There is a start to everything,
An early shoot that pushes through the soil
And flowers ephemerally,
In the hope that it will bloom
Into something worthy of its time.
I just watched the College Scandal documentary on Netflix and if you are looking for an hour or two to lose yourself in something, this comes highly rated. In case you don’t know what it’s about, it cover the case of Rick Singer who got the kids of wealthy clients into the best colleges by making them out to be talented athletes.
Now, I found the whole thing fascinating, but there was one thing that really popped out for me and that was when they started to talk about the reasons why they wanted to get into these schools.
I guess, over here in the UK we have Oxford and Cambridge, but I get the impression that over in the US it is the prestige of these top schools that pulls people in rather than the results. And one of the people being interviewed touched on this subject, and also where the word prestige actually comes from.
I find etymology really interesting and I just thought that a word like prestige must come from a really positive source. I assumed that it must be Latin for ‘the poshest place in town’, but that’s not it at all.
It turns out that prestige comes from a Latin word, praestigium, which means illusion or delusion and was literally used to describe magicians or jugglers, back in the day. So effectively, we are all looking for prestige and really that means we are all looking to create an illusion and to trick people.
I don’t know what that says about humans but next time somebody tells me that what they are selling is prestigious, I might think twice about actually wanting it.
14 thoughts on “a bit of etymology”
That etymology is so interesting! It’s probably also at the root of the word prestidigitation – magic. And it is interesting to think of prestige as something that’s illusory. If you really consider it, that’s absolutely true. So all of that cheating and scandal was for nothing but an illusion…. fascinating and sad.
It’s like having a flashy car. It still only gets you from A to B like a normal car. It looks good but there isn’t a great deal of benefit other than that…
There is a movie called ‘The Prestige’ about magicians – that’s pretty good too!
Good movie… I think it’s based on a book, I haven’t read the book though
Ooh I’m not sure – could well be! It has David Bowie in too!
And now we know how it got it’s name!
So we’re chasing an illusion? I appreciate your sharing an etymology that underscores the vain pursuit of certain ambitions. As for schools, going after the program you want more than merely the name (and prestige!) is thankfully becoming more the trend. A ways to go, however.
The amount of people that arrive in these places thinking that their lives are set and end up being very disappointed must be huge. As you say, do the course that makes you happy.
Interesting. I hadn’t thought of that.
You’re right, a lot of universities in the US have those reputations for being prestigious. I just assumed it was like that everywhere… I guess not. I do know that the concept of universities being prestigious specifically with athletics does seem to be an exclusively American concept. Being successful at a school with a prestigious athletic program can improve your chances of getting drafted and signed by professional teams and making a lot of money early in your career.
When I was of the age of applying to school, I was not specifically thinking of prestige, and I definitely wasn’t an athlete. But I did end up going to the most academically prestigious of the three universities that accepted me. Being the most prestigious was not my primary concern; they were also the only one to offer me a scholarship, and when I visited the campus, they seemed friendly and helpful, and I got the opposite impression at the other school I visited.
I agree that feeling like you could be happy in a place is most important. With the exception of a few careers like law and medicine, I don’t think many employers would even ask what uni you went to.
That is true, it depends on the career, but caring where you went to school because of the prestige attached is probably more prevalent in the world of those super-wealthy people.
I love tracing words back to their original meanings. Sometimes quite an eye-opener. Makes you wonder how they came to take on such different meanings
Yes, when it means something that is contradictory or a bit tongue in cheek it can make me laugh.