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#24211 - 03/30/01 09:53 AM Long response, caution if modem slow
inselpeter Offline

Registered: 03/14/01
Posts: 2379
Loc: New York City
Thank you for directing me to Julian Burnside's excellent article on enantiodromic words http://www.users.bigpond.com/burnside/contradicting.htm; while it makes very clear what this class of words is, at the same time, it makes me doubt whether 'decimate' can be counted among them.

The enantiodromic is a class of polysemic words whose meanings are opposite, but not contemporaries. They display a shift of meaning to opposite meaning over time. In terms real use, however, they will not, have retained both meanings when the shift is complete; and it is to be surmised that they cannot actually be classed enantiodromic until that shift is complete.

Burnside uses another term, amphibolous, to describe the class of polysemic words whose opposite meanings are contemporaries, words such as: fast, quite, to sanction, and to weather. But while each may have to meanings, only one of these is meant in any given occurrence. The irony of paradox is not inherent in the use, but from the distance of linguistic investigation.

Finally, in our March 24 exchange, you objected to an argument which you had mistakenly attributed to me. In one responses, you wrote

think about how decimate would have been used in (A) and (B) and how the meanings would have become blurred. 1856 J. H. Newman Callista The population is prostrated by+pestilence, and by the decimation which their riot brought upon them. What percentage do you suppose was meant here? we can't know, out of context, but it was certainly not 10%.

and in a later one

inselp, I'm afraid I don't quite *get your point. are you saying you have a need to know the actual percentage? I don't think you are, but. >the result of a specific multiple what does this mean?

Let me be clear, the point isn't one-upmanship. What interests me, here, is the logic of your responses. Superficially, the position attributed to me is ludicrous and objectionable on that ground. Fundamentally, however, you are pointing out a perceived fallacy in my argument. If the meaning shift in question is from ten percent to a percentage greater than ten percent, it is not the logical shift of a meaning to its opposite, but a shift in degree. This is what I intended when I used the word "to extrapolate."

In its current common usage, "to decimate" is to destroy utterly. But "to destroy utterly" is not the opposite of "to destroy 10%." Further, we do not consider its original meaning when we here its common use-unless, as wwh, it is to point out an error.

I maintain, however, that it is at least possible that, at one point in the career of its development, the irony of "to decimate" may have been recognized when it was used to mean "to destroy utterly." In that case, both meanings would inherent at one and the same time. And in that case, it is neither a word having more than one independent meanings at once, nor a word having opposite meanings but not in a single context, nor a word whose career carries it from one sense to its opposite.

Then, if my conjecture at the top of the last paragraph is correct, "to decimate" would have, at least at one point in its history, have belonged to another class of words altogether.

This is Binky, wishing you a pleasant from the rings of Saturn, signing off.

#24212 - 07/23/01 10:43 AM Re: Epidemic?
wwh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 13858
I am glad to see that Anu is in favor of retaining the distinction between "epidemic" and "epizo§tic".

#24213 - 07/23/01 12:39 PM autopsy, epidemic
Alex Williams Offline

Registered: 01/05/01
Posts: 1814
Loc: Spam Factory
I realize I am joining this party rather late, but here goes.

When I was in medical school, we had several lectures in forensic pathology given by one of the state medical examiners, Dr. Davis. He's pointed out that
"autopsy" could mean "to see with one's own eyes" or it could mean "to see oneself." That is (in the latter case), for one human being to examine the corpse of another human being, they get a blimpse of their own anatomy and their own mortality.

"Epidemic" literally means "upon the people," so a disease upon the animals would be "epizootic," although as a new word to me it sounds like an adjective or at best a geologic era. I wonder if there were a disease that tended to spread among animals every 4 years, would it be an "episodic epizootic"? har har har har.

#24214 - 07/23/01 01:16 PM Re: autopsy, epidemic
wwh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 13858
It is regrettable that so few people understand the medical advances that have resulted from discoveries made at autopsy. Unfortunately I know of no book that tells about them. But for instance, my mother's mother died of a pulmonary artery infarct because it was not known in 1891 that it was a very bad idea to keep women in bed many days after childbirth. Because no autopsy was done, the cause of my grandmother's death could not be understood, and the guesses as to the cause were wildly inaccurate.Only fifty years later when autopsies revealed the emboli blocking the right side of the heart were discovered could the causative factors be understood, and early ambulation be insisted on, with the saving of a very large number of mothers. Many other such discoveries have saved countless lives, so remember this if you are ever asked to give permission for an autopsy.

#24215 - 07/24/01 12:38 AM Re: autopsy, epidemic
Bingley Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/09/00
Posts: 3065
Loc: Jakarta
Dr. Bill, you have delighted us all with your humour and medical titbits ever since you joined us here. If your health permits, why don't you write such a book?


#24216 - 07/24/01 09:16 AM Re: autopsy, epidemic
wwh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 13858
Dear Bingley: you are much too kind. My writing talents are very small. In fact, not a jest, one of the med school profs told me he would approve my graduation only on the proviso that I solemnly swore never to write for publication. He subsequently became the most hightly regarded editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, which proves his qualification to judge the paper I wrote in my Junior year.
And it would really take a really top-notch pathologist to write such a book.

#24217 - 07/24/01 08:05 PM Re: autopsy, epidemic
of troy Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/17/00
Posts: 5400
Loc: rego park
there was an article in the NYer some 3 or 4 months ago about autopsies-- saying how much they had fallen out of favor, and how vital they still are. when one of my elderly first cousins died some years ago, she left her body to Bellevue hospital-- for 2 reasons, 1) a frugal woman all her life, she appreciated that she would be buried one year later, at no cost to her family..and 2) when she was younger, she wished to go to medical school. she was discouraged, and shunted into nursing. she loved nursing, but she spoke gleefully of her plans.. she might not do it till she was dead-- but she was going to get into Bellevue's medical school!

I know WOW will understand that we all though it marvelous.. the irish have always been accuse of having happy songs of death, and sad songs of love. We had a memorial the week she died, and every was thrilled that Annie was off to medical school at the age of 89!

my other obsession

#24218 - 07/24/01 11:29 PM Re: autopsy, epidemic
WhitmanO'Neill Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/13/01
Posts: 4189
Loc: Rio Grande, Cape May County, N...
So if a pandemic was decimating large numbers of anthropomorphs and/or theriomorphs/zoomorps it would be called a......? Oh, lord...am I gonna get it now!

#24219 - 07/25/01 11:36 AM Re: autopsy, epidemic
belMarduk Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/28/00
Posts: 2888
Actually, the importance of autopsies is quite evident in the books by author Kathy Reichs. She is a well-known forensic anthropologist who has written a couple of murder mystery novels. There was also a documentary on her work (the forensics not the writing) a few months ago.

Take a gander at Death Du Jour - not for the faint of heart as she is quite detailed in her descriptions. It is amazing what autopsies will reveal.

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