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#69226 05/08/02 02:44 PM
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For those of you who don't get tsuwm's worthless word for the day, today's word is bricoleur, the definition for which he gives as:

[F, handy-man] someone who continually invents his own strategies for comprehending reality

"Joe had that authentic air of the solitary bricoleur, the potterer of genius, like the Facteur Cheval..."
- Michael Chabon, _Kavalier & Clay_

As I'm sure the worthy tsuwmster is well aware, this term also appears in Rheingold's excellent book They Have a Word For It. I don't have the book at hand, but I recall the meaning as being a little different from this, or at least having another sense in addition to this one. The sense given here seems to derive from Levi-Strauss's adoption of the term in the field of semiotics, to mean someone who doesn't have a set of theories about the world in order to help understand it, but rather patches together an understanding in a very ad hoc way.

I am fond of the other sense I understand the word to be used in, which is very much related to the one given but that is a bit more concrete, or hands-on. If I recall correctly, a bricoleur is also someone who is adept at responding to a physical task (such as fixing something around the house) with whatever is at hand - using string, a nine-penny nail, and a turkey baster to fix the furnace, say. Googling a bit turned up the following:

'Bricoleur' is a French term meaning, roughly, 'handyman.' A bricoleur is adept at finding, or simply recognizing in their environment, resources that can be used to build something they believe is important and then combining these resources in a way that achieves their goals.

Unlike the engineer, who has some idea of "theoretical principles" which underly a given "practical implementation", the bricoleur has a set of techniques from which they pick and choose the appropriate "tool" to be used in the situation at hand. It is not necessary to understand _why_ something works, only that it _does_ work.

Clearly, the two senses are very closely related, but one focuses on comprehension of reality, where the other relates to skillfully interacting with and manipulating things in physical reality.

Just wondering if I'm comprehending reality at all correctly in attributing this second, more concrete sense to the word. I think the Chabon quote bears out my take on it pretty well, describing a bricoleur as a "potterer."

It was also interesting to note in googling the word that, in addition to being used in French and English, it's been adopted for use in German as well - about a third of the google results were in German.


#69227 05/08/02 03:10 PM
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As a footnote, in just about any town in France you will see shops with sign reading "Bricolage." Apparantly they specialize in crafty, DIY supplies, not too different from what the US knows as a hardward store.


#69228 05/08/02 03:13 PM
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the definition I gave (after the literal French, handy-man) comes from "Words of Art", and applies more to Joe Kavalier's work as a comic book artist trying to come to terms with the realities of WWII. see the website for an interesting link to the Facteur Cheval allusion.

http://home.mn.rr.com/wwftd/

()

#69229 05/08/02 03:25 PM
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'Slids, tsuwm, what is that thing? (Cheval link from your page) It looks as if GaudÝ tried to build a wat out of sea-shells.

Back to my original question, however - can bricoleur be used in the way I suggested, or am I slightly off, as I turned out to be in my grasp of the pathetic fallacy? You say that your definition is after the literal French for handyman, but I think my definition fits better with that - because it means someone who's handy.

Oh - for those quietly picking nits in the back of the class - it turns out bricoleur was yesterday's wwftd, as degringolade arrived while I was writing my post.



#69230 05/08/02 03:40 PM
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sorry Hyla, my response seems to have been obnubilated by my preconception that your definition was just an expansion of the literal French (handy-man). my definition should probably be considered a transferral of that original sense.

Cheval was a mailman (Facteur?) who (obviously?) knew nothing about architecture or building skills but nonetheless crafted the pictured ediface/artifact using his talents(?) as a bricoleur. it came up from a google of 'facteur cheval + bricoleur'. : )

#69231 05/08/02 04:11 PM
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'Slids, tsuwm, what is that thing? (Cheval link from your page) It looks as if GaudÝ tried to build a wat out of sea-shells.

It's the Postman's Dream Palace - le palais ideal - It is the way-coolest site I've ever seen! It's in a small French village inaccessible by public transit (so I had to wait till my brother rented a car). The postman collected stones every day for something like 17 years (that might well be wrongly wrong), and then built this amazing structure, using a number of architectural styles. I was so blown away!

There's a nifty house on the street next to mine in Toronto - apparently, the owner was in an accident and had to have screws put in his body. As a homage to the screw, he has screwed all these pieces of wood (mostly sliced-up pool cues, but also sliced branches) and plastic bugs ALL over the house. He has Most Eccentric Garden certificates signed by the mayor. It's my favourite local site. He's even started on his car. [end of non-word post that probably should have gone in Miscellany - oops]


#69232 05/08/02 04:13 PM
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so would that MacGyver guy in the 70's TV show be a bricoleur? or not, since he *did apparently know exactly how things worked?


#69233 05/09/02 12:21 AM
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so would that MacGyver guy in the 70's TV show be a bricoleur

Ahem«, 80s TV show thanks, I'm not that old! But, what a guy, huh? He can do *anything* with some gaffa tape, a piece of rope and a swiss army knife. Think I may need to sign him up for my rally team when it happens!


#69234 05/09/02 01:05 PM
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But, what a guy, huh? He can do *anything* with some gaffa tape, a piece of rope and a swiss army knife.

Well, cross-threading just a little, in that case why don't they put McGuyver onto sorting out human cloning?



The idiot also known as Capfka ...
#69235 05/09/02 02:37 PM
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Well, it looks like I'm going to have to publish a glossary of what I think a bunch of words mean, so as to be understood by those around me. I made up my own sense of "pathetic fallacy" and I appear to have done it again for bricoleur.

Rheingold's book gives a definition that is less abstract than the LÚvi-Strauss-like concept given originally by tsuwm, but that is quite different from mine - A person who constructs things by random messing around without following an explicit plan. Rheingold also describes a bricoleur as "a kind of intuitive technician who plays with concepts and objects in order to learn about them."

So, I don't think Macgyver qualifies, and hopefully this definition will actually get hung in the dusty coat-closet of my mind without getting as askew on the hanger as it was.




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