22.1.19

Relax!

The word relax has interesting traits, and more varied meanings than one might imagine. It can be argued that its Latin origin (re + laxus) has been overrun by our modern ‘relax’ -- which does not make sense as a coupling of re + lax (since loosen again is not what we mean in any immediate scenario using the word relax, only the imperative to loosen (now); otherwise, it makes sense to say, ‘relax it again’, or just ‘relax again’).

The meanings of ‘re’ from Latin re (an emphasis phoneme), and ‘lax’ from laxus (loose) have both shifted, becoming our English ‘re-’ (an affix meaning repeat) and pejoritized as ‘lax’ (now it can mean careless). It would be very interesting, philosophically interesting, to map this etymology to the socio-cultural or lived aspect of the word relax.

I cannot think of another word that is this kind of fossilized compound term, since our word relax functions for us without the meaning of the usual ‘re-’ affix (to do something again), which covers up its conjunctive Latinate origin and fuses the two pieces into a single relax. (You can reprocess its phonemes as ‘rel’ + ‘ax’ if it helps see the point.) I like to think of relax being in the company of the words paradox and enigma.

Since the word relax already has mutated from the Latin, why not use it liberally now? For instance, we could propose to use it as a noun, as in The Relax, or, a relax, adding these to its uses as the verb, to relax, and, the imperative of commanding another to relax. If we refer to or explain ‘the relax’, a noun, then how would we mean it? And, incidentally, has it been used like that already?

The Relax


I found no online example using ‘relax’ as a noun, preceded by ‘the’ or ‘a’ -- other than a deep forest house track (electronica music), and various spa products. Now then, what could the relax mean?

Sociology and Ontology of (the) Relax


There are at least the socio-cultural and ontological considerations of the word relax, which it could be allowed to express as a noun:

Sociologically, at present, there is a remarkable scarcity of the experience of relaxing, in the sense of feeling and thinking that ‘the world can wait’, since the world (of socio-cultural-political spectacle in particular) is quite threatening and often itself seems precarious.

What could the relax mean ontologically (which arguably is the most interesting) -- that is to say, what is relaxing in an absolute and essential sense?



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