Saturday, July 07, 2007

Work, Value and Creativity

Here's one of Ezra Pound's typically luminous economic observations:

Work does not create wealth, it contributes to the formation of it. Nature's productivity is the root. (Guide to Kulchur, p. 357)

It got me consulting my dictionaries because he sees this as part of the misuse of the word "create", and that's something I have noticed when editing texts written by Danes.

Danish writers (in English) usually write "create" whenever they mean "skabe", although this word (in Danish) often means precisely "contribute to the formation of" or "establish" (as in "establish suitable conditions for"), i.e., when it makes no reference to creation ex nihilo, whether by human or divine agency.

As it turns out, the English word "shape" is a relation of the Danish "skabe" (and the German "Schöpfung") going back through the Old English "gesceap" to Old Norse.

To "contribute to the formation" of something is arguably to "shape" it. Finally, it seems that "worship" is, etymologically, the "creation of worth" or, let's say, the "shaping of value".

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