In matters of weather, sports, and politics, Canadians are surely comforted by Nietzsche’s pronouncement that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. (We generally ignore the entailment that what doesn’t make us stronger kills us.) Today’s word seems particularly germane in that vein.

Ah, roborant. So much there. To begin with the end, there is rant. Canadians are fond of rants, of course; we just love to complain. It’s prophylaxis for actually doing anything. Molson Canadian had a very successful commercial that was a Canadian rant. Rick Mercer is well loved for his political rants on his weekly new humour show (Canadians excel at topical humour, and most other kids of humour too; many of the funniest people in the US are Canadians).

And the robo is clearly topical: we are currently in the middle of the robocall scandal, in which voters in some ridings who were identified as likely Liberal or NDP voters were deliberately directed by automated phone calls (and sometimes by live callers) to the wrong polling stations. A rant on that topic would qualify as a robo-rant, to be sure.

Or, on the other hand, it could be a Toronto thing. Our mayor here, after all, is named Rob, and – aside from having a decade-long history as a councillor of ranting a lot and listening very little – he has done a variety of things as mayor that have led quite a lot of people to quite a lot of ranting. So perhaps roborant is a Rob-o-rant?

Or maybe it’s just a rubber ant: a bug that won’t be squished. No matter how hard you stomp, it bounces back. Or it could be a robber ant, a Robin Hood that can’t afford the inflated property prices in Toronto and has a rob a rent every month.

Nah. What roborant has in common with all those things is just that if they’re not killing us, they must be roborants, according to Nietzsche.

Would you like me to corroborate that? Well, you can look at the word corroborate, which has the same root: Latin roborare, strengthen. (Although this word is said with stress on the first syllable, it has nothing to do with robot actually; robot was invented by Czech playwright Karel Čapek from the Czech robotnik “peasant”.) So if they strengthen us, then they’re roborants.

Admittedly, I’m stretching the definition a bit. A roborant is a strengthening or restorative food, medicine, or treatment, really. Things that actually make you feel better. Like a nice big plate of poutine on a cold winter’s day. The “character-building” abuse we regularly weather from the inevitable weather and the unnecessary political stupidity don’t really count.

But anyway, who ever said Nietzsche was right about anything? We can get into all sorts of trouble from believing things just because they’re clever-sounding or provide tidy explanations.

4 responses to “roborant

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