Friday, August 22, 2008



As I waited for my flight at JFK airport, the other day, I wandered into one of the shops that sells books and magazines. The magazines were arranged by category, and I scanned the racks and noted the various categories. News. Electronics. Home. Fitness, Fashion, Food.

And “Sophisticates.”

That section, unlike the others, used opaque dividers to obscure the covers of the magazines. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine the significance of that, and what sorts of magazines live there.


I find the choice odd. The word comes from the Greek “sophos,” meaning knowledgeable or wise. Where, I wondered, is the wisdom here; of what sort is the knowledge?

It turns out that “sophisticate,” the verb, can, indeed, mean “to make wise,” but it can also mean, “to alter, pervert, make less natural.” In that sense, it especially has a connotation of making, according to American Heritage, “less naïve, more worldly,” of meaning “to make impure, adulterate.”

A “sophisticate,” the noun, then, is, in that sense, “a worldy-wise person.”

And apparently, magazines intended for the worldly-wise must be hidden from hoi polloi.

1 comment:

The Ridger, FCD said...

Hidden from the eyes of innocents wandering the terminal, unaware of the traps laying in wait for them, more like.

Or ... The Children!