Thursday, April 28, 2016

Please quaff "qua".

It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that people see the world intensely in terms of a set of metaphors, image schemas, and analogies.

One of these distinctions that are useful are ANIMATE vs INANIMATE.  Fundamentally, this is probably based on movement and likelihood of movement.  We have an easier time seeing an squirrel as ANIMATE as opposed to a tree.  After all, the tree just sits there, and a rock just sits there. Both generally only move if the wind blows hard enough,  with little indication that there is volition involved at all. In fact, two separate meanings of the word "move" are actually conflated specifically
to describe the ways trees move versus animals moving. We use the first type of "move" when describing the relative movement of PARTS of a WHOLE to describe animals too, but it is a great
effort to "move" a plant (especially a tree) from one location to the other, leaving no

This then, brings up a different distinction. WILL vs REACTION vs PASSIVE.  There is a reason that rocks are used in so many Physics examples.  They are not known to act in their own self interest. In fact, the only times anything happens to a rock is when an external force acts upon it, and it passively is a participant.   There are many papers and thoughts from those who follow Skinner where a Behaviorist interpretation is used to describe a huge number of behaviors as really being reactions to stimuli. While I may feel they have gone past a reasonable limit, and some of their
cases are actually examples of actual choices being made, (i.e. volition or will) they have spent
a lot of time and effort trying to actively make a distinction.

These are all good, and useful distinctions, but why am I asking you to quaff "qua" ?
And what does quaffing have to do with "qua" ? For that matter, what is "qua" anyway?

Meriam Webster claims qua is in the character or role of (someone or something).
According to M-W, an anonymous 20th century stated "Qua is sometimes thought affected or pretentious, but it does convey meaning economically."

Google (which apparently uses the Oxford dictionary) defines "qua" as "in the capacity of; as being." from Latin, ablative feminine singular of qui 'who'. defines qua as "in the function, character, or capacity of"
So "qua" is a preposition (word positioned before a phrase) that links its subject to its object.
So just like "the Man of La Mancha" links the subject "the Man" to the object "La Mancha"
with the relationship "of", then "Nature qua Disease Queen" or "temp worker qua Bank Teller", the relation "qua" takes a noun (phrase) and a role and ties them together.
Usually after you use a "qua" prepositional phrase, you talk about some activity or behavior that the role or the character or the being  or the capacity provides.   like:
Nature qua Disease Queen has infested us all with the flu.
Sally qua Manager of the Quik Trip has lowered the price of Freezies.
So quaff "qua". Use it liberally. It has been in English since the 1600s and provides an efficient effective way to talk about offices, obligations, roles, and other "hats" that people wear.