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Lexicon (Notes?)

Giorgio Buccellati – February 2022


One will find here brief statements about words or facts referred to elsewhere in the website. These comments are like short themes, which are not directly pertinent to the main thread of the argument, but are relevant in that they explain neologisms, idiosyncratic and unexpected uses of words, extraneous facts, or the like.

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The term is used in medicine to refer to the cellular structure of an organism. I borrow it to refer to the structure of a database as consisting of cells as its minimal constituents.

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The adjective is derived from the Greek cheír “hand.” It occurs in such English words as “chirography,” “chiromancy,” “chiropractor,” where the spelling appears at times as “chei…,” which is closer to the original Greek.

It is used in chemistry to indicate asymmetrical molecules, that are not superimposable. It is a metaphor that refers to the asymmetry of the hands (the same can be said of feet or shoes, of a mirror image, and the like).

I use it as a counterpart to “digital”: it refers to the whole hand as opposed to the individual fingers (“digits”), and thus it applies to any of the known pre-digital media (clay, papyrus, leather, paper, etc.). See degrees of digitality: pre-digital

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“Epistemics” refers to the organization and communication of knowledge (epistēmē “skill, knowledge”), :epistemology” refers to reflections about epistemics.

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Jump link

refer to Ted Nelson

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research (n.) (from Online Etymology Dictionary)

1570s, “act of searching closely” for a specific person or thing, from French recerche (1530s, Modern French recherche), back-formation from Old French recercher “seek out, search closely”.

The meaning “diligent scientific inquiry and investigation directed to the discovery of some fact” is attested by 1630s. The general sense of “investigations into things, the habit of making close investigations” is by 1690s. The phrase research and development for “work on a large scale toward innovation” is recorded from 1923.

re- (from Online Etymology Dictionary)

word-forming element meaning “back, back from, back to the original place;” also “again, anew, once more,” also conveying the notion of “undoing” or “backward,” etc. (see sense evolution below), c. 1200, from Old French re- and directly from Latin re- an inseparable prefix meaning “again; back; anew, against.”

Watkins (2000) describes this as a “Latin combining form conceivably from Indo-European wret-, metathetical variant of wert- “to turn.” De Vaan says the “only acceptable etymology” for it is a 2004 explanation which reconstructs a root in PIE *ure “back.”

In earliest Latin the prefix became red- before vowels and h-, a form preserved in redact, redeem, redolent, redundant, redintegrate, and, in disguise, render (v.). In some English words from French and Italian re- appears as ra- and the  following consonant is often doubled (see rally (v.1)). The many meanings in the notion of “back” give re- its broad sense-range: “a turning back; opposition; restoration to a former state; “transition to an opposite state.” From the extended senses in “again,” re- becomes “repetition of an action,” and in this sense it is extremely common as a formative element in English, applicable to any verb. OED writes that it is “impossible to attempt a complete record of all the forms resulting from its use,” and adds that “The number of these is practically infinite ....”

Often merely intensive, and in many of the older borrowings from French and Latin the precise sense of re- is forgotten, lost in secondary senses, or weakened beyond recognition, so that it has no apparent semantic content (receive, recommend, recover, reduce, recreate, refer, religion, remain, request, require). There seem to have been more such words in Middle English than after, e.g. recomfort (v.) “to comfort, console; encourage;” recourse (n.) “a process, way, course.” Recover in Middle English also could mean “obtain, win” (happiness, a kingdom, etc.) with no notion of getting something back, also “gain the upper hand, overcome; arrive at;” also consider the legal sense of recovery as “obtain (property) by judgment or legal proceedings.”

And, due to sound changes and accent shifts, re- sometimes entirely loses its identity as a prefix (rebel, relic, remnant, restive, rest (n.2) “remainder,” rally (v.1) “bring together”). In a few words it is reduced to r-, as in ransom (a doublet of redemption), rampart, etc.

It was used from Middle English in forming words from Germanic as well as Latin elements (rebuild, refill, reset, rewrite), and was used so even in Old French (regret, regard, reward, etc.).

Prefixed to a word beginning with e, re- is separated by a hyphen, as re-establish, re-estate, re-edify, etc. ; or else the second e has a dieresis over it: as, reëstablish, reëmbark, etc. The hyphen is also sometimes used to bring out emphatically the sense of repetition or iteration : as, sung and re-sung. The dieresis is not used over other vowels than e when re is prefixed : thus, reinforce, reunite, reabolish. [Century Dictionary, 1895]

- urgency Wolf 2018 Reader
knowledge On the relationship between information and knowledge see Wolf 2018 Reader.
On poetry as the antithesis of “information” see Valéry 1927 and 1939 in Valéry 1957 Oeuvres I “Words that can and cannot die” –>

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