The Newsletter 70 Spring 2015

Umbrella sociology

Alistair Fraser

In English, the noun umbrella comes from the Latin umbella, meaning flat-topped flower, and from umbra, meaning shade: a flower that protects. In written Chinese, however, the character used for umbrella is not a noun, but a verb, ‘to block’ (ze). While these roots share a common idea – of defence and safety – they also allude to divergent meanings. One is static and organic, the other mobile and proactive. Both represent something important about the protests.