Trend Watch

Stewart: 'You Have This Idea of Creating People as a Monolith'

The word initially meant 'a single great stone often in the form of an obelisk or column'


Lookups for monolith increased sharply on November 17th, 2016, after Jon Stewart used the word repeatedly, during an interview with Charlie Rose on CBS.

”In the liberal community, you hate this idea of creating people as a monolith. Don’t look at Muslims as a monolith. They are the individuals and it would be ignorance. But everybody who voted for Trump is a monolith, is a racist. That hypocrisy is also real in our country.”
CBSnews.com, 17 Nov. 2016

monolith

'Monolith' originally meant “a single great stone often in the form of an obelisk or column," but can be used figuratively to describe "a single unified powerful or influential force."

Stewart was employing one of the more recent and figurative senses of monolith. The word appears to have entered the English language in the early 19th century, and initially referred to “a single great stone often in the form of an obelisk or column.”

3dly, A Monolith, six feet high; it represents Ramses the Great (Sesostris), seated upon a throne between Amon-Ra and Neith, of rose granite, and is a perfect work.
Caledonian Mercury, 1 Nov. 1824

The sense of the word currently being looked for, we presume, is the one defined as “an organized whole that acts as a single unified powerful or influential force”; this sense dates from the late 19th century.

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