(“)The Same As (” :) Tautology


Well here’s something I don’t see in every walk through the dictionary:


Unknown! This just hasn’t happened yet! And the very best part is the word I was actually looking up…


Ha! So conundrum is, you know, a conundrum. I checked on whether our etymological understanding has advanced since 1934–it hasn’t, though I saw several posts devoted to the strange fact that not even the OED knows its origins. There’s agreement, though, about why it became popular, and you can just smell how much the etymologists love the reason. Here’s my favorite phrasing (from the Online Etymology Dictionary): “The sort of ponderous pseudo-Latin word that was once the height of humor in learned circles.”
It was supposed to sound like Latin! I love that.
And it got me thinking again about those words that are what they are (autological, like “ridonkulous“) and how “conundrum” is, thus, that, and then, what the difference would be between autological and tautological. And friends, I am here to tell you, it depends on what kind of tautology you want to talk about…in digging into “tautology” here in 2015, I realized my own fuzzy conflation of how I learned about tautologies as a philosophy student (“this very rigorous, useful idea, having to do with truth tables”) and how they are used outside propositional logic, in, say, grammar or rhetoric (as a sign of Full of Shitness), so I’m going to keep calling these words autological, and occasionally using “tautological” derisively and occasionally with wonder and probably never just right, and wheeeee that’s how language changes!  Let’s see what 1934 says anyway, because that’s what we do around here.


Yes, nice and simple and from grammar/rhetoric land, too broad to be really useful at all. And then there’s this:


Which is just handy to know, I’d say, and a funny connection between “autological” and “tautological” (a borderline autological connection, because it means the same and means “the same” and… turtles all the way down). But here’s the fun fun fun part:


Fun fun fun because fun in three distinct ways: fun like “sounds like a Star Wars race!” … fun like “sometimes, 1934 Webster’s gets so deep and I don’t know if it means to… ‘substantially one (with)’?!?” …and fun like “now I know there is such a thing as a ‘strengthened synonym’…does that mean it’s like x (‘homoousian’) but more intensely x than x? Because that’s amazing.”

Can you take more fun? Let’s see about “substantially one (with).”


I don’t think the second, capitalized entry is going to come up in my conversations a lot but you better be ready for me to use that first one, as I will be ready for you.

Ok! Today’s dictionary adventure was also more-than-usually rich with random things that caught my eye and that I’d like to share.


We get our own word! Why?? I picture a post-apocalyptic brothel with a flashing sign: “ConsolatRick’s,” run by Rick the scuzzy cruel Latin scholar.


The picture is cute and the entry is cute. Enjoy.



In 1934, it was common to call people savages (we know this, but I don’t think we see it in print enough to keep hold of it). I wonder about the applesy/orangesy non-parallelism of “clear-skinned” and “black” here…why not “white,’ or “dark-skinned,” and why “clear” instead of “light”? And I wonder about the range of people to whom both words applied. And…an individual’s face tattoo made it in here! What a world…conundrous as it is wondrous.

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