It is a healthy exercise to think about the meaning of the single words before structuring them in sentences, paragraphs, ideas.. the verbal language is a dynamic object. The talking been unconsciously deforms the meaning of words with time. That’s a positive process and is definitely the core of the genesis of a language. Taking something basic and structuring it into a complex concept. But this process of transformation must be monitored, especially in our age of fast changing. And we all can monitor it trough the proper use of a language.
The word bumping in my mind in these days, not finding a way out is bureaucracy.
I looked in an English speaking site, etymonline.com, for its etimology.
Bureaucracy comes from ‘bureau’, French for ‘desk’, office for extension, and the Greek suffix “-kratia” denoting “power of”. So power of office.
The same site goes straight to the core of the genesis of this word quoting a post-revolutionary France definition:
“That vast net-work of administrative tyranny … that system of bureaucracy, which leaves no free agent in all France, except for the man at Paris who pulls the wires. [J.S. Mill, “Westminster Review”, 1837] ”
Tyranny, yes. Bureaucracy is a tyranny and so was perceived in a society breathing fresh air like the French after the Revolution. In my mind bureaucracy is a negative word but I remember having used it with a neutral meaning in my native language.
Yes, let’s switch our search into a Language of a different group than English. Let’s have a look at the etymology of Bureaucracy in an Italian dictionary, trough an Italian dictionary of the early 20th Century (Ottorino Pianigiani’s Vocabolario Etimologico della Lingua Italiana, free online on etimo.it).
Burocrazia: “the whole of officers of the public administration”.
In a Latin language bureaucracy metamorphosed into neutral word, peacefully describing to the citizen a group of people working for him behind a desk.
And so giving a neutral meaning to it we can decline bureaucracy in many different ways today, having an obsessive bureaucracy, a slow bureaucracy, a light bureaucracy and even an efficient bureaucracy.
Ok, let’s be critic now and go back to the true meaning of bureaucracy. A tyranny. Can a tyranny be light for a citizen? Can it be defined efficient in any way? No. A tyranny is efficient only with slaves.