Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bubbling Over

Words are weird. English words in particular. Some are frowned upon – outlawed by polite society – and some are liked so much people make songs up about them. One, about bubbles, was first published in 1919 and goes, "I'm forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air" and is still well known almost 100 years later. You've probably heard it a million times, gargled it in the shower, had it run through your mind incessantly...

Bubbles have been around since ancient times. It is said the ancient Babylonians invented soap from goat fat and ashes and once that was done the inevitability of bubble making for fun and pleasure was only a matter of time. We don't hear Greek and Roman philosophers speak of bubbles at all because Greeks and Romans generally didn't use soap. They thought nothing of going through their entire lives not being squeaky clean; considering it only for those namby-pamby barbarians. Regardless, the tradition of parents getting pesky kids out of their hair for a while by giving them soapy water to play with had begun. There are a number of recipes online

The thing about bubbles is that inevitably they burst. Soap bubbles are neat to pop because doing so appeals to the maniac inside us all; bringing out the evil laugh in our arsenal of pleasurable vocal expressions. All this adds up to the fact that the bubble is a wonderful metaphor for a number of human conditions and circumstances; from the bursting of the dot-com bubble in the 90's to other economic situations (a commodity worth expanding in cost followed by a sudden contraction) to a description of our personal space. Urban Dictionary has a myriad of cultural slang uses of the word,  some weird. Okay, mostly weird. Due to their instability  it's understandable that soap bubbles were often used in paintings since at least the 17th-century Renaissance as a symbol for the transitory nature of life. Folks use the term to describe their own personal space. Mathematicians have used bubbles in many complex computations that I won't go into because I don't understand a single word that they've written. 

I'll just stick with blowing them; here in my own little bubble.

1 comment:

  1. My puppy is indulgent when I blow bubbles, but won't do anything about them unless I can get one to land on her nose. Not sure if I should ignore the "transitory nature of life" like her or just blow more bubbles?