Loaded Words

Loaded Words

Loaded Words

Loaded Words


In Loaded Words the inimitable literary and cultural critic Marjorie Garber invites readers to join her in a rigorous and exuberant exploration of language. What links the pieces included in this vibrant new collection is the author's contention that all words are inescapably loaded - that is,highly charged, explosive, substantial, intoxicating, fruitful, and overbrimming - and that such loading is what makes language matter. Garber casts her keen eye on terms from knowledge, belief, madness, interruption, genius, and celebrity to humanities, general education, and academia. Included here are an array of stirring essays, from the title piece, with its demonstration of the importance of language to our thinking about theworld; to the superb "Mad Lib," on the concept of madness from Mad magazine to debates between Foucault and Derrida; to pieces on Shakespeare, "the most culturally loaded name of our time," and the Renaissance. With its wide range of cultural references and engaging style coupled with fresh intellectual inquiry, Loaded Words will draw in and enchant scholars, students, and general readers alike.


Few words are more loaded than loaded. From “charged, burdened, laden” (loaded carts, loaded hearts, loaded fruit trees, loaded guns) to “weighted, especially with lead” (loaded dice) to “inserted in a camera” (loaded film) to “equipped with optional extras” (loaded cars) to slang usages from “drunk” to “drugged” to “extremely wealthy,” loaded tells a story of abundance, excess, danger, and desire. The specific use of loaded in connection with words (loaded words, loaded questions) developed in the mid-twentieth century and may be considered, perhaps, as symptomatic of what are now called symptomatic readings—readings that call into question the good faith or the face value of a narrative. Thus the Oxford English Dictionary, under loaded, provides the following definition and examples:

d. fig. Charged with some hidden implication or underlying suggestion; biased;

1942 College Eng. Oct.16 General Semantics … being metaphysical in a particu
larly partial and dogmatic sense … can yield us only a vocabulary of “loaded”
general words, calculated to distort rather than to illuminate the writings of any
other school.

1957 Observer 29 Dec. 9/2 Is our popular preference for plays of less blatant
sexuality a mark of higher civilisation or merely of greater hypocrisy? Is the
Dionysiac cult … more childish or simply more honest than the religious
practices that have succeeded it in the West? These are loaded questions, I admit.

1958 Times 7 July 13/2 You cannot solve the riddle of the universe by giving the
answer “Yes” or “No” to a loaded question.

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