IATE Term of the Week: Isolation

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IATE isolation feature

Hafez1, the Persian poet, has said that “The words you speak become the house you live in”. This week’s IATE term of the week is a proof of the truth lying in Hafez’s quote. Isolation, a word of Latin origin, has come to be the main material of the newly constructed house in which our planet and each one of us have been asked to move and inhabit.

How did it all begin though?

Initially, isolation is a word used to represent the notion of ‘being separate, not connected to other things/existence”. Etymologically, the word comes from the Latin past participle “insulatus”, literally meaning “made into an island”. However, this main conceptual meaning leads to adjustments of minor differentiations depending on the ‘lexical environment’ within which the word is used.

Therefore, we see that isolation can be used in different fields of our life.

  • In construction, isolation depicts the thermal, sound and water insulation.
  • In electricity, isolation is either galvanic or electrical, depicting the different methods of keeping electrical circuits separate while allowing electrical power to be transferred.
  • In IT, Isolation is the procedure allowing to separate applications from their contexts and one of the four ACID properties in the domain of databases.
  • In topography, isolation is used as a scientific code to indicate the distance between a summit and the ultimate altitude or the distance between two summits of the same altitude.
  • Isolation has also entered popular culture with three movies released until nowadays 2, a science fiction novel3, three music albums4, five songs5 and a musical group6.
  • Last but not least, Sigmund Freud introduced to the field of psychoanalysis the definition ‘Isolation’ describing the defense mechanism which blocks the associative contact between negative feelings and other thoughts. 

Nowadays, isolation is one of the measures to be followed in the name of staying indoors and away from others as part of the protection measures applied against the virus COVID-19. The temporary fearful environment provoked by the spread of the dangerous virus has brought isolation nearer to its etymological root. Just like islands are identified in the human conscience as mostly inaccessible places, surrounded by the vast sea keeping the island (“insula” in Latin and “isle” in English) hermetic towards outside influence, so are people nowadays identified in the global conscience as the unique identity islands which ought to be kept hermetic, reclusive and insular within their homes.

It is this original meaning of ‘blocking’ which has currently been attributed in a wider meaning to isolation, in the context of the new commonly experienced environment – a global quarantine period. 

Each home is turned into an island although the outside mental and communicative influences flow unhindered through technology. But the ‘humanoid island-like’ homes and mentality has permanently entered our lives and our linguistic legacy. The new meaning of isolation which focuses on the physical distance between the contemporary ‘island’ of our home and all other ‘islands’ floating in the global ocean of our planet is an integral part of our reality.

Isolation is the material of our newly constructed houses. The point is to be able to experience this word’s newly added conceptual value without forgetting that each new conceptual value attributed to a word – either negative or positive – is foremost an enrichment of our living languages.

 

Notes

  1. Hafez , the literary name of  Chams ad-Din Mohammad Hafez-e Chirazi (in Persian  : خواجه شمس‌الدین محمد حافظ شیرازی ).  Persian poet , philosopher and mystic (1325, Chiraz (Iran) – 1389/1390 Chiraz). Hafez is an Arabic word , literally meaning “guardian”, which is used to designate people who have “guarded”, that is “learned by heart” the entire Quran .
  2. Isolation” Irish horror film – Billy O’Brien (2005), “Isolation” British Documentary -Luke Seomore and Joseph Bull (2009), “Isolation” American film-Stephen Kay (2011)
  3. Isolation” ,science fiction novel by Australian author Greg Egan (1992)
  4. Isolation” , Carpathian(2008); “Isolation” ,Fear My Thoughts (2008);  Isolation ,Toto(1984)
  5. Isolation” , Alter Bridge (2010);  Isolation”  ,Die Krupps(1995);  Isolation” Joy Division(1980);  Isolation” , Kreator (1995);  Isolation” John Lennon(1970).
  6. “Isolation Years”, Swedish Music group

 

Sources

Online Cambridge Dictionary. 2020. Meaning of Isolation in English by Online Cambridge Dictionary [ONLINE] Available at: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/ english/isolation  [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Online Etymology Dictionary. 2020. Isolation, Origin and meaning of the word Isolation by Online Etymology Dictionary. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.etymonline.com/word/isolation     [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Wikipedia 2020 Hafez, Biography of Hafez [ONLINE] Available at: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hafez [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Wikipedia 2020 Isolation in Psychoanalysis.  [ONLINE] Available at: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isolation_(psychanalyse) [Accessed 10 April 2020].


Written by Maria Papamargariti, Greek and English Philologist, writer in the field of children’s literature.