Word of the Moment: Detente

Happy Sunday friends! I’m starting today with Mark Haddon’s recently published short story collection, The Pier Falls, and I’m greatly enjoying it. Which is a little strange to say, because these stories are tragic and disastrous. Reading sorrowful stories and deciding whether to hate or empathize with characters who are fighting to survive situations they put themselves, or others in; or not allowing a work of fiction to turn common joys like entertainment on an ocean pier into fearful, avoidable activities because of the dangers you are now blatantly aware of, is uncomfortable.

I suppose my enjoyment stems from the way the stories are told, and in Mark Haddon’s case, there are no if few details left to wonder about, no feeling that does not reach into the folds of your soul, and he manages to use just the right words for every moment.

There is one particular word that I have become acquainted with in just the past few weeks, and its appearance in maybe half of what I have read in that time is as jarring as stumbling upon a new word within those you know. The word is détente, and it is a noun meaning “the easing of hostility or strained relations, especially between countries.” I’ve seen it used in its true form – describing countries – as well as in a description of a family (Mark Haddon).

I am now rampantly searching my brain for an instance of such repetition of one word throughout different forms of writing, but perhaps I am too obsessed with this instance to clearly remember. The repetition is not the only striking part of this, however; the relevance of this word in our current society is astounding. Now, The Pier Falls was published this year, although another source of this word was published in 2008, so I can’t speculate that détente is the word of the moment, or the year, since it has obviously existed before 2016.

Through this American political cycle to the surprising Brexit vote, and politics and foreign relations in general, détente seems like a vital word, a vital goal, in my mind moreso now than perhaps ever in my twenty-three years of life. America’s relation to Cuba now, comes right to mind, and although Hiroshima also comes to my mind (President Obama is the first sitting president to visit), I’m not sure tensions related to the bombing have completely eased, or ever will entirely no matter how much time is put into détente. Perhaps, however, I have seen this word before, and am just only noticing it across genres because it has more significance to me, and I think, to the world, now that I am a twenty-three year old with her eyes open to more than just the particulars of a town of five thousand.

I cannot solve this dilemma, I can only speculate, and ask you if you’ve noticed words more often when their definitions have particular meanings to the world or situation you are living in at the present? Do you know of research or evidence that this is somewhat true (share!)? I will plainly state that I cannot be the only one to experience this phenomenon, and that words, much like books, authors, and people, sometimes present themselves clearly or make themselves known when you need, want, or crave them the most.

What is this word for you? How have you obsessed, or not obsessed over it? For now, I’m going to refill my coffee and read a few more stories, in an unsuspecting search for the next essential word.

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