"Archimedes had rightly observed; "Give me a place to stand and I will move the WORD."

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Fabio Flavio, Aug 1, 2011.

  1. Fabio Flavio Senior Member

    Brazilian Portuguese
    Hello friends!

    Marshal Mcluhan is still on my daily diet.
    I have come to a point in page 14 of his booklet number 7 titled "The Humanities in The Electronic Age", in which it is written this phrase:

    "Archimedes had rightly observed; "Give me a place to stand and I will move the WORD."

    Please note that the word "WORD" is in capital letters because I put it. In the original text the word "WORD" IS NOT in capital letters.

    My question is this: I know this famous Archimedes quotation for ages and I always heard it to be "give me a lever and I will move the WORLD" (not the WORD but the WORLD). However since I always heard this phrase in my native tongue (Portuguese) maybe this accounts for the fact that in here the phrase is saying "give me a place to stand..." rather than "give me a lever ...".

    But the whole point is to ascertain whether McLuhan actually wanted to use the word "WORD" in here or if this is a classical case of misspelling. He wanted to write World but in the end, by mistake, wrote "word".

    What do you good guys think about this?

    Thank you in advance for your contributions.

    Kind regards,

  2. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    I guess that this is a misspelling of "world" unless McLuhan was deliberately misquoting Archimedes for some reason.
  3. Egmont Senior Member

    Massachusetts, U.S.
    English - U.S.
    If he is quoting Archimedes, he ought to quote Archimedes correctly. That would be "world." (My version of the old saying says that Archimedes asked for both a lever and a place to stand, since neither would be of much use for this purpose without the other.)

    If McLuhan or anyone else wants to say something about "moving the word," he's at liberty to say it, but he shouldn't attribute it to Archimedes. At most, he can say "(with apologies to Archimedes)" to show that the similarity is intentional.
  4. Glenfarclas Senior Member

    English (American)
    The Archimedes quotation is usually given along the lines of "Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world," although there are any number of variants. It is definitely "move the world." If McLuhan has "word" then either he misspelled it, or else he is making a play on words.
  5. Fabio Flavio Senior Member

    Brazilian Portuguese

    You don´t imagine how happy I am reading your words. I felt precisely the same way. I believe that McLuhan here acted somehow like a classical prima-dona, careless about the consequences of his caprice...
    Anyhow, thank you very much for your ready reply!
    Kindest regards

  6. Fabio Flavio Senior Member

    Brazilian Portuguese

    I agree with your timely remarks. Either McLuhan here or the revisor of the original text made a mistake here.
    Thank you for your contribution!
    Kindest regards
  7. exgerman Senior Member

    English but my first language was German
    I'm sure McLuhan wasn't careless. You have to assume he knew the famous quote, especially since he got the first part right. (There's no lever in the Greek; it translates literally as give me a place to stand and I will move the earth).

    I think that he is saying, that just as Archimedes can move the earth, given a starting point, McLuhan can manipulate the word, the media, the message, if he has the right starting point. It's a pun.
  8. Fabio Flavio Senior Member

    Brazilian Portuguese
    Hello Owlman5!
    Just saw your contribution.
    Thank you for taking the trouble to reply to this Neanderthal here. Difficult to ascertain whether he or the reviser made a mistake or if he was deliberately playing with the words. But I will consider that he meant "world"...
    Thanks again for your assistance!
    Kindest regards
  9. Glenfarclas Senior Member

    English (American)
    Question: in the original post, the quotation is given,
    "Archimedes had rightly observed; "Give me a place to stand and I will move the WORD."
    Is that semicolon right? Are we missing some first half of the sentence before "Archimedes"? I would agree with exgerman that McLuhan was making a play on words, except that he would not likely attribute the pun to Archimedes himself.
  10. Fabio Flavio Senior Member

    Brazilian Portuguese
    exgerman, hi!
    I agree with you, McLuhan was certainly no novice in this game of playing with words. But at least he should have had the care of somehow letting the readers know that he was deliberately changing the original meaning of Archimedes´ words. At least this is what I would do if I were on his shoes.
    The fact is that I almost missed completely the pun. It was there written "word" and I read it "world" and then, by chance, I noticed that the letter " l " was missing.

    Dammit it! Why didn´t I listen to my mother and became an engineer rather than a translator?

    Kindest regards and thank you very much for your collaboration!


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