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Overlord syndrome

Strange news from the world of videogames, where the heads of development studio Infinity Ward, makers of the $1bn-grossing Modern Warfare 2, have been sacked by the studio’s parent company, Activision. In section 18 of an SEC filing, Activision noted:

The Company is concluding an internal human resources inquiry into breaches of contract and insubordination by two senior employees at Infinity Ward. This matter is expected to involve the departure of key personnel and litigation.

Insubordination is a curious term to add to the straightforward (and, one would have thought, sufficient if true) “breaches of contract”. If the OED is to be believed, it was introduced into English by Edmund Burke in 1790, when he refers to “all the disorders arising from idleness, luxury, dissipation, and insubordination” among soldiers. It has since become possible, of course, to use insubordination in a non-military context, to mean general rebelliousness or defiance of authority. But my own feeling is that anyone who is not actually a military commander, yet complains of insubordination among his hierarchical inferiors, must be a bit of a windfucker. ((This delightful term was apparently current only between 1602 and 1616, according to the HTOED: (n.) Inferior person 06 as abused.)) Either that, or he has been playing too many military-entertainment simulators and can no longer tell fantasy from reality?

  1. 1  Robert Hanks  March 3, 2010, 12:17 pm 

    Before that, it was a term for the kestrel (cf. the much wimpier “windhover”, of G. Manley Hopkins fame). The OED offers this citation:

    1599 NASHE Lenten Stuffe 49 The kistrilles or windfuckers that filling themselues with winde, fly against the winde euermore.

  2. 2  Steven  March 3, 2010, 12:20 pm 

    Aha, thanks!

  3. 3  Peter Robins  March 3, 2010, 12:52 pm 

    You also see the bird called a “windsucker”. Always wondered which way round the f’s-for-long-s’s mistake went. There’s a fantastic use of the term in Thomas Nashe’s attack on Gabriel Harvey – same piece in which he accuses him of being “got in carnal copulation with an inkbottle”.

  4. 4  KB Player  March 3, 2010, 1:01 pm 

    The windhover is a falcon, not a kestrel.

    I caught this morning morning’s minion,
    Kingdom of daylight’s dauphin,
    Dapple-dawn-drawn falcon,
    In his riding of the rolling level
    Underneath him steady air, and striding
    High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
    In his ecstasy!

    However, the term windfucker is an accurate description for a kestrel, as can be seen in this video:-

  5. 5  KB Player  March 3, 2010, 1:16 pm 

    Scrub my remarks about the falcon vs. kestrel. Further research (ie googling) shows that the kestrel is a kind of falcon and its common name is “windhover”.

    Still, “windfucker” is more descriptive than “windhover” as it gets the movement of the body and wings.

  6. 6  hardindr  March 4, 2010, 11:33 am

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