Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Timeless Challenge of the Language of Inventions

The challenge of finding the right words to describe innovations and inventions is timeless. The inventor needs to create a vocabulary for something that hasn't been described before. But with what words? New words made up to convey the inventor's intent? Old words that convey the concept but not the new meaning?

A 1873 issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine discussing the invention of the telegraph presents the inventor's conundrum,

"The difficulty of forming a clear conception of the subject is
increased by the fact that while we have to deal with novel and strange facts, we have also to use old words in novel and inconsistent senses."

"The Difficulty of Forming a Clear Conception" : The Telegraph, Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 366 as cited in The Information by James Gleick

No comments:

Post a Comment