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20 Juni 2005 @ 16:32
Words as arguments  

Three recent Language Log posts discuss the notion of etymology as argument—a rhetorical device that permits one to say things like, "The Greek word for 'forgive' is derived from a word meaning 'exhale'; therefore, forgiveness is as natural and as necessary as exhaling":

It seems to me that these etymological 'arguments' (which are really just scholarly-sounding tricks for getting one's audience to accept whatever metaphor one wishes to foist upon them) are part of a larger family of devices that turn upon irrelevant linguistic facts, factoids, or fiats:

etymology as argument
See the Language Log posts cited above, but also the following examples from the OED, s.v. etymon ("the 'true' literal sense of a word according to its origin"):
  • "Logic is nothing more than a knowledge of words, as the Greek etymon implies" (Charles Lamb, letter to Thomas Manning, a. 1834).
  • "Peace denominates Jerusalem, 'tis the etymon of the word" (Richard Clerke, in Charles Spurgeon's Treasury of David, a. 1634).
orthography as argument
Example: "There is no i in team." (motivational slogan)
(Proposed revision for caffeine fiends: "75% of team is tea.")
heterography as argument
Example: "Welcome to our ool. Notice there is no P in it. Please keep it that way." (sign exhorting swimmers not to micturate in the ool)
(Proposed revision for people with fancier ools: "Welcome to our cina. Notice there is no pis in it....")
homophony as argument
Example: le nom du père/le non du père (Lacanian paronomasia meaning... er... something or other to do with a phallus)
etymology, orthography, heterography, and homophony as one big rhetorical juggernaut
Example: Derrida's différance, which differs from différence orthographically but not phonetically, and which carries with it all the polysemy of the Latin differre, and generally means whatever Humpty Dumpty says it does
(Anonym) on 21. Marts, 2013 08:17 (UTC)
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siubiksiubik on 6. Januar, 2014 00:31 (UTC)
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