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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Jan 21, 2018 1:15 am

• frack •

Pronunciation: fræk • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To fracture rock surrounding a well to increase the flow of oil or gas. This is accomplished by injecting large amounts of liquid under high pressure into cracks in the rock in order to split them open.

Notes: Fracking has been staying in the news, so I decided it was time to bring it up. Interest in the gas reserves in the US has risen recently with the applications of fracking, which allows profitable amounts of gas to be extracted from shale. Arkansas, however, where the practice is well under way, has suffered 800 earthquakes in 2011 and evidence points to the fracking as the cause of them.

In Play: Earthquakes are not the only unpleasant side effects of fracking: "Les Burnham thinks that fracking behind his house is the reason he can ignite the water coming from the faucets in his house." Although this is a fairly new word in English, I can already think of new ways to use it: "The ice has fracked my driveway over the years to the point that it is disintegrating."

Word History: Today's topical word is a clipping of the verb fracture. Since fracking expands fractures that are already in rock, the gas and oil industries needed a different term to refer to expanding those fractures. Breaking off a piece of fracture was the best they could come up with. Fracture itself came to English from Latin fractura "a break" via French fracture. The Latin noun was made from the past participle, fractus, of the verb frangere "to break", with the Fickle N we have seen in many other words. The Latin verb comes from the Proto-Indo-European root bhreg- "break", which also survived in Old Germanic to become German brechen and English break.
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Re: Frack

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sun Jan 21, 2018 8:59 pm

It was the 'dirty' word in Battlestar Galatica, used for the 'f' word.
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George Kovac
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Re: Frack

Postby George Kovac » Mon Jan 22, 2018 5:40 pm

With the controversial practice of “fracking” so much in the news over the last decade or so, I am surprised this word has not attracted wider use through metaphorical extension. Metaphor is one of the vehicles of etymology and the expansion and enrichment of vocabulary.

So let’s get fracking.

Fracking is the practice of exploiting fractures in otherwise (more or less) stable bedrock. Fracking releases explosive gas. The persons doing the fracking exploit this process for gain. In order to sustain this exploitation—i.e., in order to keep the fracture open so that it will continue to release gas in the future—the fracker will introduce a “proppant” (a material such as grains of sand, ceramic, or other particulate) into the fracking fluid. The proppant keeps the fractures from closing when injection is stopped and pressure removed.

I see a lot of fracking going on in politics and diplomacy. There are politicians and world leaders who look for existing fractures in a culture or society, and seek to exploit them by widening them and releasing explosive gases that had long been contained underground. Putin, it can be argued, fracked the ethnic tensions in eastern Ukraine between the Russian speakers and the Ukrainian speakers.

In the US and elsewhere we have seen politicians frack racial, economic, social, ethnic, class, nativist, religious, and regional fault lines, hoping to benefit from the explosive energy released by political fracking. Often with little regard for the collateral damage such fracking causes. Indeed, these politicians inject their own “proppants” to keep open those fractures in the electorate, such as ugly but memorable words that stoke specific fears; or the injection of “dog-whistle” phrases that sustain those resentments; or the practice of instigating pandering (and often unconstitutional) ballot initiatives intended solely to inflame voters and drive them to the polls on election day to vote for the fracker's candidate.

I am not advocating the practice of political fracking or the injection of proppants into the fault lines of our culture. I’m suggesting—as a language fan and as a dilettante cultural pundit—that we recognize that fracking has overtaken our politics and our petrol and that we consider the long-term consequences.
“The messy layers of human experience get pulled together, and sometimes ordered, by words.” Colum McCann “But Always Meeting Ourselves” New York Times, June 15, 2009

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