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Nescience

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Nescience

Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue May 28, 2013 9:55 pm

• nescience •


Pronunciation: nesh-êns, nesh-ee-êns • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. Ignorance, unawareness, lack of knowledge. 2. Agnosticism, the assumption that humans are incapable of understanding the nature of life or the universe.

Notes: Today's Good Word is derived from the adjective nescient "ignorant". Speakers of English often confuse the words ignorant and stupid. Here is a way to make it perfectly clear that we are speaking about a lack of knowledge, not an inherent flaw of intelligence—and it comes in nominal and adjectival form.

In Play: Today's word is more soothing than ignorance, less likely to ruffle feathers: "How one man could achieve such nescience in one lifetime is beyond my comprehension." The second sense above is even less common than the first, but according to the Oxford English Dictionary it was used as late as 1993 in sentences like this: "Human nescience about the universe is irreconcilable with the impulse to know, and the friction between the two has generated both science and religion."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a product of Late Latin, in particular nescientia. Nescientia is a noun built upon nescien(t)s "being ignorant", the present participle of nescire "to be ignorant". This verb contains two components: ne "not" + scire "to know". Those of you who have already spotted science lurking inside today's word are correct in your observation. Science comes from the unnegated form of the same present participle. The source of this word in Latin seems to be Proto-Indo-European skei- "to cut, split", and probably gained its Latin meaning from the assumption that knowledge—certainly scientific knowledge—is based on analysis, that is, splitting a subject up into its constituent parts. (Joe Radoszewski is far from nescient, for 'tis he who suggested today's rather arcane Good Word.)
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Re: Nescience

Postby MTC » Wed May 29, 2013 2:38 pm

For those serious about their Nescience, the Universal Church Triumphant of the Apathetic Agnostic (UCTAA) offers the following undergraduate degrees:

a. Bachelor of Apathy
b. Bachelor of Ignorance
c. Bachelor of Nescience
d. Bachelor of Agnostic Studies
e. Bachelor of Apathy & Ignorance
f. Bachelor of Apathy & Nescience
g. Bachelor of Apathetic & Agnostic Studies

And for the committed few, Masters Degrees are also available.

(http://nescience.org/iun/uctaa.html)

Rumor has it (I can't be sure) either Socrates ("All I know is that I know nothing.",) or Pyrrho of Elis is their patron saint.

Finally, (If finality exists) anticipating Slava's question, I'm not sure what this has to do with language. But then I have always lived in a zone of uncertainty.
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Re: Nescience

Postby LukeJavan8 » Wed May 29, 2013 3:31 pm

We are apathetic about the same thing we are agnostic about. Nothing more, nothing less. Personally, I may not care if there's a god or not, but that doesn't mean I don't find religion fascinating (or hilarious, occasionally). Just because we identify as apathetic agnostics does not mean we are apathetic about everything.


I liked this quote from their site.
I'd apply for ordination, but I'm too apathetic, I might
have to learn something.
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Re: Nescience

Postby Slava » Wed May 29, 2013 4:07 pm

Nescience reminds me of my father's distinction between being ignorant and stupid. Ignorant - you don't know. Stupid - you don't want to know.
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Re: Nescience

Postby Perry Lassiter » Wed May 29, 2013 9:45 pm

Hilarious site, MTC, thanks. I might shoot for another degree myself, tho I'll likely wait til winter since we have more degrees than we really need in LA during the summer.

One good link deserves another.
http://www.wittenburgdoor.com/todays-th ... ldies.html
The site has parked now, but the old stuff is still good and will give the AATC a run for its money.
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Re: Nescience

Postby David McWethy » Thu May 30, 2013 12:13 am

I realize that I’m casting a rather wide net here, in an attempt to both add my one cent (a value I place on my opinions when compared to the “two cents worth” of my betters), but—like MTC—neither can I be sure whether either Socrates or Pyrrho of Elis was the patron saint of those devout followers of the UCTAA.

During my freshman semester at Wisdom U. the church affiliation I filled out on enrollment documents indicated my implied adherence to the unquestioned edicts of the "Reorganized Abyssinian Baptist Church of the Holy Conception (South)"; the most often found quotations (other than those of the Creator, of course) found in the Church’s dogmatism (except where its dogma had been run over by the karma of the intolerant) were the profoundly enlightened words of Nahum the Vegemite; his most widely-quoted (from the Book of Adverbs, Chapter 12, Verse 3) being, of course:

“And the Lord said to Nahum: “Nahum! Thou shalt not GET RIDUCULOUS!”!


Whether the concept of the Creator (of the one reading the passage) most nearly resembled some sort of cosmic muffin or--at the other end of the spectrum--a hairy thunderer, what words could, in either case, possibly be more on point?

Slava’s contribution—frequently piquant giving a richness to the stew of human knowledge--contrasts his father's distinction between being ignorant and stupid thus: With one, you don't know; the other is proof positive of a lack of a desire to know. My father’s arrow got close enough to the mark for me when he distinguished “knowledge” as knowing that tomatoes are fruit, while “wisdom” enables one to know not to include them in a fruit salad.

Hoping I have gotten the interest of those who could rattle off at least a dozen alternatives (and also hoping that I haven’t offended anyone) I’ve been nescience for literally days, drawing a blank for the “-ophile” word meaning one who loves to, or gains great pleasure from, studying, sleuthing, and pursuing the origin of the labyrinth of limbs, branches, and twigs in the trunks of family trees.

The lack of intensity in “Genealogist” seems to miss the mark somehow, as one could be a genealogist in a drab, dreary 8-to-5 existence spent in daydreaming of bungee-jumping; I’m looking for the word that describes his or her counterpart who is so caught up in the excitement to discovering family links as to do it without pay.

