Thursday, 2 April 2015

Disaster - Blaming the Stars

Proxima Centauri made me sneeze with a mouthful of muesli this morning
(image from Wikimedia Commons)

DISASTER

Noun & verb. Late 16th century.
[French d├ęsastre or its source Italian disastro, from dis- + astro star (from Latin astrum). Compare with ill-starred.]

A1 noun. (A) sudden or great misfortune;
an event of ruinous or distressing nature, a calamity;
complete failure. L16

A2 noun. obsolete. An unfavourable aspect of a star or planet. E-M17

B verb trans. Bring disaster on; ruin; cause serious injury to. Usually in passive. Now rare. L16

The astrological etymology of disaster is curious. The original sense is, as Chambers puts it, a 'bad influence of the stars,' which infers two things:

1) When things go wrong, it's not our fault

2) When things go wrong, something somewhere is at fault

This is a typically human cop out. Very often, when disaster strikes, it is completely and utterly our own fault. And secondly, things occasionally go wrong and it's no one's fault. Blaming the heavens, therefore, is something we Oort not to do ...

(for example, I would really like to blame something, anything, for what's quite possibly the worst pun I've ever written, but I won't)

Do please leave your most astral comments in the box below.

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