One of my favorite words is reification (now that you can use my most hated words against me). Sounds like a meaningless jumble of morphemes, doesnâ€™t it?
Itâ€™s one of the most life-changing words Iâ€™ve ever experienced.
You may not know it, but you reify. A lot. We all do. Every time you regard something thatâ€™s abstract (a concept, an idea, a word) as the real thing, as something material or concrete, youâ€™re reifying.
Take the number 2, for example. Caught you! â€œTwoâ€ or â€œ2â€ is a concept, an idea, a word. Except in the Platonic world, thereâ€™s really no such thing as 2. Get my drift? It seems as real as the candle on the cake, I know, but â€œ2â€ stands for the idea of two years. Now blow.
Hereâ€™s where I run into real-world practical trouble with reification.
Weâ€™re in a restaurant. The menu before me promises every earthly delight from beast to legume. Iâ€™m in feast fantasyland, can’t decide, want everybody to order everything so I can taste it all.
Note the menu doesn’t say â€œbean, slab of meat from cow, cleaned flesh from fowl, piece of pig with hairy root vegetables, mussels with brine and beard recently scraped off.â€
Nope, itâ€™s â€œharicot vertâ€â€”and how I love the way the French syllables tumble over my tongue while my word-taste buds salivate to â€œsautÃ©ed in a savory shallot-white wine-balsamic dill-rosemary-caper sauce.â€ Then the plate comes. And theyâ€™re just green beans, after all. Damn.
Even champignon sounds better than â€œpungent little fungi that feed on decayed matter.â€ Seems the French are best at this snow job.
Think about it:
It doesnâ€™t taste as good as it reads.
(If only I could eat my words sometimes.)
I would imagine that reification tastes something like sawdust or the empty vacuum of space. Alienation. A separation of the word from the thing.