By Bruce Robbins

Essay's first paragraph:

One amazing attribute of commodity histories, a unexpectedly ubiquitous style of renowned non-fiction, is a undeniable overkill of their subtitles. A consultant pattern may well comprise, say, Corn and Capitalism: How a Botanical Bastard Grew to international Dominance; Tobacco: A Cultural background of the way an unique Plant Seduced Civilization; The Potato: How the common-or-garden Spud Rescued the Western World; The global of Caffeine: The technological know-how and tradition of the World’s preferred Drug; Cod: A Biography of the Fish that modified the World; and Mauve: How One guy Invented a colour that modified the World. in basic terms somewhat much less over-the-top than the “changed the world” clause, which additionally seems to be in fresh histories of vanilla, condominium cats, ping pong balls, dishwashing liquid, and pocket lint, is the fashion for two-word titles during which an adjective, often a commodity-identifying colour, is paired with the main coveted of beneficial metals. a few examples are Blue Gold (water), White Gold (rubber), Black Gold (oil), and Green Gold (tea and marijuana). Such titles recommend that every one of those commodities, even the humblest, have the ability to get continents stumbled on, dynasties toppled, mountains moved. We take a few of these commodities with no consideration, yet them all have replaced the world.


Robbins, Bruce. "Commodity Histories." PMLA, 120.2 (Mar., 2005): 454-463.

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II THE PLAY-CONCEPT AS EXPRESSED I N LANGUAGE WHEN speaking of play as something known to all, and when trying to analyse or define the idea expressed in that word, we must always bear in mind that the idea as ·we know it is defined and perhaps limited by the word we use for it. Word and idea are not born of scientific or logical thinking but of creative language, which means of innumerable languages-for this act of "conception" has taken place over and over again. Nobody will expect that every language, in forming its idea of and ex­ pression for play, could have hit on the same idea or found a single word for it, in the way that every language has one definite word for "hand" cpr "foot" .

1 Before concluding our linguistic survey of the play-concept we must discuss some special applications of the word "play" , par­ ticularly the use of it in the handling of musical instruments. We mentioned earlier that the Arabic la'iba bears this sense in common with a number of European languages, namely the Germanic (and some of the Slavonic) which, as far back as their mediaeval phase, designate instrumental skill by the word "play" . 2 Of the Romance languages it appears that only French has jeu and jouer in this sense, which might be taken as an indication of Germanic in­ fluence ; while Italian uses sonare, and Spanish toear.

2Modern Frisian distinguishes between boartsje (children's games) and spy lje (th� playing of instruments) . The latter has probably been taken over from Dutch. THE PLAY-CONCEPT AS EXPRESSED IN LANGUAGE 43 There is yet another use of the word "play" which is just as widespread and just as fundamental as the equation of play with serious strife, namely, in relation to the erotic. The Germanic languages abound in erotic applications of the word, and it is hardly necessary to cite many vxamples. German has "Spielkind" (Dutch "speelkind") for a child born out of wedlock; compare also the Dutch "aanspelen" for the mating of dogs, "minnespel" for the act of copulation.

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