January 24, 2005
Evil Dictionaries and Money, Part 1
he genuine purpose of a dictionary is to preserve distinctions despite public misuse.
A good dictionary functions as a ruler, as a constant unit of measurement for meanings to help people acquire a flexibility and subtlety of language and thought, for deeper and common communications and expressions.
A good dictionary warns against such misuse.
An evil dictionary, on the other hand, will descend to popular misusages, even to the point of deleting the original, correct usages. By evil, I mean that which breaks down structures and hierarchies that lead to greater freedom of thought, expression, and awareness.
Which word is correct usage for the following sentence? "We expect his continual/continuous presence in class this month."
"Continual" means repeated at intervals while "continuous" means non-stop. Therefore, continuous presence would mean he never goes home, night or day. This is a distinction worth preserving, but evil dictionaries will blur the distinction, calling them synonyms.
Evil dictionaries allow misusages to flourish and blur distinctions that are freeing. We live in an age that throws out hierarchies just for being hierarchies. Thus, many liberating structures are being reduced to rubble.
Manipulators of power want to blur the language, to keep people from using language specifically, clearly, and effectively because such people are easy to control. Clear and distinct definitions clarify reality, while unclear and ambiguous usage and misusage blur reality and keep people from seeing what is really going on. ("It depends on what the meaning of is is.")
In other words, if I can get a blurred meaning into your imagination, you will not see past that implanted meaning. I can then get away with misdirection in reality, while you are blinded by the implant.
Let me give a politically manipulative example that you can use to immediately classify your dictionary. Look up the word inflation in its economic sense. If the definition given is only that inflation is "a general rise in prices," then you have an evil dictionary. If your dictionary defines inflation as "an increase in the supply of currency that causes prices to rise", then you have a good dictionary.
If your dictionary supplies both without warning you that the first usage is a popular misuse, then you have a partially evil dictionary.You see, there is a profound difference between the two definitions. Inflation is not "rising prices." Inflation causes prices to rise.
There are people who want you to believe that inflation is merely rising prices in order to disguise the fact that it is the government or its appointed designees who "inflate the currency supply" (i.e., inject more money into the economy making the value of all money to go down and thus prices to rise).
If you never knew that governments cause rising prices by printing up more money (to finance wars, foreign aid, parties), then congratulations. You have been taken in by a con game that has been going on as long as there have been governments.
Study Roman history to see how the Caesars did it. Have you ever wondered why so many old coins have holes in them? Once the treasury got low with all the big parties, Caligula, say, would require that the money (gold and silver coins) have their centers punched out so that the metal could be melted down and more coins could be made. And a law would be passed requiring citizens to use the holed coins as if they still contained the full value of silver or gold of those without holes.
Of course, such laws failed, since the holed coins would immediately be devalued by merchants who raised their prices to account for the difference. One of the reasons why Greek and Roman history and the Greek and Latin languages are being removed from high school and college curriculums is that fewer students will stumble upon such truths. A deep study of Greek and Roman history and politics reveals starkly uncomfortable truths.
Of course, a good dictionary should supply the technical definitions as well as the popular reductions or alterations, but it should also make clear when there is a possible problem or potential confusion. That's one reason I like the Oxford English Dictionary (which gives the complete history of usage) and the Oxford Amercian Dictionary (which for example warns one not to confuse Continual with Continuous). (Of course, as you have seen with the link above, you can't trust AskOxford.Com, a terrible irony.)
But the main point I am making is that a dictionary's primary purpose should be to preserve real distinctions so that everyone has access to those distinctions. As you know, any elite group wishing to alienate the majority and consolidate power construct a technical language that allows them to talk above the heads of the majority.
In essence, good dictionaries do not become tools of such groups to offer only popular definitions while allowing the finer distinctions to slip away. Stay tuned. In Evil Dictionaries and Money, Part 2, I will get into stuff so serious, you can only laugh.
Here are some interesting dictionaries for something to do during your dotage:
- The Devil's Dictionary
- Grandiloquent Dictionary
- Symbols Encyclopedia
- The Superheroes Dictionary
- Worthless Word of the Day
- Sex Dictionary
- The New Hackers? Dictionary
- Aaaugh!: The Foolish Dictionary Online
- The SubGenius Dictionary of the Gods
- Official Dictionary of the National Bondage Club of America
- The Gargish Dictionary
- Cavers? Slang Dictionary
- Dictionary of Unusual and Weird Words
- Dictionary of Winds
- Double-Tounged Word Wrester
- The Alternative Dictionaries
- Catalog of Dictionary Songs
- Dictionary of Custom License Plate Terms
- Dictionary of Gestures, Signs, and Body Language Cues
- The Fictionary of Witty Words
- Dictionary of English Phonesthemes
- The Skeptics Dictionary
- Dictionary of All-Consonant Words
- Dictionary of All-Vowel Words
*** MAGNET, n. Something acted upon by magnetism.
MAGNETISM, n. Something acting upon a magnet.
The two definitions immediately foregoing are condensed from the works of one thousand eminent scientists, who have illuminated the subject with a great white light, to the inexpressible advancement of human knowledge. The Devil's Dictionary
Posted by witnit at January 24, 2005 7:16 AM