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The Boston Globe

Ideas

The Word

Dude, this headline is so meta

You know what? I’d love to write a column about the word meta. I could explain how meta started off as a prefix meaning “above or beyond” (the metaphysical realm is beyond the physical one) or “at a higher level of abstraction” (metalanguage is language used to describe other language). Then I could talk about how meta broke free as a standalone adjective to mean “consciously self-referential” and has become a perfect meta-commentary on the consciously self-referential age we live in. Maybe I could even start the column with an introduction about wanting to write about the word meta.

Scratch that. Let’s try again. I could open with some pop-culture references. Like that live episode of “30 Rock” the other week, which began with the characters debating the merits of live television for their show-within-a-show. Now that was meta. So was the previous episode, in which Tina Fey as Liz Lemon compared herself to Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown, her predecessor as a single woman on a television show about a television show.

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