Perhaps you have sensed my frustration, almost anger, at finding myself stranded on the platform of a linguistic ghost town train station – without water. Is it acceptable, even valid, that the meaning of a word, ephemeron in this case, be continually so reconstituted that it becomes effectively nebulous and no longer has defining value? If we were to accept, for example, that ephemera and detritus were synonymous, or practically so, what useful linguistic purpose does that serve?
The difference between these two words, Bucky Fuller, who had his own slippery way with word usage, be damned; as far as I am concerned is that ephemera has a time element, a remembrance value, an almost intangible attraction, whereas detritus just lays there, sometimes casting its noxious stench onto clear thinking, its only reminder being that we wish it to be in the past – not that I have anything against detritus.
Does the institution collect ephemera or detritus? When the institution is no longer extant, will its residue be ephemera(l) or detrital?
It is all suspect, isn’t it? Very subjective. I could just as easily make a case for detritus having remembrance value. Perhaps both words have been overly burnished with the ever suspect auratic glace’.
So, my valued reader, this is left to you. Ephemera(l) institution/detrital institution. It is of little consequence to me. And given that I have spent way more time on this language conundrum than I ever wanted to, I, personally, am moving on.