Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Language Watch: Sourced, Rentier

It's surely* a truism that you can gauge social changes by changes in language usage.  Here are a couple of instances that caught my eye this morning.

One, sourced as in "few of the reporters ... were sourced in the Federal Reserve."  That's Ezra Klein in an encomium to his companion-wonk Neil Irwin.  Translated: Neil has good cooperative sources who feed him stuff.  That is the whole story of new-age journalism,  not so?  Your sources are your inventory, just like the lawyer who wants to make a lateral move must bring a book of business (BTW I am reading the Irwin book right now, and it is indeed pretty good).

And two, rentier, as in "he who eats but does not work."  Hardly a neologism--an online etymology dates it to 1881 but surely* it is older.   Still, the first time I remember hearing it in contemporary dialogue would have been about 15 years ago when I read the remarkable Wall Street, by Doug Henwood, the Bruce Bartlett of the left.  Henwood is proudly non-mainstream, but here's Michael Konczal now channeling and force-magnifying** Michael Lind, with an essay "towards an anti-rentier politics."    Apparently we need it again. 

[BTW, do we put rentier in italics, as a French word transmogrified into English?  Or has it been so thoroughly Anglicized that it can pass into Roman, that is, English?]

*And while I am at it: I've been lurking at another list where they have been discussing "surely," as in "Surely he hath borne our griefs."  Surely (heh) they say, we only say "surely" when we are not sure, or at least by way of admitting that we don't have a good source (heh).  The conversation quickly descended (or ascended) into the discussion of the original source (Isaiah 53:4) as rendered in Hebrew, Latin, Greek.   But surely (heh) for most people the principal source would be something like this:

**Update: a well-wisher says I could also have noted force magnifier.  Surely.

Update II:  Another faithful reader points out that I veered close to this topic before.   Sho, and at least I did not say this.


Larry, The Barefoot Bum said...

You never cease to amaze me, Buce.

Ebenezer Scrooge said...

"Rentier" should stay in italics if pronounced something like rahn-ti-ay. No itals if ren-teer.