Defenestration Defined
December 16, 2010 7:03 AM   Subscribe

Defenestration: we've seen posts mentioning it in the Blue, but not one dedicated to the idea in full. Even Mefi's own defenestration hasn't done a proper post on it (but please, Sir, no need to throw yourself out the window over it). The first thing to note is just how awesome the word defenestrate is, from the Latin de- (out of) + fenestra (window), which came to fame via Prague (live reenactment in July 2009; plus a nifty Lego version) and in this movie clip (actual defenestrations begin at 6.39), but history is filled with notable defenestrations (Wiki), such as the one in 1993 where "Toronto lawyer Garry Hoy fell to his death after attempting to demonstrate the strength of his office tower's windows", and of course someone has cobbled together a Top 10 List (and let's not forget the opening credits of SCTV or the fate of one John Locke). We don't hear much of it these days (although in October 2010 the news reported a story of mass self-defenestration owing to Satanism, a tale that that later was, er… thrown out the window), but defenestration has become an art landmark in San Francisco, and naturally it is classic Hollywood staple (Ten Memorable Movie Defenestrations). It has even been used at xkcd. While I have at times defenestrated objects, I am pleased to say I have never been defenestrated myself. And lastly, you have to appreciate the clever geek pun of defenestrating your computer, which doesn't mean tossing it out the window, but instead replacing Windows with an alternative OS such as Linux.
posted by bwg (52 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
No discussion of defenestration is complete without this video.
posted by Forktine at 7:10 AM on December 16, 2010


Outstanding! I will tack on this 7 minute video compilation entitled "DEFENESTRATION THE MOVIE."
posted by exogenous at 7:10 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure this is actually "a good post".... but this is an awesome post.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:10 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Defenestration of Prague; Defenestration of Prague; Defenestration of Prague.
posted by aught at 7:12 AM on December 16, 2010


Sadly, the word always makes me think of Ana Mendieta.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:12 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"You sit in here all day and play that sick, repulsive, electric twanger. I carried an M16, and you, you carry that, that, that guitar!"
posted by Forktine at 7:13 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I never noticed this was repeated.
posted by DU at 7:14 AM on December 16, 2010


Self-Flickr link: the window from the Second Defenestration of Prague.
posted by grimmelm at 7:15 AM on December 16, 2010


Just a warning: the "Top 10 List" link contains a few pictures of actual dead people.
posted by kmz at 7:16 AM on December 16, 2010


Okay werid. I was literally just discussing how some parts of queer liberation got ignored by history - There was a second high-profile raid after Stonewall at an "after hours" club called the Snakepit. (It's now a nice residential brownstone, I wonder if the new owners know it enjoyed a lengthy tenure as basically a free-standing orgy). 160 men were arrested in all, but the story is that a man called Diego, a young Argentine terrified of being deported jumped from the 2nd story window to escape.

But landed on a worst-iron fence.

They had to take him, and the fence, to St. Vincents.

It caused a big uproar at the time.
posted by The Whelk at 7:16 AM on December 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


exogenous: "Outstanding! I will tack on this 7 minute video compilation entitled "DEFENESTRATION THE MOVIE."

Er, yes, hence the 2nd link in this post.
posted by bwg at 7:17 AM on December 16, 2010


To be fair, if you are jumping out of a window there's no best-iron fence.
posted by DU at 7:17 AM on December 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


Sometimes I hate auto-correct but I'm fine with this typo.
posted by The Whelk at 7:18 AM on December 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am pleased to say I have never been defenestrated myself.

This makes no sense. If you don't defenestrate yourself, you've been pushed.
posted by three blind mice at 7:21 AM on December 16, 2010


Forktine: "No discussion of defenestration is complete without this video"

Lady Gaga, is that you?
posted by bwg at 7:22 AM on December 16, 2010


They had to take him, and the fence, to St. Vincents.

So he was defenestrated then had to be de-fence-strated?
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:27 AM on December 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


An old co-worker of mine was somewhat interested in jazz but didn't know all that much about the musicians. Somewhere he had heard about Chet Baker's death (falling from a window in Amsterdam) but had never managed to quite connect it to Baker himself, so it was this free-floating cause of death, apt to attach itself to anyone in his mind. I enjoyed very much hearing him discuss his burgeoning interest in jazz, because at various times he seemed to feel that about 40% of all twentieth-century jazz artists had fallen from Amsterdam windows. The remainder had of course died of heroin overdoses.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:33 AM on December 16, 2010


Ten Memorable Movie Defenestrations

I'm getting a malware notice on this link, but maybe that's just my office's nanny software being screwy?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:35 AM on December 16, 2010


It's weird. Despite the fact that I know what defenestration means, for some reason when I hear the word I think of blood vessels. Some sort of death involving your vascular system. Or a map of your vascular system. Or something. It's an immediate, freaky word association, and it's been happening for years.

it was therefore quite nervewracking meeting defenstration at a meetup
posted by gaspode at 7:43 AM on December 16, 2010


I first learned the word "defenestration" back when Steve Jackson Games published the first edition of their Killer rulebook. And I actually managed to kill at least one person using that method.

