Moving to Freedom, .Org(on)

That’s Bulshytt

'Anathem', by Neal Stephenson

This may be hard to parse for you layman extramuros types out there, with all of the made up language and history, but I encourage you to peruse the short definition and the second half of the usage note in order to learn about bulshytt and its “uncanny stability and resiliency.”

From Neal Stephenson’s Anathem (p134):

Bulshytt

Short Definition

Bulshytt: Speech (typically but not necessarily commercial or political) that employs euphemism, convenient vagueness, numbing repetition, and other such rhetorical subterfuges to create the impression that something has been said.

Long Entry

Bulshytt: (1) In Fluccish of the late Praxic Age and early Reconstitution, a derogatory term for false speech in general, esp. knowing and deliberate falsehood or obfuscation. (2) In Orth, a more technical and clinical term denoting speech (typically but not necessarily commercial or political) that employs euphemism, convenient vagueness, numbing repetition, and other such rhetorical subterfuges to create the impression that something has been said. (3) According to the Knights of Saunt Halikaarn, a radical order of the 2nd Millennium A.R., all speech and writings of the ancient Sphenics; the Mystagogues of the Old Mathic Age; Praxic Age commercial and political institutions; and, since the Reconstitution, anyone they deemed to have been infected by Procian thinking. Their frequent and loud use of this word to interrupt lectures, dialogs, private conversations, etc., exacerbated the divide between Procian and Halikaarnian orders that characterized the mathic world in the years leading up to the Third Sack. Shortly before the Third Sack, all of the Knights of Saunt Halikaarn were Thrown Back, so little more is known about them (their frequent appearance in Sæcular entertainments results from confusion between them and the Incanters).

Usage note: In the mathic world, if the word is suddenly shouted out in a chalk hall or refectory it brings to mind the events associated with sense (3) and is therefore to be avoided. Spoken in a moderate tone of voice, it takes on sense (2), which long ago lost any vulgar connotations it may once have had. In the Sæculum it is easily confused with sense (1) and deemed a vulgarity or even an obscenity. It is inherent in the mentality of extramuros bulshytt-talkers that they are more prone than anyone else to taking offense (or pretending to) when their bulshytt is pointed out to them. This places the mathic observer in a nearly impossible position. One is forced either to use this “offensive”? word and be deemed a disagreeable person and as such excluded from polite discourse, or to say the same thing in a different way, which means becoming a purveyor of bulshytt oneself and thereby lending strength to what one is trying to attack. The latter quality probably explains the uncanny stability and resiliency of bulshytt. Resolving this dilemma is beyond the scope of this Dictionary and is probably best left to hierarchs who make it their business to interact with the Sæculum.

THE DICTIONARY, 4th edition, A.R. 3000

This is such a useful word and concept. For example, I’m mostly grateful for my steady employment by the corporate beast — or at least I try to be — but the steady stream of bulshytt is a challenge to consume, and it’s almost impossible to avoid becoming a bulshytt “purveyor” in turn. It somehow helps me to have the proper label with which I can classify what goes on day-to-day in the cubicles and meeting rooms.

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