Bridgetymology: radical

NOWADAYS, WHEN THE YOUNGER GENERATION SAYS RAD OR RADICAL, IT MEANS COOL OR EXCELLENT. BUT LOOKING AT THE ETYMOLOGY AND DEFINITION OF IT SHOWS DIFFERENT MEANINGS WITH DIFFERENT DEFINITIONS. THAT’S WHY TODAY, LET’S LOOK DEEPER INTO THE WORD RADICAL.

HERE AT BRIDGET, WE’RE HUGE FANS OF EXPANDING OUR VOCABULARY AND BECOMING BETTER COMMUNICATORS. THAT IS WHY TODAY, ASHA BREAKS DOWN THE WORD ‘RADICAL’.

 

Define radical

RADICAL HAS A FEW DEFINITIONS, SO I’LL START WITH THE WELL-REGARDED MIRIAM WEBSTER VERSION TO GIVE US A BASE UNDERSTANDING OF MODERN USE; 

 ONE:

1: OF, RELATING TO, OR PROCEEDING FROM A ROOT:

THIS CAN APPLY TO PLANTS:

A(1): OF OR GROWING FROM THE ROOT OF A PLANT:RADICAL TUBERS

OR (2): GROWING FROM THE BASE OF A STEM, FROM A ROOTLIKE STEM, OR FROM A STEM THAT DOES NOT RISE ABOVE THE GROUND SUCH AS: RADICAL LEAVES

OR WORDS:

B: OF, RELATING TO, OR CONSTITUTING A LINGUISTIC ROOT

OR MATH:

C: OF OR RELATING TO A MATHEMATICAL ROOT

OR EVEN DISEASE:

D: DESIGNED TO REMOVE THE ROOT OF A DISEASE OR ALL DISEASED AND POTENTIALLY DISEASED TISSUE

RADICAL SURGERY

RADICAL MASTECTOMY

THE SECOND DEFINITION OF RADICAL MEANS:

2: OF OR RELATING TO THE ORIGIN : FUNDAMENTAL

RADICAL CAN ALSO MEAN:

3A: VERY DIFFERENT FROM THE USUAL OR TRADITIONAL : EXTREME

B: FAVORING EXTREME CHANGES IN EXISTING VIEWS, HABITS, CONDITIONS, OR INSTITUTIONS

C: ASSOCIATED WITH POLITICAL VIEWS, PRACTICES, AND POLICIES OF EXTREME CHANGE

D: ADVOCATING EXTREME MEASURES TO RETAIN OR RESTORE A POLITICAL STATE OF AFFAIRS

THE RADICAL RIGHT

AND OF COURSE, RADICAL CAN ALSO MEAN : EXCELLENT, COOL

 

Radical broken down

RADICAL (ADJ.) IS AN ADJECTIVE THAT CAME INTO EXISTENCE IN THE LATE 14C.,

IT  CAME FROM THE LATIN ROOT RADIC- OR RADIX0 MEANING: “ORIGINATING IN THE ROOT OR GROUND;”.  THIS ALSO COULD BE INTERPRETED TO MEAN (IN RELATION TO BODY PARTS OR FLUIDS) AS  “VITAL TO LIFE,”…  SIMILAR TO A TREE’S NEED FOR A SOLID ROOT SYSTEM… WHICH MAKES SENSE AS THE BASIC SENSE OF THE WORD IN ALL MEANINGS IS “PERTAINING OR RELATING TO A ROOT OR ROOTS,”. RADICAL DEVELOPED SOON AFTER, MEANING “TO FORM THE ROOT”.

FOR A BOTANIST, THIS IS UNSURPRISING… THOSE WELL VERSED IN THE SECRET LIFE OF PLANTS KNOW THAT RADICAL LEAVES ARE THOSE THAT GROW FROM THE BASE OF A STEM OR FROM A ROOTLIKE STEM, AND RADICAL TUBERS ARE PROJECTIONS THAT GROW FROM A PLANT’S ROOT.

MATHEMATICIANS AND STUDENTS OF MATHEMATICS KNOW THAT THE RADICAL SIGN—A MODIFICATION OF A LOWER CASE R —IS USED WHEN SEARCHING FOR THE SQUARE ROOT OF AN INTEGER. RADICAL SURGERY IS ANY SURGERY THAT’S PERFORMED  TO REMOVE THE ROOT OF A DISEASE. IN ALL OF ITS EARLY ITERATIONS, RADICAL WAS INTERCHANGEABLE WITH FUNDAMENTAL, FOUNDATIONAL, AND OF THE ROOT.

NOWADAYS, JUST HEARING THE WORD RADICAL HEARKENS TO EXTREME CHANGE OR DEVIATION FROM THE NORM, ESPECIALLY WHEN CORRELATED WITH PUBLIC POLICY OR POLITICS.

OFTEN, RADICAL IS A WORD OFTEN USED TO EVOKE FEELINGS OF EXTREMISM, INSTABILITY AND AN ABSOLUTIST APPROACH. BUT THE POPULAR USE UNDERCUTS THE IMPORTANT ROLE MANY RADICALS HAVE PLAYED IN PROMOTING CHANGE, DEMOCRACY AND JUSTICE THROUGHOUT HISTORY, NOT TO MENTION THE CONTINUED ROLE RADICAL IDEAS AND ACTIVISM HAVE TO PLAY IN UNFINISHED PROJECTS.  WHILE THE PRESUMPTION EXISTS THAT RADICALS ARE INHERENTLY A LIABILITY TO SOCIAL MOVEMENTS, THERE IS A POSITIVE HISTORY OF RADICALISM IN AMERICA.

ON BOTH SIDES OF THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM, “RADICALS” HAVE HISTORICALLY BEEN THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR SOWING THE SEEDS OF  AMERICA’S MOST IMPORTANT SOCIAL MOVEMENTS LIKE SUFFRAGE,  WORKER RIGHTS AND RACIAL JUSTICE. EVEN THE LABOUR MOVEMENT, IN ITS EARLY DAYS, WAS CONSIDERED A RADICAL MOVEMENT: A CONFRONTATIONAL APPROACH TO MANAGEMENT WAS NECESSARY TO WIN MANY OF THE CONCESSIONS NOW SORELY TAKEN FOR GRANTED INCLUDING  MINIMUM WAGE, 8 HOUR WORK DAYS OR THE EVEN THE POSSIBILITY OF FORMING A UNION.

 

Perspective

AND SO IT’S A PRETTY RADICAL IDEA THAT TO DO ANYTHING GREAT, WHETHER IT’S GROWTH AND CHANGE OR STANDING YOUR GROUND, WE MUST BE BOLD AND DARING.

EITHER RECOURSE REQUIRES SOWING ROOTS AND GROWING OUTWARDS IN A FASHION THAT MAY NOT ALWAYS BE EXPECTED OR EVEN WANTED.  CHANGE IS UNCOMFORTABLE, GROWTH IS UNCOMFORTABLE, (THAT’S WHY WE CALL THEM GROWING PAINS!” BUT IT’S ALSO FOUNDATIONAL AND CREATES THE ROOTS FROM WHICH WE GROW.  IT’S ALSO RADICAL TO HAVE BELIEFS SO DEEPLY FOUNDED THAT ONE CANNOT BE UPROOTED… REMEMBER THIS DOES NOT NEGATE OR EVEN CONTRADICT GROWTH, AS ROOTS, LIKE ANYTHING ELSE GROW DEEPER AND OUTWARD INTO A NETWORK THAT HOLDS THE ENTIRE TREE UP… AND THAT IS PRETTY FREAKING RADICAL.

Resources

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