Thursday, 25 September 2008

Hey! Don’t Throw That Word Away, I’m Using It.



It seems the people at Collins Dictionary are cleaning up the language for us. I recently read a publication on NY Times (on line) that said, in part; “Dictionary compilers at Collins have decided that the word list for the forthcoming edition of its largest volume is embrangled with words so obscure that they are linguistic recrement. Such words, they say, must be exuviated abstergently to make room for modern additions that will act as a roborant for the book."

Among the list of words to be "exuviated" (exuviate,. to shed, such as a skin or similar outer covering) is Apodeictic (pronounced A pe dik' tic, at least by me… and my spell check wants that spelling to be apodictic, but that REALLY clobbers the Greek root word). The word means "Unquestionably true by virtue of demonstration". It’s a word I like to throw around in math classes. I mentioned in my last blog on Garfield that Lincoln took time off from his study of law to learn the proofs of all the propositions in the first six books of Euclid so that he could truly understand the meaning of "demonstrate".
"I told myself, 'Lincoln, you can never make a lawyer if you do not understand what demonstrate means.' So I left my situation in Springfield, went home to my father’s house, and stayed there till I could give any proposition in the six books of Euclid at sight. I then found out what 'demonstrate' means, and went back to my law studies."


— Abraham Lincoln

quoted by William Dunham, The Mathematical Universe

The word comes from the Greek term deiktiko`s, serving to show or point out. The prefix “apo” can be confusing because it often means "away from" as in apothem, the measure in a regular polygon from the center to the midpoint of each side.. or as it is in aphelion, which lost its "o" over the years-- the point on its orbit when the Earth is farthest from the sun. For that matter apothecary and apology both have the same prefix. In the case of apodeictic, the apo means derived from; describing something for which its truth is derived from the demonstration. It is sort of like QED, but sounds REALLY impressive.

Now why would they throw away a perfectly good word?

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