Post As Past

I’m always looking for and thinking about words that pertain to the past. We have thousands of them along with hundreds of phrases and images that depict the movement of time from living to lived.

I’ll pick one for today—post. Stay with me and let’s explore the word just a bit.

If you’re a sports fan, you may recognize this word immediately. Post-game interview or show. It’s the slice of the present lodged in-between an event that is now over and gone (the past) and yet is somehow not quite fully of the present. The post-game activity is a suspension dividing the completed past from the present losing its completeness to the past. When you think of the Latin phrase “ex post facto”, which means “from a thing done afterward”, the post-game interview or show is closely tied to the classic usage. That feels rather surprising.

Increasingly, however, we see “post” used in a different way. Here I’m thinking less about sports and more about current events, politics, culture, society, and the like. Post-modern. Post-apocolyptic. Post-racial. Post-partisan. The use of this sort of “post” indicates more about a shift that involves the present breaking from the past and heading toward the future. It’s not at all the same thing as post-game.

I’ve also noticed that in the current-event usage of the word, the person who invokes it may often be asserting far beyond his or her actual ability to know anything about the future. They simply glue the word “post” onto their remarks as a badge of credibility and authority, as if somehow glimpsing something important that the rest of us can’t see. Toward that end, when you hear such a use of “post”, watch out. A yellow light is flashing. Caution, blowhard ahead.

Post as past. You’ll see it in a lot of places when you take a moment to realize it. Posterior. Postpone. Posterity. Post Toasties! Wow, now that’s a really long time ago.

All the best, Dan