Icon, Youcon, We All Con If We Try
It was the nineteenth century British physician, natural theologian, lexicographer and champagne collector Pol Roger who first reminded us that the ordinary words we deploy in everyday conversation can have synonyms, antonyms and autonyms as well as multiple meanings. The irascible Scotsman Dr Johnson may have been amongst the first to codify the English tongue, but it took an Englishman to get it right and Pol Roger's Thesaurus is rightly celebrated wherever proper English is spoke.
But - as any Johnny Foreigner knows only too well - pinning English down is a tricky business as the meaning of words constantly evolves [develops · progresses · makes progress · advances· moves forward · makes headway · matures· grows · opens out · opens up · unfolds · unrolls · expands · enlarges· spreads · extends · alters · changes · transforms · adapts· metamorphoses · differentiates · transmogrifies] or is reinvented [remade · regenerated · renewed · restored · revived · resuscitated · reawakened · refreshed · reopened · restated · revitalised · reaffirmed · renovated · revamped · rehabilitated · remodelled · replaced · reconstructed · recreated · refashioned · reproduced · rebuilt · redesigned · redevised · reestablished · re-formed · created again · reinstated · refabricated · established again · restrategized · returned to beginning again · overhauled · reshaped · relaunched restyled · turned around · transformed · revolutionised · rejuvenated · refitted · reinvigorated · rebranded · revolutionised · replenished · re-created · gone over] [OK. We get it [Ed.]
Take, for example, the frequently used word - "Icon". Whisper it in any pub, club or cafe [if you can find one open] and the socially-distanced "vibe" is likely to resonate along the lines of: famous person, style guru, role model, B-list celebrity, Love Bucket or The Only Way Is East Cliff Contestant, chick-flick authoress or Dorset Business Woman of the Year and Entrepreneur Extraordinaire. Educate yourself as to its original meaning and you will soon realise that "Icon" has been on a long linguistic journey to get where it is today - much of
it downhill, most of it diminishing.
Derived from the Greek word "Ikon" [ikon (ˈaɪkɒn)] Icon originally meant: [a] a picture, image, or other representation [b] an image of Christ, a saint, etc., usually painted on a wooden panel or made in mosaics and venerated as sacred in the Eastern Church [c] a sign or representation that stands for something by virtue of a resemblance or analogy to it eg a symbol: randomly, an icon of womanhood. Only latterly has this been expanded [diminished?] to mean [d] a person or thing that is revered or idolized: eg a pop icon or, more technically, [e] a small graphic image on a computer screen representing a disk drive, a file, or a software command, such as a wastebasket that can be used to delete a file.
Surely the difference between the veneration any self respecting Byzantine Greek would have afforded an image of - say Mother and Child - and the slavish idolisation of "rock legend" Ziggy Osmington exhibited by nostalgic over 70-somethings or the priapic droolings over film superstar Jason Stourpaine is a mark of just how far we have fallen both as trustees of our sacred language and as a civilization entire?
I was reminded of these thoughts as I strolled [locally and observing, of course, all of the RDC-directed protocols that apply to the act of musing alone in a completely deserted countryside] and chanced upon the Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Spetisbury. Best known to the public as the resting place of Mr Threadbone's mortal remains, it is also the custodian of a copy or reinterpretation or reworking or redesign [Don't start that again [Ed]] of famous mediaeval Ikon - The Madonna of the Asymmetric Mammaries - which has hung in the Eastern part of the nave since at least 2016. The work of gifted modern Iconographer - Father Cumberland-Lakeland - it was given to the church by an anonymous Dorset business woman whose husband's mortal remains rest in the churchyard.
Originating in Crete, the image of the Madonna of the Asymmetric Mammaries [or Μαντόνα [or μητέρα του Θεού or πανγαία] του ασύμμετρου στήθους, is a much revered Christian symbol depicting both the imperfection of the corporeal human [the red of her clothing as well as the asymmetry of her womanhood] and the perfection of the divine - a state assumed and exemplified by the Mother of the Redeemer, having been chosen by God and transformed by faith. Unusually the icon also depicts what appear to be two helicopters - widely interpreted by scholars as referencing the Assumption - that miraculous moment when, following her demise, Mary or Panagia ascended into heaven.
This is the first known example of the ancients trying to make sense of how the Assumption might have been achieved and turning to the only means of upward ascent then known to them. Later theologians have tended towards an air balloon or non-commercial dirigible and even a jet-pack. Some scholars believe the appellation Madonna of the Asymmetric Mammaries derives from a perception that the child Jesus is not cradled as in many similar images but rather perched on a "shelf" or "balcony" formed by an enlarged and well supported left breast. The right breast is clearly smaller and non weight-bearing. Whether the infant is offering a benediction, a proto-Churchillian encouragement or an admonition to his mother remains a matter of theological as well as iconographic debate.
Vicar of the Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Spetisbury, The Rt Rev Deepe Thinkah - comments: "the icon is a constant source of renewal [Don't start [Ed]] and as we move on our Lenten spiritual journey towards one of the Church's most sacred diarised events - The Adoration of the Easter Bunny - we could do far worse than contemplate the many overt and subliminal message emanating from the Madonna of the Asymmetric Mammaries. Viewed in the right light [2.30 on a sunny afternoon is ideal] there's definitely something in there for all of us".