Over the past weekend, I was introduced to a delightful new concept: resistentialism. A combination of the words “res” (latin for “thing”, “resist”, and “existentialism”, the term refers to the perception that our machines (and other inanimate objects) are, but their very nature, actively resisting us as every turn. Coined by comedian Paul Jennings in 1948, the term both pokes fun at existentialism and gives us a name for all our frustrating experiences with technology. According to wikipedia, “the slogan of Resistentialism is “Les choses sont contre nous” (Things are against us).”
Resistentialism: n. The belief that inanimate objects have a natural antipathy toward human beings, and therefore it is not people who control things, but things which increasingly control people.
resistentialism (ri-zis-TEN-shul-iz-um) noun
The theory that inanimate objects demonstrate hostile behavior toward us.
[Coined by humorist Paul Jennings as a blend of the Latin res (thing) + French resister (to resist) + existentialism (a kind of philosophy).]
If you ever get a feeling that the photocopy machine can sense when you’re tense, short of time, need a document copied before an important meeting, and right then it decides to take a break, you’re not alone. Now you know the word for it. Here’s a report of scientific experiments confirming the validity of this theory.
As if to prove the point, my normally robust DSL Internet connection went bust for two hours just as I was writing this. I’m not making this up.
Resistentialism is a jocular theory to describe “seemingly spiteful behavior manifested by inanimate objects”, where objects that cause problems (like lost keys or a runaway bouncy ball) are said to exhibit a high degree of malice toward humans.
I’ve already written a few stories of a resistentialist nature, and having this new term has inspired me to write a few more. It’s just a delightful word, and one of my new favorites. So the next time my computer acts up, instead of getting upset, I’ll just say: Vive la Résistance!