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#157397 03/19/06 03:38 PM
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wsieber Offline OP
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One evening, I started musing about the meaning of the word driver, which enjoys enormous popularity nowadays, far beyond the realm of vehicles. One example is climate change, or other evolving natural phenomena. I have a suspicion that the term is often used when the writer is not sure enough to call something a cause of the observed effect. But what's the point, then?
The word is also popular in economics, where causality is notoriously difficult to assign. The direction of the drive is often not specified, as long as it is understood to be forward, or in a positive sense. Here too, the vagueness seems to be the term's main asset. In a car, at least, the driver is also responsible for steering .

#157398 03/19/06 05:09 PM
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Interesting observation. I have always wondered about English 'to drive' and its German counterparts treiben and fahren. Treiben and drive are cognates as are the less common English verb fare and fahren. There's also ride (and reiten). Like go (gehen) the various uses and meanings of these verbs is varied and irregular. Why do we, in American English, drive a car, but ride a bicycle / motorcycle / horse? In English, I can say I'm going to San Francisco and leave it up to the context whether I'm walking, driving, riding, flying, or going by public transportation. Drive has always, since Old English, had the extra meaning of to impel, and drive always reminds me, sooner or later, of Freud's sex drive (Geschlechtstrieb). There's also device drivers in computing terminology and a driver or driving wheels on locamotives. And what would golf be without drivers? Fare / fahren are related to the PIE *per / *por usually indicating forward; cf. Greek perao 'to drive right through', poros 'ford, ferry, means of passing a river', and Latin peritus 'skilled, practised, clever'.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
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I agree with your assessment, wsieber.

The use of the word "drive" implies an engine.
But the nature of the engine is incidental to the act of being driven.

It follows that "drive" "drove" and "driven" can be used as nubilous scientific jargon, and are; as in "global warming".

For example, the "driving" forth of a golf ball involves a multitude of complex mechanisms that are better or worsely effected by a most poorly understood engine.

Last edited by themilum; 03/19/06 06:12 PM.
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i don't think driver implies an engine...

wagons were 'driven' by teamsters, (not drivers) but there are drover's who drove (lead the way and directed) cattle (and other live stock) to market.

you can drive a car (engine) or be driven crazy (no engine!)
you can be a designated driver or replace the print driver software.

you can drive home a point, or take long drive off a short pier...
a driver can be a person, a piece of hardware or a software, or part of an idiom. (great thread!)

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I think "cause" is a little too one-to-one. If you say something causes something else you're mostly saying that that's the only thing. "Drive" just means that it is the most important factor. Not necessarily in terms of providing the force but possibly in terms of directing. To give an old fashioned example, you might have a 500W amplifier with a 750W power supply, but the output is being driven by a millivolt/microampere signal on the input.

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Yes, and when I whack a teeny-tiny white ball and it winds up in the pond, or one of those infernal sand pits, the driver is hardly the one to blame.

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cause = initiate

drive = an ongoing event

Example:

The closing of the isthmus of Panama by continental tectonics three million years ago re-routed the ocean currents and caused the cycle of one hundred thousand years of intense glaciation and the ten thousand years of interglacial warmth that we are undergoing now.

The continuing transfer of heat to the North by the Gulf Stream is one of the main engines that drives this cycle and keeps our brief Interglacial World balmy.

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I think Milo's got it. Beats the hell out of my clumsy attempt.

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Didn't engine have a different meaning long before the invention of the steam/infernal combustion/otherwise mechanical motor that we call an engine?



(And didn"t factory mean something like trading station???)

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http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=engine

engine
c.1300, from O.Fr. engin "skill, cleverness," also "war machine," from L. ingenium "inborn qualities, talent," from in- "in" + gen-, root of gignere "to beget, produce." At first meaning a trick or device, or any machine (especially military); sense of one that converts energy to mechanical power is 18c., especially of steam engines. Engineer "locomotive driver" is first attested 1839, Amer.Eng.

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