Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Ever Wonder what a Wonder is?

Pyramids or spacecraft?At 7:07.07 AM GMT today (7/7/07) the all New Seven Wonders of the World was announced in Lisbon.  The selection of the new seven wonders has been made democratically this time, by 20 million people with access to a computer and nothing more useful to do.  I think it is time to introduce the word wikiwonder because any list, dictionary, or encyclopedia written by people regardless of qualification, interest, or inclination is bound to be as unreliable as the Wikipedia. In fact, the top 20 New Seven Wonders of the World show even greater symptoms of wiki-itis than does the Wikipedia.

Clearly most voters are unclear about not only the meaning of the word wonder but the word new, as well! Among the leading contenders today (July 6) are the pyramids of Giza, the Roman coliseum, Machu Picchu,  Easter Island, and the Athenian Acropolis.  Even the Great Wall of China has seen better days. Now, I can stretch the meaning of new with the best of them but I cannot stretch it this far.  If these are new wonders, what are the wonders of the ancient world?

So, at least we are getting wonders right, right? Let’s examine a few. The Roman coliseum is in ruins. The same applies to Machu Picchu and the Acropolis. Easter Island is a collection of crude monoliths my 3-year-old granddaughter could draw, carved out of stone no one knows when by a people no one knows anything about. Wonders or a wikiwonders? How would you distinguish new wonders from ruined wonders?

Actually, the creators of this overhyped quest meant a new list of seven ANCIENT wonders? Well, that’s different, then, isn’t it?

OK, bigmouth, I hear you muttering; if we wanted a real list of new wonders, what would a real new wonder be? Well, not all wonders are architectural according to the dictionaries. The very fact that 20 million people from around the world can vote on one issue should suggest something wonderful involved in the voting itself.

What about the computer?  What about the World Wide Web? What are they—chopped liver? Have we already forgotten those spaceships that made it to the Moon, zipped around Mars and Jupiter? Or do we think Mickey Mouse with the help of Huey, Dewey, and Louie could have built them?

If you want architecture, shouldn’t Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao make the top 20? The Singapore Changi Airport came out of the largest single development project in world history. It is right up there with the pyrimids even adjusting for differences in technology. And so far my list has been guided by size; what if we considered beauty? Wouldn’t the collected works of Picasso or Dali qualify? Am I the only one in awe of Mozart and Beethoven?

Lists are fun if compiled intelligently by experts who give long, deep, and considered thought to the task. Lists flipped off the tops of skulls regardless of their content are inevitably silly. (Did I mention the problem of vote-rigging?)

One Response to “Ever Wonder what a Wonder is?”

  1. JD Says:

    You focus on the word ‘new’ and the word ‘wonder’ but not on the word ‘world’.

    It’s interesting how your personal suggestions are skewed towards Europe and North America; the Singapore Changi airport is left to represent the achievements of the rest of the planet.

    The ‘democratic’ list may be less adventurous, but it is more representative of the world as a whole.

Leave a Reply