A Plumbline in the Wind

The world is going to the dogs, but I refuse to learn to bark

Psalm 119:106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to observe thy righteous ordinances.

A Plumbline in the Wind Near Lauder, Scotland: Sheep on a hillside

But it’s not fun!

5 October 2008 · 5 Comments

One of my Facebook friends, who is definitely not a supporter of Senator McCain, joined, for what reason I cannot guess, a Facebook group in favor of the McCain-Palin ticket. Perhaps it was in order to leave this comment:

This is the most pitiful group in the world…you people are being screwed…and it’s not even fun! Vote OBAMA and get a real life!

Every clause of this could bear some comment, but the one that caught my attention was the one about “not even fun.”

There is first of all the question of whether politics should be fun. Politics is, after all, the use or restraint of the state’s monopoly of force in pursuit of one’s goals or principles. The thought of someone doing this to me for fun is a bit disturbing. It’s a bit like the thought of a surgeon operating on me, or a policeman throwing me in jail, or a broker investing my money, for fun.

I have vague recollection of a time when being fun was not the ultimate test of all activities. This was the time when seriousness was not considered a vice, and “dignity” was a word that could be uttered without a smirk. That age was ending when I was still a child, and vanished into the dustbin of history sometime in my early youth. I must confess a certain nostalgia for that time.

That invaluable resource, the Oxford English Dictionary, tells us that the noun “fun” derives from the verb, “to fun,” meaning to cheat or hoax someone, later to have a joke or make fun of. This in turn derives from a now obsolete verb “to fon.” The original meaning of this word appears to have been “to lose savor, to be insipid or sickly in flavor,” only found in the past participle “fonned.” Wyclif’s Bible renders Matthew 5:13 “If the salt be fonned…” This participle–our modern word “fond”–comes to mean “foolish” or “infatuated” and only later “cherished” without an pejorative connotation. (Thus a “fond hope” is not originally one that is cherished, but one that is maintained foolishly, as in “I still keep my size 36 trousers around in the fond hope that I will lose enough weight to fit into them again.”) The later meaning of “fon” is “to be infatuated, to play the fool” or “to deceive or make a fool of someone.” This word seems to have disappeared from use in the sixteenth century, replaced by the newer form “fun.”

And so we are now in the Age of Fun. The highest good is having fun. Etymologically, that means that the highest good is cheating and hoaxing, being foolish and making fools of others. Judging by the success of Michael Moore and Al Franken and the cast of Saturday Night Live, that seems to be an accurate characterization of our age and of its politics.

Tags: Politics and society

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Julie D. // 5 Oct 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Perhaps it is because my thoughts run to the crude rather than the higher element as yours did. However, the intended emphasis on “fun” was more probably the connection of these two thoughts in a way that does not touch on politics but rather the more … ahem … physical aspect. you people are being screwed…and it’s not even fun

    :-)

  • 2 Henry // 5 Oct 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Thank you. I’m afraid that had escaped me. Maybe it was the punctuation. A comma instead of an ellipsis would have made it clearer.

  • 3 Julie D. // 6 Oct 2008 at 7:32 am

    I think you just have a purer mind than I do … which must be nice! :-)

  • 4 metanous // 8 Nov 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Dear Henry: let us set aside “fun”, or any of its evil predecessors. Instead, think about “joy”. We Christians are at fault for letting the secular notion of fun replace the more serious, but equally delightful, feeling of joy. Which is you must admit is a fruit of the Spirit so get with it. And we haven’t had much joy recently. Not that I expect unmitigated joy henceforth, but if there’s more joy than dignity, I’m OK with that.

  • 5 Cher Lewis // 9 Nov 2008 at 3:56 am

    It was my comment; Julie you’re correct in your interpretation. The discourse on fun was an interesting wander in the garden of semantics instead of a plunge into the pool of joy!

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