A suffix indicating Systems Thinking LO22686

AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Fri, 17 Sep 1999 12:42:14 +0200

Dear Organlearners,

Greetings to you all,

Many moons ago Leo Minningh, a few other fellow learners
and I focused our dialogue on the topic of guilds.

Peter Senge gave us a decade ago the theory of Learning
Organisations to help us streamlining our practice of
Learning Organisations. Many people believe that the
publication of the theory (The Fifth Discipline) initiated the
practice of LOs. However, in our discussion on guilds we
came to the conclusion that LOs in practice existed already
more than a millenium ago.

I want now to argue that also the Fifth Discipline itself,
namely Systems Thinking, had been in practice more than
a millenium ago. It all has to do with the suffix "-hood"
in the English language. It does not mean that only the
English langauge has information on Systems Thinking
as you will soon see.

English is not my mother tongue and I do not have a spell
checker for my email application. Thus it is very dangerous
for me to create brand new words in English. But English
is a language and evolution is evident in English like in all
other languages. Thus, by virtue of this evolution of
languages, it is possible for me to create English words
which do not exist in dictionaries, but of which the meaning
ought to be clear.

For example, when thinking about the development of a
person from the craddle to the grave, I might distinguish
between the phases babyhood, adulthood and "oldhood".
The third member of this group which complements the
other two does not exist in dictionaries of the English
language. To create "oldhood", I have joined the suffix
"-hood" (of Lowlandic origin) to "old" (of Lowlandic origin),
something very typical of Old English.

In the western part of South Africa we have a large desert
region (400km x 100km) called Namaqualand. The people
of this region, called Namaqualanders, speak Afrikaans.
They have to be very creative in order to make a living in
Namaqualand where the enviroment can sometimes become
extremely harsh. A strange thing about the Namaqualanders
is that they do not tell jokes to boost their creativity. They
rather tell stories about real incidents in the life of a
Namaqualander. In most of these incidents creativity (or
lack of it) played a vital role.

They use the language Afrikaans so creatively that in
one single story they may create tens of words not in the
dictionaries of Afrikaans. A story lasting 10 minutes may
contain up to 100 new words, ie. ten new words per
minute. Are they not incredible fast thinking strory tellers?
No. Think of the listeners who have to follow the story
tellers, but also need enough extra time to laugh themselves
paralytic! If you conclude that Afrikaans must have a feeble
vocabulary for such a thing to happen, think again!

Nevertheless, by creating these very new words they
bring in many flavours to their stories, especially humor.
They intuitively pick up the most extraordicary patterns
in the evolution of Afrikaans and apply them to make new
words. Some of these patterns, teached to language
students under the heading "grammer", can become very
boring. But in the mouth all these patterns, many not yet
even made a grammer of, can become sheer delight.

Here is a beautiful one which I heard many years ago,
created by an angry Namaqualander on the spur of
the moment.
"This man has now so many HOODS that one can
get nothing right with him".
[Hierdie man het nou soveel "geite" dat mens niks
met hom reg kan kry nie.]
You will probably find the deep meaning in terms of
Systems Thinking mysterious, but hopefully at the
end of the contribution you will understand why. It is
[[This man got stuck in Systems Thinking.]]

The "geite" in "correct Afrikaans would be "-hede", the
plural form of any word with the suffix "-heid". This person
intuitively recognised that "hede" would be wrong since
"hede" is the word for "now" in English.

Let us think about the suffix "-hood". What does it mean?
What function does it have?

This suffix has a Lowlandic origin (Saxon, Anglian,
Franconian) via Old English (OE). Other modern languages
with Lowlandic origin are Dutch, Low German and even my
own mothertongue Afrikaans (A).

The suffix "hood" is related to that part of any animal
containing the brain -- described by the word "head"
(OE="heafod") and (A="hoof") or (A="kop"). Compare it with
the English "hat" (OE="haet") and (A="hoed"). That part of
a monk's gown which TOTALLY covered his head so that
not even the face could be seen, namely the cowl, is also
called a "hood" (OE="hod") and (A="kap"). The skin which
covers an animal COMPLETELY is also called a "hide"
(OE="hydan") and (A="huid").

Consequently the suffix "-hood" (A="-heid") is used to refer
to the totality of a condition, state or property subjected to
the workings of the head. In other words, using very modern
terminology, the suffix "-hood" is used to indicate that we
have scrutinised something with Systems Thinking, the
Fifth Discipline!

The academic cowl (square thing on the head of an academic
person) was also used once upon a time to symbolise that
the person professed knowledge in totality. Using LO
terminology of present times, we may say the cowl
symbolised that the professor was a Systems Thinker
Likewise we may use the suffix "-hood" as a TOKEN that
we have subjected the object (indicated by the stem-word
to which the "-hood" is fixed) to a careful (consistent and

Unfortunately, many people may eventually use a word
with "-hood" as suffix without knowing what the "-hood"
means AND REQUIRES. It requires that word has to be
subjected carefully to Systems Thinking. It is used to
indicate that this requirement has been met. It is not
the case. Namaqualanders uses "-heid" or "-geit" without
having been taught formally in schools how to use it. I bet
you that you have never been taught in the subject English
how to use "-hood".

Most of you, since being fellow learners on this list, knows
about Learning Organisations, Systems Thinking (Fifth
Disicipline) and Peter Senge. But what about the millions
of people who spoke Modern English, Middle English and
Old English long before Senge was even born? What about
all the speakers who initially created all the words ending
with the suffix "-hood"? One thing is pretty clear to me --
they all practiced Systems Thinking tacitly (intuitively).

I want to end this contribution with the following since I
need this end for another pending contribution:-
The seven hoodlums of organisations.

It is said that the word "hoodlum" (ruffian) is perhaps a back
slang for Muldoon (noodlum). However, think of the word
"lame" (A="lam") which means difficult to function, if not
impossible. We also have in Afrikaans the word "lummel" (the
stem is "lum-") which means dunce, boor or ruffian. The
English words "lump" and "clump" describe a clumsy mass
slow in reacting to forces of change. Thus, although we do
not know where the existing word "hoodlum" comes from,
we may propose that the newly created word "lumhood"
refers to that which retards or reverses normally desired
behaviour (changes). Using back slang (action?), we may
then think of "hoodlums" as "lumhoods" which at least
retard, but often also reverse the evolution of organisations.

In conclusion, if you ever see a word ending with the suffix
"-hood", remind yourself "Be cautious -- Systems Thinking
is required here". Let "-hood" be your token for Systems

Think again!
"This man has now so many HOODS that one can
get nothing right with him".
He has only the fifth discipline -- the other four got lost!

Best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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