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Ch. 6 - What's in a Name? 
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Post Ch. 6 - What's in a Name?
Ch. 6 - What's in a Name?

Please use this thread for discussing Ch. 6 - What's in a Name?


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Post Not Impressed, but
I have to admit: Chapter Six did not impress me. (I like it even less than chapter two, which was extremely dense and tedious to get through, in my opinion.) It just seemed that the author wasn't making any worthwhile additions to his book with this chapter, other than pointing out "sound symbolism" and the fact that there are phenomena in the world that still goes unnamed ("...a word for unmarried heterosexual partners").

However, the very title, "What's in a name?" got me thinking of the act of naming itself. The power that a coiner has to leave a lasting legacy on mankind



Mon Feb 11, 2008 12:49 am
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Naming is powerful, and it's a great topic...whether the chapter is comprehensible or not!!

Suzette Haden Elgin, SF writer, Linguist, created a language that "is by women, for women and expresses the perceptions of women" called Laadan (http://www.sfwa.org/members/elgin/Laadan.html) for a series of books.

One of the things that was important in this language was what she called 'encodings' -- previously un-expressed concepts...like unmarried homosexual partners. (Actually, there is no satisfactory word for unmarried life partners of any orientation...)

Here's a list of things we never knew had names:
http://www.canongate.net/Lists/Words/33 ... ouNeverKne

The urban dictionary project is also doing this kind of work...


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Mon Feb 11, 2008 8:22 pm
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Unlike tlpounds, I enjoyed chapter 6. I was up in the middle of the night, and I read the entire chapter without falling asleep. In contrast to Chapter 2, the broader concepts involved with naming and Pinker's specific examples were each interesting. It helped that this chapter was easier to read than earlier chapters, because the concepts were less abstract and I've seen other philosophical discussions about what words mean.

For example, there have been arguments going back to Plato about whether a what word like "cat" means. There a lots of individual creatures, each of which can be considered a "cat". Does that categorization have a meaning outside the human mind? The nuanced perspective of Kripke and Putnam, which Pinker describes, seemed more appealing that the Platonic or Empirical extremes.

The section Where do new words come from? was a neat topic. I've noticed various new words emerging during my lifetime, and Pinker had some solid insights about which words successfully entered the lexicon. Phonesthesia, which occur when "families of words share a teeny snatch of sound and a teeny shred of meaning", like nose-oriented words starting with "sn", was something I was vaguely aware of but hadn't read about before.

And the discussion of person's names was more satisfying than the similar chapter in Freakonomics. The following phrase caught my eye, in part because I have a nephew named Max.
Quote:
... and if you find yourself among Max, Rose, Sam, Sophie, Jake, and Sadie, you are either in an old-age home or a day-care center.



Thu Feb 21, 2008 9:56 am
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I too really enjoyed this chapter... I remember a 4th year phonetics class where we discussed phonesthesia for most of a week.

Two ideas really struck me in this chapter -- the discussion of how only some neologisms catch on, and the discussion on trends. [Neologisms that drive me crazy: 'bling' '24/7' and the internet meaning of a 'meme' (where it means any silly quiz that people pass around to each other on blogs). ]

I've been noticing that the topic of trends is becoming more and more trendy...on a real meta-level, where now instead of the discussion of what the trends are, instead we're reading books that analyze what creates trends. And it's showing up in fiction too: William Gibson's Pattern Recognition and Connie Willis' Bellwether are two that stand out.


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