12.0290 vocabularies, etymology

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Sat, 7 Nov 1998 03:24:38 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 290.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 16:22:56 -0500 (EST)
From: Francois Lachance <lachance@chass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Re: 12.0274 vocabularies, etymology


Patricia Galloway has provoked me to rethink a certain formulation.

> I take issue with Francois! The singular never becomes repetitive over
> time except when you turn the binoculars backward.

I had to go back and check what I had written. I had indeed used the
verb "to become"

>Amazing how the singular becomes repetitive over time.

Too bad I hadn't written "is" instead of "becomes" and invoked a
definitional versus a developmental stance. For indeed some of the
unique patterns accessible to analysis with computing involve the
traces of particular beings living through particular periods and
composing a corpus of text (One thinks of the "music" of Cicero in the
orations; the evidence gathered regarding Jane Austen's novels, each
one centre thematically centred on a particular anatomical focus.) In
short, a body leaves traces through repetition and each body is,
although composite, singular. There are two temporalities here:
the one that holds the composite elements together as a singular body
the other that picks out the presence of that body's effects.

Of course I could also plead that "the singular" refers to the
abstract concept and not a particular singularity. I could try to
work out the nuance between "repeated" and "repetitive". But I'm
intrigued by the analogy (metaphor?) of the backwards binoculars as an
emblem of the humanist's art and as a counterpart to the computer's

However I do detect some mischevious displacement: an adverb turned
adjective not so subtly introducing a an element of indeterminacy: is
that one set of binoculars or are there more backward binoculars.

singularly regressive,


"reading is not required; re-reading is a must"

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