20150410

DEFINING MOMENT

The Republic of Korea became independent in August 1948. Aurel Croissant who wrote the 'Electoral Politics in South Korea' told readers, "For South Korea, which had 6 constitutions in only 5 decades (1948-98) and in which no President had left office peacefully before democratization took place in 1987, the last 15 years (1983-98) have marked a period of unprecedented democratic continuity and political stability. Because of this, some observers already call South Korea 'the most powerful democracy in East Asia after Japan.'" 

Hong Nack Kim's 1989 'Asian Survey' report published by the University of California Press pointed out, "The results of the 13th National Assembly election on April 26 1988, stunned political observers in Korea and abroad, for many expected the ruling Democratic Justice Party (DJP) to win a comfortable majority in the unicameral (single chamber) legislature. The 2 major opposition parties, the Reunification and Democracy Party (RDP) and the Party for Peace and Democracy (PPD) continued to be hopelessly divided even after their defeat in the December 1987 presidential election and the new president, Roh Tae Woo, was gaining popular support in the country. Contrary to predictions by many observers, when the ballots were tallied the government party, for the first time since 1950, failed to capture a majority of seats in the Assembly. As a corollary of the changed constitutional status and power of the parliament under the Sixth Republic, winning a majority in the election was important both for the government party and the opposition. For the former, it would be difficult to push through key legislative programs without controlling the National Assembly. For the opposition, control of the legislature was needed in order to check the DJP government." 

In September 1988, South Korea hosted the Summer Olympics in Seoul. Whitney Houston recorded her 3rd No. 1 single, One Moment In Time for the album One Moment In Time: 1988 Summer Olympics Album. The song was written by Albert Hammond and John Bettis. In describing the word "moment", John Hesketh told The Los Angeles Times in 1991, "For most photographers, the camera lets them know when an exposure is done. I have to feel it. That's a certain Zen moment for me." According to the 1997 'American Speech', Zen moment (came from the Japanese word 'satori' meaning 'enlightenment') was defined as a "state of altered consciousness in a sport when the athlete has a sense of wholeness with the activity and consequently of confidence and success." Newsweek added in 1996, "Every athlete knows the feeling. The ball looks bigger. The game slows down. They have different names for it, of course: the zone, flow, harmony, the Zen moment." 

Alan Alda told William Safire, "You have to be acquainted with the concept of acting moment to moment. When you are playing a scene, you don't bring a predetermined attitude on stage. You don't pretend to be listening, you listen. You stay in the moment." 

In May 2005, golfer Sergio Garcia made history for losing a 6-shot lead in the final round, at the Wachovia Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina. Reminiscent of Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters at Augusta National, in which he "closed with a 78...turning a 6-shot lead into a 5-shot loss," Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press recalled, "in a tournament that became a defining moment in his career." 

Defining was said to come from the Latin word definire meaning "to terminate, to bound", with the noun definite meaning "with clear boundaries". William Safire made the observation in 1990, "The phrase is not yet in the dictionaries...Who coined defining moment, and at what moment?" Cynthia Barnhart of Barnhart Books believed, "It's not the sort of thing that gets recorded in citation files because it's a collocation – 2 words put together with a straightforward sense." 

In reviewing the Robert Redford's 1994 movie 'Quiz Show' about the 1950s TV's game show scandal, Mike Royko wrote for Tribune Media Services stated, "I'm disappointed to learn that I blindly missed a defining moment in American history...If anyone did a computer search of the phrase 'defining moment' in the general press, we would find that it has been used an estimated 1,286,543 times in the last year (1993) or two (1992). In modern journalism's socio-jargon, the only phrase even approaching 'defining moment' might be 'sea change.'" 

William Safire theorized, "Consider the difference between a moving target and a moving vehicle...It is a vehicle for moving. Not a vehicle that is moving, illuminating the linguistic landscape with the difference between a participle (a word formed from a verb) and a gerund (a verb formed to use as a noun)…

"You could argue that the moment does the defining; it is not a moment set aside for defining, because nobody knows exactly when that moment will occur. In that case, defining would be a participle. But you could also argue that it is a moment for defining, just as a moving vehicle is a vehicle for moving – with the moment itself not doing the defining – in which case defining would be a gerund." It was mentioned, "The participle form of defining, defined as 'that defines', was first used by the author James Ross in his 1773 hit, ‘The Fratricide’; however defining first appeared in gerund form in 1395 in John Wycliffe's Old Testament (Ezekiel 43:13)."

After consideration, William concluded, "I reject the participlian argument: a defining moment is not, in my view, a moment that defines anything. I say that defining moment uses defining as a gerund, in this way; a defining moment is a moment for defining a person's character, a moment for defining a policy's purpose, a moment for defining an era's quality." 

William also made the point, "This means, that moment of truth (from the Spanish phrase 'el momento de la verdad') is facing its moment of truth." Moment of truth was introduced into the English language by Ernest Hemingway in 1932 when he wrote, 'Death in the Afternoon'. Ernest Hemingway defined moment of truth as "the actual encounter between the man and the animal." It was noted "this meaning was extended within a decade (by 1942) to 'a crisis, turning point, crucial test.'"

William summed up, "With defining moment at hand, is there any need for moment of truth? I think we should hang on to it; like point of no return, from the World War II aviation term to set a point from which planes could not turn back without running out of fuel. In the synonym of confrontation, a moment of truth emphasizes the painful necessity of decision-making; a point of no return connotes decisional irrevocability; a turning point stresses the point in time at which change was made, and a defining moment centers on the expression of character, or lack thereof, in a person or organization facing a crisis."

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