When "Gothic" means "Dark" Not even Etymologyman can save us

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EchoRomulus
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When "Gothic" means "Dark" Not even Etymologyman can save us

Postby EchoRomulus » Sun Jun 02, 2013 1:16 am UTC

"Emo", "Gothic", and "Medieval" are terms I find to be horribly horribly misused. Correct me if I'm wrong. Help me understand these words.

"Emo" should be short for "Emote" right? Then why is it often applied to teenagers who try to appear sociopathic and apathetic?

I learned, in school of all places, that Gothic architecture was a depart from Romanesque because improved technology and technique allowed larger windows to let light into buildings. It also departed from simple geometric shapes when constructing open spaces, doorways, and supports. So why does gothic now mean dark, scary, and black?

When people talk about "Medieval" they refer to the time between 500 CE and 1500 CE. But they talk about ideas and values which became mainstream in the Romantic era. The problem is a lot of the Romantic era's culture rewrote the middle ages. Specifically Robin Hood changed many times between the 12th century and the 19th. Many concepts of knights in shining armor being kind to women and fighting for justice came out of the romantic period. During the middle ages knights were noblilty-bred cavaliers for whom Chivalry only applied to those of equal social class. They were quite often selfish brutes. During the battle of Agincourt the French knights charged ahead of the crossbowmen despite being in their firing line because they wanted the credit for the victory. (They were defeated quite badly.)

Does anyone else sympathize? Can anyone else refute what I've said or add to it? Can anyone explain what happened?
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Re: When "Gothic" means "Dark" Not even Etymologyman can sav

Postby Derek » Sun Jun 02, 2013 3:44 am UTC

Wikipedia says that "Emo" comes from a music genre, but that's not how I learned the word. I learned it as short for "over emotional". Here is an example that I remember my friends laughing at in high school (I'm pretty sure it's a parody).

TVTropes provides some more information, suggests a possible bridge between the musical genre and the definition that I had in high school, and discusses the further development of the word. (Seriously, sometimes TVTropes is a much better resource than Wikipedia)

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EchoRomulus
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Re: When "Gothic" means "Dark" Not even Etymologyman can sav

Postby EchoRomulus » Sun Jun 02, 2013 3:49 am UTC

That makes sence.

As usual, tvtropes has the answer.
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Re: When "Gothic" means "Dark" Not even Etymologyman can sav

Postby eSOANEM » Sun Jun 02, 2013 8:36 am UTC

Gothic is not called gothic because its architecture was lighter due to better tech. The term gothic was originally derogatory and was a reference to the deionised people, the goths. The idea was that the goths tore down the classical buildings (which by the time the term gothic architecture appeared had become romanticised enormously) and replaced them with these barbaric monstrosities.

Gothic has always had connotations of being uncivilised but the exact nature of that has varied. Whereas, when the term was first applied, it was being used to mean barbaric and germanic, it now has evolved to mean a much more specific aesthetic which mainly took the dark and scary elements of the original term and combined with victoriana (when, of course, there was a neo-gothic revival) to become the aesthetic we have today.

So that's how these terms appeared. It's important to note of course, that etymology does not tell us what a word should mean, only what it did mean when it first appeared.
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Re: When "Gothic" means "Dark" Not even Etymologyman can sav

Postby firechicago » Sun Jun 02, 2013 1:46 pm UTC

Gothic has followed a perfectly logical series of changes, even if the result is that the current meaning is far from the original. And the "misuse" that you seem so concerned about is actually centuries old. To recap and expand on what eSOANEM said:

A Goth was originally a member of a group of East Germanic tribes that crossed the Danube and Rhine frontiers and generally made a nuisance of themselves for the Romans all throughout the later Empire. In the 12th and 13th Century, starting in France, a new style of architecture developed which used pointed arches and buttressing to create much taller, larger and lighter spaces than had been heretofore possible. The defenders of the old style of architecture pointed to the elaborate decoration and the unfamiliar shape of these new buildings as barbarous "Gothic" features, as opposed to the classical "Roman" architecture. The new style of architecture mostly won out, but the derogatory term stuck.

Then, in the mid to late 18th century, Romantic writers (notably Walpole) sought to temper the realism of the new literary form of the novel with the supernatural elements and high adventure of medieval romances. They termed this work "Gothic" to link it to the style of architecture and more generally to the craze for all things medieval that was growing at the time. Many of these novels contained what we would consider horror elements, and "Gothic" quickly became associated with a specific type of morbid, baroque horror. From this, it is only natural that the term "Goth" should be applied to those who built a subculture around works of this type, and the various styles, works and fashions associated with that subculture.

Your objection to medieval seems to be that people have a false idea about specific aspects of medieval culture, rather than any actual misuse of the word.

Finally, Emo showed up in the late 90's and early 2000's in order to describe a specific style of pop/rock with lyrics that talked about dramatic and over-the-top emotions. Similar to the goths earlier, a subculture formed around this music, and kept its name. I would personally describe the Emo subculture as "morbid" and "depressed" rather than "apathetic" so I guess I'm not really seeing your objection.

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Re: When "Gothic" means "Dark" Not even Etymologyman can sav

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Jun 02, 2013 3:43 pm UTC

Yeah, I had always assumed the modern "goth" aesthetic was meant to refer to Poe more than to Notre Dame.
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Re: When "Gothic" means "Dark" Not even Etymologyman can sav

Postby dudiobugtron » Sun Jun 02, 2013 9:54 pm UTC

firechicago wrote:Your objection to medieval seems to be that people have a false idea about specific aspects of medieval culture, rather than any actual misuse of the word.

There are two possibilities:
1) People think that a lot of stuff that happened in the romantic era actually happened earlier, in the medieval era.
2) People think that 'medieval' applies to both the medieval era and the romantic era.

I can see how you might think that '2' is a misuse of the word.
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EchoRomulus
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Re: When "Gothic" means "Dark" Not even Etymologyman can sav

Postby EchoRomulus » Mon Jun 03, 2013 1:12 am UTC

The misuse I find most often is that people belive that the mideval period was exactly how the romantics said it was.
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Re: When "Gothic" means "Dark" Not even Etymologyman can sav

Postby Sir Novelty Fashion » Sun Jun 09, 2013 4:00 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Yeah, I had always assumed the modern "goth" aesthetic was meant to refer to Poe more than to Notre Dame.

You mean this isn't considered goth music? :oops:
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