Look-Back Time


“Due to the amount of time required for light traveling through the cosmos to reach the Earth, astronomic observers are always viewing the past—an effect known as ‘look-back time. The Sun has a look-back time of eight minutes, while the Andromeda galaxy’s is two million years.”

From Lapham’s Quarterly.

Of course, look-back time also occurs in our day to day experience; i.e., the amount of time it takes light from a building to hit my eye, and then perception-time, the amount of time it takes the cells to process that photon into some sort of image.  Human beings don’t see the present, ever, we perceive only what has already occured perhaps 1/60th of a second ago.


chronopun (n)

A pun based on concepts of time, or using time diction. They are every bit as unbearable as regular puns. For example, this Cyanide & Happiness comic:


Shakespeare makes a number of chronopuns. Here’s the first I’ve found:

“And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour we rot and rot,
And thereby hangs a tale.”
As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7, Line 26-27.

In Early Modern English, “hour” and “whore” would have been pronounced identically.  So we can measure our lives in hours, or in whores (as Jaques does), or, as Prufrock does, in coffee spoons.

semantic satiation (n)

Also sometimes called “semantic saturation” is the phenomenon of hearing a word so many times it loses its meaning and is reduced merely to it phonetic sounds. The dissolution of the signifier from the signified. The weirdness of language made apparent–something of an exercise in cognitive estrangement.  It works with any word or phrase.

Try it with: “dissertation” or “PhD” or “deadline.”


Exercises in existentialism; mantras of meaninglessness.


Schlemazel (n)

Exists in yinyang conjunction with a schlemiel.

Schlemiel (n): an awkward and unlucky person for whom things never turn out right.


Schlemazel (n) “also schlimazel, “born loser,” 1948, from Yiddish shlim mazel “rotten luck,” from Middle High German slim “crooked” + Hebrew mazzal “luck.” British slang shemozzle “an unhappy plight” (1889) is probably from the same source.”

So if you’re at a baseball game and someone spills a beer on you, he is a schlemiel. You are the schlemazel.  The spiller and the spilled upon.  Neither has grace.  So goes the yinyang of shame.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, say it in Yiddish.

wisdom (n)

From Old English, originally: wise + doom.
To be wise about one’s doom is to have wisdom.

Wise –>

witen (Old English) “to know”
witan (Gothic) “to know”
videre (Latin) “to see”
vidati (Sanskrit) “to know”

To know one’s doom.

Doom –>

dom (Old English) “judgment, law”
doms (Gothic)
dhaman (Sanskrit)
themis (Greek) –> related “to think, to form an opinion, to believe.”

To know one’s end, or one’s judgment is to have wisdom. Taken from an eschatological perspective, wisdom is knowing that Christ’s judgment is coming, memento mori, ephermality of the physical world, etc. Taken from a modern environmental perspective, wisdom is something like foresight, understanding global warming, knowing our collective fate and thus being prepared for it, whether body or soul.

Prophets have wisdom.

Inspector Finch has it, briefly.

Future Monuments are about projecting wise-doom.



Gk. eu – good;  cata – down, back, against; strophe – a twisting, or turning; catastrophe, “an overturning.”

As opposed to the regular catastrophes, a eucatastrophe is “the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with joy and brings tears.” An unexpected, happy ending.

Related: serendipity; deus ex machina, peripeteia.

This neologism was invented by J.R.R. Tolkein.