Ah, memories.
posted by hippybear at 7:44 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's not forget the Femmes
posted by mmrtnt at 7:47 AM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


TIL - huh, wow - how did my vocabulary get this screwed-up?

(I thought defenestration meant the removal of hair from ones' body - wow, that could have led to an awkward moment or two, depending on the other peoples understanding of the term)
posted by jkaczor at 7:47 AM on December 16, 2010


I thought defenestration meant the removal of hair from ones' body

It's easy to get mixed up. I always get confused by the "Depilation of Prague" that marked the rise of all-night shirtless dance parties back in the early 90s....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:56 AM on December 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I defenestrated a couple of teevees, damn that was fun.
posted by mareli at 7:59 AM on December 16, 2010


My freshman year of college I had a friend from back home visiting me and as we walked up to my dorm, someone threw a vacuum cleaner out the 6th-story window.

'Welcome to college!' I said. 'We learned it from the movies!'
posted by shakespeherian at 8:05 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Excellente post.

I must point out a distinct lack of Gotham City Superteam Section Eight and the very personification of defenestration, The Defenestrator.
posted by djrock3k at 8:06 AM on December 16, 2010


Don't forget the song Defenestration by Canadian death-metallers, Cryptopsy!!!
posted by ReWayne at 8:10 AM on December 16, 2010


Take away the word that seems so bewitching to those who enjoy it and one is left with murder, accidental death, suicide...and somehow that alters a lot.
posted by Postroad at 8:11 AM on December 16, 2010


Take away the word that seems so bewitching to those who enjoy it and one is left with murder, accidental death, suicide...and somehow that alters a lot.

Sorry, mom.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:24 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I vividly remember learning the word in my younger days. The only appropriate response at the time was and continues to be an astounded, almost breathless sigh of 'awesome'.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:26 AM on December 16, 2010


Roman Catholic Imperial officials claimed that the three men survived due to the mercy of angels assisting the righteousness of the Catholic cause. Protestant pamphleteers asserted that their survival had more to do with the horse excrement in which they landed than the benevolent acts of the angels.

Ha!
posted by Pendragon at 8:27 AM on December 16, 2010


It is an absolutely wonderful word. In our household, the grail is to finesse the perfect, seamless, timely and effortless use of the word in the proper context (no crafting a sentence just to work the word in) ... with a $20 reward. It's only happened twice, once involving a nimble kitty who spied something outside the just-opened dining room window during Thanksgiving dinner, and once again when the menfolk were installing an air-conditioner. Sadly, the a/c died that day. Thanks for the post, you got my vote!
posted by thinkpiece at 8:29 AM on December 16, 2010


For some odd reason, I wish that defenestrate would become like "penultimate" -- a word that has a definite meaning but is commonly misused. I don't know why that would make me happy, but it would.

an "after hours" club called the Snakepit. (It's now a nice residential brownstone, I wonder if the new owners know it enjoyed a lengthy tenure as basically a free-standing orgy).

One of the three bath houses in Chicago that existed when I moved here has been torn down to be replaced by condos. I often think about wanting to live their solely for this reason. I feel like it would be the opposite of Poltergeist -- the energy of what once was there being life-affirming (even if the place replaced was, by all reports, pretty depressing.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:15 AM on December 16, 2010


Don't forget Arthur Clarke's short short story The Defenestration of Ermintrude Inch , [full text here] out of Tales from the White Hart.
posted by Herodios at 9:34 AM on December 16, 2010


Worth noting (maybe) that latin /fenestra/ lives on without the "de-" in german /fenster/ ('window, natch"), and in English via /fenestration/, the system of openings in the surface of a building (architecture) or physiological structure (biology).

Interesting that modern German uses a term derived from Latin, whereas modern English -- a language with germanic roots that adopted many many words from Latin via Old French -- retained the Anglo Saxon (germanic) term.

There's a lesson there for us all, I think.
posted by Herodios at 9:49 AM on December 16, 2010


There's a lesson there for us all, I think.

That we should be tossing people out of windows? I agree.
posted by quin at 9:58 AM on December 16, 2010


My friend wrote a 4 part suite on the 30 Years War starting with the Defenestration of Prague and ending with the Bohemian defeat at the battle of the White Mountain. It was all done with our Lowrey organ (including built in drum machine!) and his vocals.

