A New Lexicon Redux

What the word fails to say, circumstance mutely adds… The real meaning of a word is not in the dictionary; it is in the instant. ¬†Jose Ortega y Gasset,¬†Concord & Liberty, p. 13

I got a lot of positive feedback from folks on the first installment of the New Lexicon series wherein I gave a working definition of “philosophy.” I also got a regular remark concerning the use of the term “lexicon.” Granted, as words go, it is not the kind of term that will organically pop up around the kitchen table. But then neither will most of the words that will go in this series.

The reason I chose Lexicon over Dictionary is that a dictionary helps to give words that are commonly in use some kind of standardized meaning. A lexicon, on the other hand, is used to lay out possible meanings of FOREIGN WORDS.

For instance, among the late Romans, Lexicons were popular for helping to determine given words and sentence structures from Greek, Syriac, Hebrew, & Arabic. These were meant to be approximations since the ancients were not so silly as to believe there could be a one to one translation (correspondence) of terms.

Because the purpose of this particular series is to help in coming up with plain speak approximations of terms that have become so specialized as to be almost from a foreign tongue, let us call it a Lexicon rather than a dictionary.

We are not trying to standardize meanings but to use descriptive language to elucidate the diverse processes and products that arise from careful critique through engaged communication.

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2 Responses to A New Lexicon Redux

  1. Britt Holbrook says:

    I resemble that remark about “regular remarks,” unless I am mistaken!

    In any case, glad to know that a lexicon is not itself highfalutin.

    Though, come to think of it, ‘highfalutin’ may itself require an interpretation. After all, how highfalutin a word is may well depend on one’s perspective. We could even imagine old Protagoras popping his head up from the ground to deliver a lecture on how the individual is the measure of all things. From the perspective of a carrot, lots of things look highfalutin, I imagine. Cue Wittgenstein’s ghost roaring something unintelligible.

    Of course, those jokes may be too highfalutin, too. Sigh ….

    • Keith Brown says:

      Yes. I fear that ‘highfalutin’ is a rather relative term. Someone I talk with regularly likes to define the term as ‘jargony, fifty cent words.’ The Urban Dictionary says that it means ‘pretentious’ or ‘bombastic.’

      So the very effort of trying to overcome ‘highfalutin’ jargon might in fact be a pretentious endeavor.

      Certainly, many carrots and other tubers have been known to not appreciate being unrooted… why should academics be any different?

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