The Equation

The Equation

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lexical dark matter

Here's an interesting read from the New York Times about diction and dictionaries.

My favorite part about the article is the "dark matter" analogy the author uses to describe words that exist but aren't codified in our compendia of words. I love the use of a scientific analogy to help explain the humanities; it is my own opinion that the aloofness to science that some scholars in the humanities pride themselves on blinds them to some interesting concepts, such as this lexical dark matter. At the very least the analogy works perfectly for the article.

The other interesting approach in the article, which has been used in numerous sciences - from astrobiology to nucleosynthesis - is the spin of the "anthropic principle", what might in this case be called the lexical principle: that creating a word is all that is necessary to make it a word, though whether anyone else can grasp the meaning of it is another matter.

Perhaps we really have been too hard on George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, after all; perhaps they were true lexical pioneers, rather than mumbumbling, malapropical fools.

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