I think it's great, but obviously I'm biased.
posted by kakarott999 at 10:14 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


My dad wrote a great double dactyl on this topic:

Sure of his ground, the great
Czechoslovakian
Tomas G. Masaryk
Said to his son,

"Those who committed the
Defenestration of
Prague were Bohemians
Just having fun."

posted by Sidhedevil at 11:30 AM on December 16, 2010


Gloria: Do you know that sixty percent of all deaths in America are caused by guns?

Archie Bunker: Would it make you feel any better, little girl, if they was pushed out of windows?
posted by Arch_Stanton at 11:35 AM on December 16, 2010


The CIA assassination of Frank Olson doesn't make the cut?
posted by FatherDagon at 11:55 AM on December 16, 2010


Something within in me—perhaps the very blood that runs through the vessels of my hairless body—told me to check MetaFilter just now. I wasn't disappointed.

And defenestration is a fantastic word — just throwin' that out there.
posted by defenestration at 12:11 PM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


> I thought defenestration meant the removal of hair from ones' body...

That's "arch"-defenestration. Basically, the defenstratee applies duct tape to his entire naked body and nails the end of the tape to the window head jamb (or "arch") and then jumps.

The technique was rendered obsolete by the introduction of Brazilian bikini waxes.
posted by mmrtnt at 12:24 PM on December 16, 2010


> "Protestant pamphleteers asserted that their survival had more to do with the horse excrement in which they landed than the benevolent acts of the angels."

A baby fell out of the window
We thought that her head would be split
But good luck was with her that morning
She fell in a big pile of...

Shaving cream
Be nice and clean
Shave every day
and you'll always look keen.
posted by mmrtnt at 12:32 PM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Keep passing the open windows.
(that's where I learned it)
posted by cmyk at 1:30 PM on December 16, 2010


I attended a panel discussion at an SF convention many years ago, and one of the presenters announced menacingly that anyone who misbehaved would be defenestrated. Cue a roomful of nerds looking around and pointing out that the room had no windows. It was probably the highest density of people who know what "defenestration" means I've ever encountered.

And I accidentally defenestrated an air conditioner once. It was a good one, too.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:12 PM on December 16, 2010


'The missile coordinates are set specifically on you.'
posted by Anything at 3:04 PM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was defenestrated (back first) while roughhousing with my brother, and the glass was not safety glass, so I ended up losing a chunk of flesh behind my knee to a spear-like shard. Spent the next few weeks in a leg brace with several stitches in my leg and arm. Somehow it seemed less campy than it comes off here.
posted by planetkyoto at 4:40 PM on December 16, 2010


"Those who committed the
Defenestration of
Prague were Bohemians
Just having fun."


Please note that Third Defenestration of Prague, when Jan Masaryk was assassinated by the KGB in 1948, was a particularly ugly moment in 20th century Cold-War history (in a history not lacking in unpleasant moments).
posted by ovvl at 4:56 PM on December 16, 2010


The funniest defenestration has to be Giuseppe Pinelli in Dario Fo's "Accidental Death of an Anarchist."
posted by ceedee at 7:23 PM on December 16, 2010


Can Zoyd Wheeler get a what-what?
posted by morganw at 9:56 PM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mefi's own defenestration is the best picker of names ever; his name on Twitter is a single letter!
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:33 AM on December 17, 2010


And of course when considering the danger posed by the possibility of defenestration across a striking variety of cultures and times, one must recall the several Biblical accounts thereof, namely:

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, "Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him." And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted. (Acts ch. 20, vv. 7-12 ESV)

Then Jehu went to Jezreel. When Jezebel heard about it, she put on eye makeup, arranged her hair and looked out of a window. As Jehu entered the gate, she asked, “Have you come in peace, you Zimri, you murderer of your master?” He looked up at the window and called out, “Who is on my side? Who?” Two or three eunuchs looked down at him. “Throw her down!” Jehu said. So they threw her down, and some of her blood spattered the wall and the horses as they trampled her underfoot.

Jehu went in and ate and drank. “Take care of that cursed woman,” he said, “and bury her, for she was a king’s daughter.” But when they went out to bury her, they found nothing except her skull, her feet and her hands. They went back and told Jehu, who said, “This is the word of the LORD that he spoke through his servant Elijah the Tishbite: On the plot of ground at Jezreel dogs will devour Jezebel’s flesh. Jezebel’s body will be like dung on the ground in the plot at Jezreel, so that no one will be able to say, ‘This is Jezebel.’”
(2 Kings ch. 9, vv. 30-37 ESV)
posted by tivalasvegas at 8:11 PM on December 17, 2010


« Older His radio station was shut down. His medical lice...  |  Do you enjoy The Criterion Col... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments