OED “Rotten”

“In the crowd over there, that one gaping at her gods. One rotten girl in the city or the future.” (Tiptree 1)

I thought Tiptree’s choice of using “rotten” in The Girl Who Was Plugged In was interesting. I cannot remember the last time I heard someone describe a person as rotten except for my mom when I was a kid. The word is said twice in two short paragraphs jammed together talking about the girl awing at the gods. I took this to belittle the girl compared to the gods.

After looking it up in the OED I have found various different meanings for the word rotten that would work in this passage. The word came from the word “rot” and has changed over time into different meanings and different forms. Some of the more interesting definitions I found were: decomposing, organic/fertile, lacking integrity, and not based on evidence. I think its curious that the word can mean both decomposing and organic and fertile. This made me think that it is contrasting the real girls to the gods and comparing them. Because there are now fake people it brings up the question of who is real. We don’t really know if there are other companies using this advertising technique or what types of people they are making. What if there were fake people to obsess over the gods? If there are then that correlates rotten to lacking integrity because the living people are disguised as other people.

I think it was helpful to look up the word in the OED because it brought up so many other possibilities and enabled me to look deeper into the text. It also helped to think about the different meanings of the word because “rotten” seemed so out of place to me.

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4 responses to “OED “Rotten”

  1. Another thing I think of when I read the word “rotten” used to describe P. Burke is the definition that means deteriorating or decomposing since she has that genetic disorder that makes her look deformed.

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  2. I think that part of the meaning of the word rotten here and how it is able to mean both fertile and decomposing is that compost makes the most fertile soil. Perhaps this is why P. Burke is described as rotten. She is willing to sacrifice herself to be used to create another… she is fertile rotten soil ready to grow a new being.

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  3. btw I also remember this word from being a kid! 😛

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  4. I find it very interesting that one word can mean the complete opposite when used in certain contexts. You brought up a good point saying that Tiptree could be comparing the real girls and the gods who they described. Why would Tiptree use a word that can mean two things? Leave it open for interpretation?

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