Week of September 13, 2020

Author-itative Adjectives, pt. I


“Orwellian” usually refers to some aspect of a totalitarian government and/or dystopian future, as described in George Orwell’s classic novel “1984.”


“Kafkaesque” usually describes baffling, overcomplicated, and irrational bureaucracies, or some other utterly illogical nightmare scenario, as endured by many characters in Franz Kafka’s writings.


“Dickensian” usually (but not always) suggests poor and squalid working and living conditions, as those described in 19th century England in Charles Dickens’ works.


To attain and keep power by scheme, craft, and deceit is often called “Machiavellian” after the whatever-it-takes principles laid out by Niccolo Machiavelli in his 1513 book “The Prince.”


“Darwinian” refers to the natural selection concepts of naturalist Charles Darwin, often summarized as “survival of the fittest,” or, more broadly, as the long-term selection for the traits of those organisms best suited to their environment.


“Hobbesian,” is named for philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who viewed humans as naturally inclined to compete and battle for their own advantage rather than cooperate, though cooperation may be more productive. A “Hobbesian trap” describes a situation where each of two rivals (which could be individuals, groups, or nations) knows the other might destroy them, so each is inclined to acquire greater armament, thereby increasing distrust further, or attack the other first in a preemptive strike.


“Homeric” is synonymous with “epic and heroic” since the ancient poet Homer’s poetry was this in nature.