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Ski
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PostSun Dec 13, 2020 2:09 am 
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ON LANGUAGE; It's a Rain Forest Out There

By William Safire
Dec. 22, 1991 - The New York Times

WHAT'S HAPPENED to the jungle ?

It's disappearing. This once-popular word was first used in 1776 in Nathaniel B. Halhed's translation of a code of Hindu laws: "Land Waste for Five Years . . . is called Jungle." It is respectably rooted in the Hindi jangal and the Sanskrit jangala , "wasteland, desert." After a century of use in this dry sense, the word was applied to uncultivated tropical land, overgrown with grasses and teeming with snakes and creepily wet wildlife; Thomas Macaulay wrote in 1849 of "a vast pool . . . overhung with rank jungle."

As recently as a generation ago, the word was doing fine. Rudyard Kipling wrote "The Jungle Book" in 1894, and coined the law of the jungle , cruel but fair in its way. A children's play structure was called a jungle gym in 1923; jungle warfare was taught in all the best military schools after World War II, and the metaphor was extended to " The Asphalt Jungle ," a 1950 John Huston movie (which brought Marilyn Monroe to prominence) about the fierce city, while Evan Hunter's 1954 novel about city schools was titled " The Blackboard Jungle ." Harried executives told the joke of Tarzan swinging on a vine into his treehouse and telling Jane, his mate: "Whew! It's a jungle out there."

All gone. Jungle is no more, at least not in sophisticated usage. The rain forest has taken over.

It started to grow slowly. The German botanist Andreas Franz Wilhelm Schimper first used Regenwald in 1898; William Rogers Fisher translated it literally in this 1903 publication in English: "The Rain-forest is evergreen, hygrophilous in character, at least thirty meters high, but usually much taller, rich in thick-stemmed lianes, and in wood as well as herbaceous epiphytes."

That was what used to be a jungle ; in those days, a somewhat drier woodland that attracted lumberjacks was a forest . Now they're both forests; the dripping one with the quicksand and weird birdcalls is a tropical rain forest while the nice woods with reasonable rainfall that Hansel and Gretel would go trooping through is a temperate rain forest .

This is the environmentalists' greatest linguistic triumph. Because a jungle was fearsome, nobody would want to preserve it. But a forest has a nice ring to it -- there was Robin Hood with his merry men robbing the rich in Sherwood Forest -- and the word lent itself to persuasion for preservation. If a pollster asks, "Is it O.K. to mow down the jungle ?" the answer will be "Sure, who needs it?"; if the same pollster asks, "Do you approve of destruction of the rain forest ?" the answer will be "No, it will lead to global warming or a new ice age."

Get off that jungle, Jim. When they colorize that John Huston movie for television, we will see Marilyn Monroe in "The Asphalt Rainforest."

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"I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. 
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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treeswarper
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PostSun Dec 13, 2020 5:54 am 
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So, we actually have a temperate jungle?

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What's especially fun about sock puppets is that you can make each one unique and individual, so that they each have special characters. And they don't have to be human––animals and aliens are great possibilities
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Ski
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PostTue Dec 15, 2020 7:54 am 
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wink.gif

The message here - which was most certainly not lost on Mr. Safire - is that the co-opting of the language for political gain is an insidious game being played right under our noses - and that it's done by both the "left" and the "right" every day.

Safire made an art form of using humor to convey messages that needed to be heeded, where others who lacked his command of the English language and wit would have resorted to a cudgel.

He was definitely one of the gems in the world of American journalism. up.gif

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"I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. 
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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Malachai Constant
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PostTue Dec 15, 2020 9:00 am 
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In South America there is the Cloud Forest which is a higher altitude rain forest where it is usually foggy and distinct from the Amazon Rain Forest.

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"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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treeswarper
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PostTue Dec 15, 2020 9:56 am 
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Tarzan of the Rain Forest would take up more room on the marquee.

You could even add the words, pristine and old growth for even more emphasis, as we well know.

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Pyrites
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PostTue Dec 15, 2020 5:32 pm 
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At one time it was a slash cut. Then a clear cut. Then that became dated.

I doubt Safire had family logging in the PNW in the ‘30’s.
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Malachai Constant
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PostTue Dec 15, 2020 7:34 pm 
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In Washington I think of jungle being the areas of brush cones alternating with slide alder and vine maple typically found in steep North Cascades valleys such as Luna and McMillan creeks. It is almost impossible to make progress in such jungles. Northwest rain forest is what Beckey would call open forest especially if old growth with grazers. Off trail travel is not difficult except in water courses. South American Rain forest is quite difficult with triple canopy forests with wide diversity of trees and shrubs. Ground is generally swampy with a wide diversity of amphibians, reptiles, birds, small mammals, and a few large peradators. Asia jungles are similar. Just my experience.

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"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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alpendave
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PostWed Dec 16, 2020 5:36 am 
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Ski wrote:
It is respectably rooted in the Hindi jangal and the Sanskrit jangala , "wasteland, desert."

So all this time I couldn’t figure out why the lion was called the King of the Jungle. Now I know.

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Life is too short to take too seriously.
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Cyclopath
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PostFri Dec 18, 2020 7:26 pm 
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Language evolves over time.
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Slugman
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PostSat Dec 19, 2020 11:51 am 
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Swamp became wetland. Same principle.

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“The jerking motion of a knee does not reflect the operation of a mind”  Slugman, January 24th 2020
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Brian R
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PostSun Dec 20, 2020 12:14 am 
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Ski, it goes even deeper than you think. For more insight, if you haven't already, read Wilderness and The American Mind, by Roderick Frazier Nash. A bit dated, maybe. The whole concept of wilderness has been turned inside out and back again since our days in The Garden.

In the meantime, better run through the jungle.
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Cyclopath
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PostSun Dec 27, 2020 5:13 pm 
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Here's an article about "the dark ages" fell out of favor.

https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/just-how-dark-were-the-dark-ages
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