Brainfood: Words-worth

SYSTEM

by
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Few words add such marketing glamour as 'system'. Shampoo has been elevated to a 'hair care system', while a sharp blade and some soap has become a 'shaving system'. The idea is to confer technological sophistication on the mundane. But 'system' is not, in origin, a technological word.

It's from the Greek sustema, meaning anything from a government to a musical interval. When it appeared in English in the early 17th century, it meant a linked group of objects, ideas or people. A set of beliefs can be 'a system'. 'The System' is society as a whole, especially if you're against it. The first scientific system was the solar system, a term coined by philosopher John Locke in 1704. Every technological system followed from that, from the railway network to broadcasting. The first computer 'operating system' appeared in 1961, closely followed by the first 'system crash'.

But systems need not be complicated: the 'vitality eating system' promoted by the Flour Advisory Service seems to consist largely of bread.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

A leadership thought: Treat your colleagues like customers

One minute briefing: Create a platform where others can see their success, says AVEVA CEO...

The ignominious death of Gordon Gekko

Profit at all costs is a defunct philosophy, and purpose a corporate superpower, argues this...

Gender bias is kept alive by those who think it is dead

Research: Greater representation of women does not automatically lead to equal treatment.

What I learned leading a Syrian bank through a civil war

Louai Al Roumani was CFO of Syria's largest private retail bank when the conflict broke...

Martin Sorrell: “There’s something about the unfairness of it that drives me”

EXCLUSIVE: The agency juggernaut on bouncing back, what he would do with WPP and why...

The 10 values that will matter most after COVID-19

According to a survey of Management Today readers.