» N.S. Books
November 22nd, 2001.
Zeitgeist is a word I recently had occasion to look up. Its a German word which has come into the English language. Zeit is for time; and geist is for spirit. Zeitgeist literally means "time-spirit." More properly the word zeitgeist, like no single English word -- and thus the reason we have borrowed it -- expresses the spirit of the times. It's the feeling that generally pervades in a particular society at a particular time. It is influenced, if not determined, by the events of the time; and, both the events and the people of the time influence it. Shakespeare, it is said, expresses the zeitgeist of the Elizabethan times. There is the zeitgeist of those times of English Romanticism (Wordsworth, et al.). More recently there is, for a further example, the zeitgeist of the London blitz.
Most all of us, unconsciously, yield to the powerful pervasion of the zeitgeist. At any given moment, in the particular society in which we exist -- there is the zeitgeist; it changes, usually slowly, as we feed upon it, as we react to it; we follow it, it calls like the ancient Sirens that inhabited the coast of Sicily. We follow it, no matter what cautions may be given, for good or bad. "May we worship neither the flux of chance, nor the wheel of fortune, nor the spiral of the zeit-geist." (W. H. Auden, 1907-73.)
I think it might be very difficult to analyse the zeitgeist of the moment; its like a sub-atomic particle, we know of its existence after it has passed because of the smoke trail it left behind. Up to very recent times, many years might pass before the writer/historian could outline the breath and the depth of a particular zeitgeist. The 'net, or rather an analysis of the "hits" of the sites of the 'net, can now, relatively quickly and easily, give a reflection of the zeitgeist just passed.
Check out the top 10 gaining queries for the week ending Nov. 19, 2001: 1. meteor shower (the Leonids); 2. ramadan; 3. xbox; 4. gamecube (not to be out done -- Nintendo); 5. ricin (ricin is one of the most poisonous naturally occuring substances known); 6. thanksgiving; 7. charlotte coleman (the Four Weddings and a Funeral star who died at the age of 33); 8. nokia 7650 (this is not only a phone - it is also an integrated digital imaging device, a digital camera which can take a picture and immediately send it on its way; it is a Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), it performs a "General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) that allows information to be sent and received across a mobile telephone network. It supplements today's Circuit Switched Data and Short Message Service." OK! Now I hope you got all of that, because it's happening; and it's BIG!); 9. boxing (Hasim Rahman & Lennox Lewis); and, of course, 10. victoria's secret.
"For both breaking news and obscure information alike, people around the world search on Google at www.google.com. With a bit of analysis, this flurry of searches often exposes interesting trends, patterns, and surprises. On a monthly, weekly, and sometimes daily basis, this Google Zeitgeist page will be updated to reflect lists, graphs, and other tidbits of information related to Google user search behavior."
The top 10 declining queries for the same week: 1. daisy cutter; 2. anthrax; 3. airbus; 4. nimda ("W32.Nimda.A@mm is a mass-mailing worm that utilizes multiple methods to spread itself. The name of the virus came from the reversed spelling of "admin". The worm sends itself out by email, searches for open network shares, attempts to copy itself to unpatched or already vulnerable Microsoft IIS web servers, and is a virus infecting both local files and files on remote network shares." What an ugly thing!); 5. american airlines; 6. star wars trailer; 7. hurricane michelle; 8. aurora borealis; 9. survivor; 10. concorde.
Plainly one will have to bookmark: http://www.google.com/press/zeitgeist.html
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November, 2001 (2012)