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Comments -- Are Live -- Word of the Week

there's no such thing as "start at the beginning"

Comments -- Are Live -- Word of the Week

My beautiful new blog is still a new blog, and I'm still learning its outlines and characters. A couple days ago, I discovered, quite by accident, that there was a comment box--with comments in it awaiting my approval!

Comments are now live; please post comments!

And so, with humble apologies to those commenters, this post is all about comments, the word and the abstract object.

I seem to own a vortex of boondoggles around comments. (Boondoggle! A future "word of the week," methinks.) I was never satisfied with the comment functionality on the blogger platform, which detoured me into wordpress. The main legacy from there was (still is) a deluge of spam comments, sometimes in the thousands. Probably still in the thousands, but I learned enough to get some basic automated spam filters up.

In practice, most of my comments come through social media, I see that trend with other blogs, and this lovely new website, not just blog, is on Joomla, new to me, about which I'll share as I become more familiar. 

In blogging, there is no place for the attitude of "I'm a writer. I just write, I don't need to know anything about the back-end stuff." Another way that the face of the book--and of creation of written content in general--has changed is toward greater emphasis on the reader's experience, and also on the reader's ability to respond (response-ability).

I create response-ability.  I wouldn't be blogging if I wasn't interested in conversation and interaction. It's my duty to know how to optimize my reader's experience, beyond the actual prose, whether s/he's reading on a TV screen or an iPhone. And it behooves me to be responsive, if interaction is what I'm aiming at.

But if I'd put off posting blogs until I knew my new webspace inside and out, I'd have built procrastination and perfectionism into its very fabric. There's no such thing as "start at the beginning." We don't know when the beginning was. This my first year in Tucson, in the intense midsummer heat, I was amazed to notice succulent green plants coming up over a week before the monsoon rains that made them possible began!

I admit, when I discovered the waiting comments I was horrified that I'd been so negligent. But my mentor and webmaster directed me to a setting that alerts me when a comment comes in, and I hereby undertake to respond to all comments promptly.

Comment, accordingly, is word of the week. A word with so many layers. Tempting just to read it as "mind meld": -ment is clearly on the "mind, mental" Latin root, and com looks like the "with" that you see in "communal," etc. "Mind together." What a great etymology for the response-able interaction I was describing!

I'll take it--but there's more. Con/com can imply intensity rather than togetherness (consider "concentration"). And yes, the root is ment as in "mind," but the two parts together were originally a verb, formed on a different version of ment -- the same version (stem) as in "reminisce" -- comminiscor.  So,  "bring to mind intensively," and so "to ponder, interpret," and also "to think something up." 

So far so good. I'm okay with all of those as characteristics of "comments." But, the way things went in the history of Latin... What happens when you "interpret," or "think something up (as a result of pondering)"?  There's a fine line between thinking something up and making something up. And that's what Plautus and Cicero used the word to mean. 

It's interesting how different languages follow similar channels. In English, an "invention" can be a grand discovery, or it can be a fiction you make up off the top of your head. Same idea, right?

And then, the Church got hold of the word, and Christian theologians used "commentum" as the standard word for an interpretation or annotation to a sacred text. (When someone annotates a sacred text, is s/he pondering and reflecting, or is s/he making it up?)

All I'm doing on here really is making a bunch of comments. So, an admonition to all of us: 
Let's choose our comments wisely!

About the Author

Ela Harrison

Ela is a wordsmith and herb lover who has lived in many places and currently resides in Tucson, AZ.

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