Meanings: “Violence”

May 1, 2012

From Ta-Nehisi Coates, a moving essay on violence, and also on learning French.  You have to read it to understand the connection (don’t jump to conclusions).  Here’s a taste of what he says about “violence:”

I have never, in my life, been as scared as I was on the first day of middle school. What petrified me was that the boys–most of whom were older–spoke the language of violence. Violence shaped how they walked. Violence shaped who they walked with. Violence shaped when they laughed and what they laughed at. Violence shaped how they wore their Starter caps. Violence told them when to give dap and when to give the ice-grill. It was an entire range of cues, an intricate dance, all designed to either protect your person, or dramatize the effort.

Violence is not just in the moment of the physical blow, the blade or the bullet.  “Violence” is related, etymologically, to “violation.”

violence Look up violence at
late 13c., “physical force used to inflict injury or damage,” from Anglo-Fr. and O.Fr. violence, from L. violentia “vehemence, impetuosity,” from violentus “vehement, forcible,” probably related to violare (see violation). Weakened sense of “improper treatment” is attested from 1590s.

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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