My neologism

A ‘neologism’ (Greek: ‘neo’ = new; ‘logos’ = word) is a newly-minted word. I like words so much I invented a new one. My neologism is a Greek-Latin hybrid: eumentics. The prefix ‘eu’ is the Greek part and means ‘good’ or ‘well.’ We see this in ‘eulogy,’ for example. The ‘ment’ is the Latin part and means ‘mind.’ Think of our English word ‘mental.’ So eumentics is ‘well-mind.’

In case any lexicographers are reading I’ve prepared a dictionary entry:

eu·ment·ics  (yoo·ment′ iks) n.   1. The art and practice of developing and maintaining a healthy mind.     2. A body of writing associated with and in support of behaviors that improve mental well-being.     [<Gk eu– well  <L mens, mentis– mind]     —eu·ment′ical  adj.  —eu·ment′ical·ly  adv.

Note that ‘television’ is a Greek-Latin hybrid as are ‘automobile’ and ‘biodiversity’ so I’ve some good precedents. There was a time that scholars and other pedants squawked like hell over such perceived violations of good order and sense in the language; if they had prevailed we’d be watching ‘telerama’ and driving ‘autokinetas’ or some such. English is a wonderfully forgiving language and an astonishingly acquisitive one as well. We make up new words all the time and steal them from other languages with impunity. We mash words together, shorten them, turn nouns into verbs, and all sort of other things to enrich our ability to communicate.

What I’m interested in is the modern world. Things are changing rapidly. In fact the pace of change itself is increasing. In physics that’s called ‘acceleration.’ If I’m going 55 mph and add 1 mph each minute I’ll be going 65 mph in ten minutes. I’m accelerating, but the pace is constant: 1 mph per minute. But our world is not changing at a constant rate. In my analogy it would be like adding an additional 1 mph for each minute elapsed. So we start at 55 mph, we’ll be at 56 mph (55+1) after one minute, 56+2 or 58 mph after two minutes, 58+3 or 61 mph after three minutes, 61+4 or 65 mph after four minutes, and so on. After ten minutes we’ll be racing along at 110 mph!

That’s the world we find ourselves in today. Human physiology hasn’t changed much in ten thousand years but our societies have undergone dramatic upheavals and our technology is racing ahead of our ability to understand it. I’m reminded of Arthur C. Clarke’s famous dictum that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Our science generates new knowledge on the order of 2.5 million published articles annually and that is growing at 4-5% per year. This is a staggering amount of information! If we do indeed see a 4% increase every year that would mean we should expect to double the 2.5 million papers to 5 million per annum by 2035.

It’s overload, man. We are in a state of constant sensory bombardment from our media and our devices. Like I said, we aren’t much different from our ancestors. Same brains, same wiring, same plumbing. We have upgraded the software but not the hardware. I think perhaps we ought to work on those hardware upgrades, and by our hardware I mean the tissues and other structures that make up the brain. That organ is the seat of our mind and clearly our mind has new and rapidly changing demands being put on it by the modern world.

Thus, eumentics. There are things we can do to keep our minds strong and healthy. Go into any bookstore and you will find dozens of tomes on how to eat, work out, and stay fit. These are of course focused on things like our heart, our liver, our lungs, and our muscles. But what about the brain? It’s an organ, like I said, and ought to respond to similar approaches. There are, indeed, shelves upon shelves of self-help books designed to make us smarter or tougher or otherwise improve our personality. They are mostly psychology-based and have all sorts of schemes for unlocking our latent talents or breaking our bad habits or firming up our characters.

I’m not going there with eumentics. I like to think my approach is entirely empirical and does not rely on the assumptions of any discipline. I walk everyday and that is very healthy for me. It’s a big part of my physical fitness. What’s the mental equivalent? How about reading? I read everyday and I think that is an ideal eumentical starting point. What else can I do to keep my brain healthy? How about writing? Or another form of creative expression? That’s eumentically solid as well. So my goal is to talk about all the things we can do to improve our mental fitness. You have some idea already if you have been reading this blog. You know I like to emphasize looking for solutions instead of focusing on problems, for example. That I think we ought to embrace uncertainty and be suspicious of certainty. That humility is necessary for an open mind. That being wrong is a good thing. That opinions matter little; that perhaps listening to contrary ones rather than spouting our own would be of help. That sort of stuff.

I originally wanted to register a trademark for my neologism (you can’t copyright a word) and I had planned to call this post Eumentics™ (it becomes Eumentics® when the trademark is approved by the Patent Office) but decided that was bullshit. I invented a new word and you can (and should) use it as often as possible! Let’s get it in the OED before I die! Maybe someday some bored and lonely etymologist will stumble upon my website and credit me with this neologism and my name will be praised far and wide.

What do you think?

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