technology; I have no choice.

And so, we arrive at today’s topic for Figuratively Speaking: CHANGE. New computers, new iPods, new cars, new priorities … new president … new millennium … lately, we’re surrounded by it.

What a surprise to find that this intimidating word has humble origins: Change comes from the French changer, from the late Latin cambire which means barter. (If you’ve traveled abroad, you recognize the word cambio from the money-changing counters.)

So in the beginning, the dread word change merely referred to exchanging one thing for another. It was of quite modest roots, probably of Celtic origin, which was the day’s equivalent to hip-hop culture.

When we change, then, we give up something and get something else. That’s the short version. Yet the word implies much more. There’s Turning over a new leaf, starting from scratch, convert, revolt, make a quantum leap.

Probably the best term I’ve found today for change is perestroika. We heard this term a lot in the 1980s and I thought it was some kind of Russian five-year plan.

That’s sort of true — perestroika means restructuring the political and economic system. In Russian, the word means literally “restructuring.”

Wouldn’t it be great to claim this word for everyday use? My eating habits have been terrible lately, so perestroika is in order. Or, Honey, we need perestroika for these cabinets since they’re in disarray. Excuse me, but do you have perestroika for a dollar?

Then again, I’ve always loved anything Russian. I don’t see perestroika for that anytime soon.

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