SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: Carceral, or a state that swallows the poorest first.


The article is Locking Up the Lower Class by Nathaniel Lewis (Jacobin), and before returning to an excerpt, my attention was drawn to the tweet by its use of the not-so-common word “carceral.”

Carceral (CAR-sur-al) is an adjective, and means “pertaining to prisons or a prison.”

1570s, from Latin carceralis, from carcer “prison, jail; starting place in a race course” (see incarceration).

Incarceration is a noun, with which we’re more familiar: “The act of incarcerating, or putting in prison or another enclosure.” If you draw a circle in the dirt and stand in the middle, you’re enclosed by the circle, though not incarcerated until it becomes a structure to keep you inside.

Word Origin and History for incarceration

Early 15c., “retention of pus,” from Medieval Latin incarcerationem (nominative incarceratio), noun of action from past participle stem of incarcerare “to imprison,” from in- “in” (see in- (2)) + carcer “prison, an enclosed space,” from Proto-Italic *kar-kr(o)-, of uncertain origin.

It seems best to connect carcer with other IE words for ‘circle, round object’, such as Latin. curvus, Gr. κιρκος ‘ring’, OIc. hringr, although not all of these have a good IE etymology. The reduplication in Latin carcer could be iconic; thus, the original meaning would have been ‘enclosure’. [de Vaan]

Back to the carceral state, of putting it another way, a state of incarceration.

The American state locks up its residents at jaw-dropping rates. Though home to less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States contains more than 20
 percent of the world’s prisoners.

Mass incarceration, as it’s come to be known, does not affect all groups equally. In 2010, white people were imprisoned at a rate of 450 per 100,000 while black people were locked up at a clip of 2,306 per 100,000. Simply put, black people are five times as likely as white people to be in jail or prison in the US.


SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: “Individual bullying is usually characterized by a person behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person.”