Wednesday, August 27, 2008

#1: forma: shape

A huge Latin root. Although Daniel Pink may disagree with my observation that this is the Information Age by saying in contradistinction that it is the Conceptual Age, we're still definitely in the mere limnings of the obsolescence thereof if Pink is correct (which I hope he is). In any case, what, etymologically speaking, is information, that is, what does it have to do with "shape"? When one informs another, one ‘describes’ something, thereby giving it ‘shape.’ Indeed, "information" is nothing but the act of giving "shape" to something, thereby delineating it, or drawing a boundary of words about it. When we conform, we give ourselves thoroughly to the "shape" of someone else's opinion or ideas, subsuming our own, for ulterior purposes or not, unless, of course, we conform to nonconformism, hence not giving "shape" to any idea or opinion, other than the absence thereof. Of all the independent schools at which I have taught, only one required uniforms, which give one "shape" to all, at least in terms of adolescent vestiture. Students there much have felt liberated once they went to college and could dress as they liked, having undergone a true transformation of personal haut couture, or etymologically "the act of crossing their (accustomed) shape" from one thing to another, in this case dress. See the shape of the forma tree at this Greek and Latin root words examples site.  Also check out animated trees at, the online site that uses a unique memory engine which keeps you from forgetting SAT and GRE vocabulary.