u_top picture

From the Word Fugitives archive...

Terminological miscues

Please note: This page is a read-only archive of messages posted in the Word Fugitives conference of Post & Riposte.


TOP | Post | Reply | Reply/Quote | Email Reply | Delete | Edit
Previous | Next | Previous Topic | Next Topic
Topic: 4) Terminological miscues (1 of 2), Read 87 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Barbara Wallraff (msgrammar@theatlantic.com)
Date: Wednesday, December 16, 1998 11:12 AM

Julian Burnside, of Melbourne, Australia; Judy Lewis; and Heidi Schroeder, of Browns Valley, California, write: "We need a word for scientific words that are inaccurate and/or misleading.

"For example, 'schizophrenia' is probably a bad name for the mental disorder it describes. 'Schizo' means, simply, 'to split.' This word is the basis of 'schism' and 'schist,' and is also the foundation (rightly or wrongly) for 'schizophrenia.' But schizophrenia is NOT a split personality -- NOT being of two minds. Using the term in that manner promotes ignorance concerning a serious illness.

"Sometimes scientific expressions are OK when coined but are then misused in popular use -- e.g., 'quantum leap,' which is used as meaning a very great move, but originally means the smallest possible shift; and 'black hole,' which is used to mean a void, but properly refers to the consequence of the presence of an enormous mass."

TOP | Post | Reply | Reply/Quote | Email Reply | Delete | Edit
Previous | Next | Previous Topic | Next Topic
Topic: 4) Terminological miscues (2 of 2), Read 65 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: A. Prosper (prospero@uti.com)
Date: Friday, January 01, 1999 05:50 PM

You make a good point about scientific terms that continue in use despite quantum leaps (sorry) in their meaning. The term, schizophrenia, was coined in the earlier part of this century by Eugen Bleuler to signify what was then theorized as being a split between between language and thought, and, hence, a seeming split in personality. I don't know if theories of split or multiple personality existed then.

Science runs into the problem of the observer describing what is seen from the external position, but being taken as an internal description. Dr. Bleuler simply described what he saw as best he could. It was only a scientific guess.

Today as it is currently understood, "fragmentation" would be a better description of the schizophrenic condition, A far more complex situation with large disruptions between sensory, mental, and other processes theorized. Indeed, schizophrenia, as such, is not considered likely to be a singular condition.
The term is still used, but it is believed that it is little better than a garbage pail for a large variety of phenomena. Perhaps, when science knows more the term will be dropped altogether. So much for logical positivism.

Incidently, my peeve is strange and awkward word construction. I sense something sinister about the intent of these words. People trying to invent intelligence, or something like that. "Terminological." Now, isn't that a mouth full of rocks. Is it really necessary to resort to such obfuscation? The "-ological" suffix is much overused, I think, and I wonder what's going on. Comments?


Return to the
Court Record index.

Return to the Word Fugitives main page.

Copyright © 1999 by The Atlantic Monthly Company.
Cover Atlantic Unbound The Atlantic Monthly Post & Riposte Atlantic Store Search