For the record, rollerbladers in the early days—around the same time as what B Love was talking about—were doing skateboarding-style disasters on ramps too. Australian vert rollerblader Cesar Mora used to be known for doing 540 disasters 360-in back in the day. Unfortunately the only clip I was able to find online (cir. 1997) was this 540 disaster 180-in:
So that, for the most part, is that.
But I’d also like to say a few things about the linguistics of ‘disasters,’ so, as always, please bear with me.
Sometimes words have more than one meaning. When they do, linguists call it “polysemy” (from the Latin where “poly” means “many” and “sem” or “semy” means “significations” or “meanings”. So polysemy literally means “many meanings”).
Now, there’s a special branch of polysemous words called “contranyms”. A contranym is a word that has at least two meanings that are semantically opposite.
For example, the word “sanction” can mean either A) to forbid, or B) to allow. Allowing something and forbidding something are opposites and so “sanction” is a contranym.
Other contranyms include “to dust” (which can mean “to put a little bit on” or “to take a little bit off”); “to cleave” (which can either mean “to bring together” or “to cut or separate apart”); and “to weather” (which can mean either “to endure” or “to wear away” as in erosion).
A good example of a contranym commonly used in rollerblading language is the verb “to buckle.” In one sense, “to buckle” can mean “to fasten or to fix together” and in another it can mean “to bend and then break apart.”
As far as I can tell, ‘disaster’ is the only other contranym commonly used in rollerblading — but it’s a very special kind of contranym.
In one sense, a disaster is a kind of catastrophe where people die or get broke off. In another sense—the rollerblading sense -— it means to AVOID a catastrophe by risking life and limb and pulling off a badass trick.
The fascinating thing about “disaster” in the rollerblading sense is that it appears to be the only trick named for the absence of its own consequence. In other words, TO DO a disaster is TO AVOID a disaster.
Every other trick name attests to the actual presence of the thing being described. For instance, when you tell your homie (correct spelling this time, Jesse Meyers!) that you did a royale, you’re positively referring to an event that actually happened.
Disaster is just the opposite.
When a disaster happens in rollerblading, a “disaster” was averted (or, if you like, overcome). If you think about it, it’s something of a paradox and very certainly a contradiction. Yet we have no trouble at all discerning the difference.
So the take-home message here is that contradictions are something that can be deeply embedded in rollerblading language, and yet they’re something we live and roll with it all the time.
In a few weeks I’ll post an article dealing with the massive problems and confusion caused by this and other contradictions (elsewhere) in rollerblading language, and I’ll try to say a thing or two about the way contradictions have seeped their way not only into our language but also into our minds.
Look for the next regular post this coming Wednesday.
And once again, thanks for reading!