culture

culture
1. Here is a word that had mixed fortunes in the 20c, and means all things to all men. There are about 128,000 examples of it (including the plural form and compounds such as culture-bound) in the 500-million-word Oxford English Corpus (language database) in diverse meanings generally related to the OED's definition ‘the civilization, customs, artistic achievements, etc., of a people, especially at a certain stage of its development or history’. In many of these examples culture is used generically and not in relation to any particular people or time:

• For him spiritual and political ideas were becoming more and more inseparable in his concern with ‘culture’ as a whole —R. Crawford, 1990.

In others it has very specific reference, and is often preceded by a defining adjective or noun:

• Unofficial sources report that the two organisations aimed to research and develop Mongol culture —Amnesty, 1992.

2. The word has also developed more limited reference within a broader ‘culture’, as in consumer culture, corporate culture, drugs culture, political culture, pop culture, yob culture, youth culture, etc.:

• The miners' strike revealed the range of new movements and organisations which have been arenas…for the development of working-class culture and working-class consciousness —T. Lovett, 1988

• It was, nonetheless, a film that tried to solicit an understanding of the emerging drug culture —J. Parker, 1991

• Pop music and its link with youth culture should be an important field of study in media education —Action, 1991.

3. After 1914 culture came into contact with the German word Kultur, and from it assumed, in British eyes, connotations of arrogance and supposed ethnic superiority; and it was mocked by some who tended to distort the spelling (culchah, etc.) to indicate that the acquisition of cultured ways implied an absurd degree of affectation or vulgarity. Since the 20c, significant combinations of the word have been culture shock, meaning ‘the feeling of disorientation experienced by a person suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture or way of life’, culture clash, meaning ‘a failure of one culture to understand another with which it comes into contact’, culture-specific, meaning ‘peculiar to a particular cultural environment’, and culture vulture, meaning ‘a person eager to acquire culture’. In 1956, the novelist and essayist C. P. Snow launched a topic of discussion that is likely to last indefinitely by coining the resonant phrase the two cultures to denote the arts and sciences as being somehow alien to one another. For so seemingly calm a word, the currents and conflicts it produces are paradoxical.

Modern English usage. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Culture — culture …   Dictionary of sociology

  • Culture.ca — Culture.ca: Culture Online Made in Canada is the first website of its kind that introduces visitors to the strong and vibrant presence of Canadian culture online. On January 15, 2008, the honourable Josée Verner, Minister of Heritage Canada,… …   Wikipedia

  • culture — cul‧ture [ˈkʌltʆə ǁ ər] noun 1. [countable, uncountable] the ideas, beliefs, and customs that are shared and accepted by people in a society: • Western culture places a high value on material wealth. 2. [countable, uncountable] the attitudes or… …   Financial and business terms

  • Culture — Cul ture (k?l t?r; 135), n. [F. culture, L. cultura, fr. colere to till, cultivate; of uncertain origin. Cf. {Colony}.] 1. The act or practice of cultivating, or of preparing the earth for seed and raising crops by tillage; as, the culture of the …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • culture — CULTURE. s. f. Les travaux qu on emploie pour rendre la terre plus fertile, et pour améliorer ses productions. La culture des champs. La culture des vignes, des plantes, des fleurs. Travailler, s adonner à la culture de ... Abandonner la culture… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • culture — (n.) mid 15c., the tilling of land, from M.Fr. culture and directly from L. cultura a cultivating, agriculture, figuratively care, culture, an honoring, from pp. stem of colere tend, guard, cultivate, till (see CULT (Cf. cult)). The figurative… …   Etymology dictionary

  • culture — n 1 Culture, cultivation, breeding, refinement are comparable when they denote a quality of a person or group of persons which reflects his or their possession of excellent taste, manners, and social adjustment. Culture implies a high degree of… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • culture — Culture. s. f. v. Les façons qu on donne à la terre pour la rendre plus fertile, & aux arbres & aux plantes pour les faire mieux venir, & les faire mieux rapporter. La culture de la terre. la culture des vignes, des plantes. travailler à la… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • culture — [n1] breeding, education, sophistication ability, accomplishment, address, aestheticism, art, capacity, civilization, class, courtesy, cultivation, delicacy, dignity, discrimination, dress, elegance, elevation, enlightenment, erudition,… …   New thesaurus

  • culture — [kul′chər] n. [ME < L cultura < colere: see CULT] 1. cultivation of the soil 2. production, development, or improvement of a particular plant, animal, commodity, etc. 3. a) the growth of bacteria, microorganisms, or other plant and animal… …   English World dictionary


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