Thursday, September 25, 2008

Emperor gets new clothes for the Carnival

I had been curious when I saw two days blocked off on my older ones’ time-table for ‘Children’s Carnival’. A normal person would have just waited for a few days to find out what it was, but when did anyone ever accuse me of being even close to normal?

So one day, the inquisition started –

“Does your teacher talk about the Cranival in class?”


“Are you sure she has never mentioned it?”

“Yes (and will you quit asking me questions and get on with watching TV?)”

I should have stopped at that, but I made one last attempt at milking him for information –

“What do you think this Carnival thing is?”

“Dunno. Maybe it has something to do with carnivorous animals.” With that dismissal, he turned his back towards me, so I would not ask him any more silly questions.

To say I was amused would be slight understatement.

And I was also astounded by the kind of mental leaps the untrained mind was capable of. Sure there was nothing in common between a celebration and meat eating mammals, but to even make that connection was joining dots at its more elemental form. We train ourselves to do that when we are much older and wiser – how much better it would be if we never forgot the skill.

I told the story about carnivals having something to do with carnivorous animals to practically everyone I met (in real life, or online). Most were, like me, were a mixture of amazed and amused.

Then, someone told me that my son had actually nailed it on the head. ‘Carnival’ and ‘carnivorous’ both had as their root, the Italian word ‘carne’ (or the Greek word ‘carn’ – depending on which account you believe) which means ‘meat’. ‘Carne vale’, or ‘farewell to meat’ refers to the fact that those were the last days when one could gorge on meat before giving it up for Lent. In hindsight it was perfectly obvious – the connection between the two words had been starting at me all this while and I had failed to see it.

I never knew that, but then nobody is expected to know everything. What irked me slightly was the fact that with all my superior education and knowledge, I had not been able to correlate the two words.

But was my failure all that surprising? Not at all – the educated brain has been trained not to be fooled by superficial similarity, and I fell prey to that conditioning.

Why is the Emperor not wearing clothes?

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