Those who've known FOR YEARS the exact word I'm seeking are requested to form a line, four abreast, against the wall; your turn to be called upon will eventually come.
"The time has come," the Walrus said, "to talk of many things...."
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Re: Nescience

Postby MTC » Thu May 30, 2013 10:08 am

It's hard to know where to begin with your post, David. I feel like a man fightin' feathers in the dark. But just to pick a few, "Nahum the Vegemite" threw me for the proverbial loop. Prophet or adherent of a popular Australian vegetable paste? My fingers struggled across the keyboard until I came upon "Nathum the Elkoshite," a minor Biblical prophet. It was to this obscure figure you referred, I gather. Anyway, though still in a state of general bafflement, I did learn something about the Bible and Vegemite. So, thanks.

And then the reference to the Creator as a "cosmic muffin" and a "hairy thunderer." Irreverent, sure, but redeemed by metaphor.

And the Slavic stew thing, "the rich stew of human knowledge," another winner.

I only wish my own father had passed along so succinct a distinction between knowledge and wisdom; "'knowledge'” as knowing that tomatoes are fruit, while 'wisdom' enables one to know not to include them in a fruit salad." Had this bit of paternal advice been dispensed I could have avoided many hardships.

There's more, of course, but I've grown weary. Perhaps a generous dollop of Vegemite will revive. Anyway, thanks. I'm still bewildered but better educated at least. Keep up the good work.

Yours as ever,

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Re: Nescience

Postby call_copse » Fri May 31, 2013 6:28 am

I confess I did wonder if the avatar depicted the hairy thunderer. If so, good likeness.

As to cosmic muffins, perhaps the good Mr. McWethy has been consuming some baked according to the Alice B. Toklas recipe? J/K, a welcome element of psychedelia added to proceedings anyhow.
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Re: Nescience

Postby David McWethy » Fri May 31, 2013 11:52 am

I have to confess that if my words occasionally amuse the reader, anything mistakenly perceived as a “skill” is nothing, neither more nor less, than a side-effect of an inability to remember where I put my car keys while possessing/burdened by an uncanny facility for remembering--often with crystal clarity--events that happened a half-century ago (providing that they're bits of trivial minutiae that have absolutely no chance of ever being of value).

I remember, for example, when President Eisenhower added, by Executive Order, the words "under God" to the pledge of Allegiance. I remember which President of the United States appeared on the television program "Laugh-In" (and what his one-liner was). And, when I was writing my previous potpourri of cerebral leftovers that started out being loosely associated with “nescience”, I remembered an intellectual work from the 'late '60s called "Desiderata".

(I'll save someone the trouble, as that speck of Latin detritus--"things to be desired"--has taken root in my brain with the permanence of a "temporary" mobile home that was moved in next door. American writer Max Ehrmann wrote the poem--now in the public domain--in 1927).

It was a sappy poem (To wit: "Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence... You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here..." and "Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be [and]...keep peace with your soul”).

The prose was an instant hit, around which I-heards and urban legends almost instantly swirled:

---It was somehow connected with "Old Saint Paul's Church, Baltimore” and was dated "1692 A.D.", the year the church was built;

---Adlai Stevenson had a copy clutched in his hand when he died;

---Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek's Mr. Spock) recited the poem on his 1968 album; etc. ad nauseum.

It was a plum too ripe to go unpicked, and in 1972 National Lampoon published their own take on the matter, calling it "Deteriorata" (a mashing together of of "desiderata" and the verb “to deteriorate”?) a work of biting brilliance: "Go placidly amidst the noise and waste and remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof...You are a fluke of the universe; You have no right to be here"...and--here it comes--"Therefore, make peace with your god, whatever you perceive him to be: hairy thunderer or cosmic muffin".

The truth is out: My role in sharing that view of the Big Picture was nothing more than a spark of data retrieval that could have been performed by any hard drive and most telephones.

As to the admonition to Nahum the Vegemite: This was a frequent expression of my dear and close friend Mike Gauldin, editorial cartoonist extraordinaire, when he was once again called upon to educate ignorant journalism interns who entered college dumb and graduated dumber.

Mike died of brain cancer (whether there was a post hoc ergo propter hoc nexus remains one of life's sweet mysteries) some years back. I use it as often as possible as a tribute to him.

So the mystery is over; my meager talent is no more than remembering the words of others that I wish I'd thought of first.
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Re: Nescience

Postby MTC » Fri May 31, 2013 11:27 pm

Though you may have borrowed the raisins, David, you baked them into a rasin cake.
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Re: Nescience

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat Jun 01, 2013 11:50 am

I feel lost here. I've Googled and to no avail.
Who was Nahum the Vegemite?
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Re: Nescience

Postby MTC » Sat Jun 01, 2013 12:36 pm

David explained this, Luke:

"As to the admonition to Nahum the Vegemite: This was a frequent expression of my dear and close friend Mike Gauldin, editorial cartoonist extraordinaire, when he was once again called upon to educate ignorant journalism interns who entered college dumb and graduated dumber."

I believe the name is a takeoff on a Biblical Nathan. See my post.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Nescience

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat Jun 01, 2013 1:18 pm

Yes, but I've heard the expression elsewhere, and there
is a Biblical prophet Nahum as well as Nathan who has
no book of his own, found in the book of Samuel.
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Re: Nescience

Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Jun 01, 2013 2:45 pm

Nahum was an Alquashite by birth but became an Elkoshite later in life. This is like a Houstonite improving his life style by becoming a Dallasite.

The hometown or ancestry of Nathan, the prophet during the reign of King David, is not recorded. Other Biblical Nathans were the Nathan the Zobahite and Nathan the Jerahmeelite.
None of the above seem close enough to Vegemite to be spoof material.

From my childhood Sunday-School days: Nehemiah was noted for being very short, only as tall as a normal man’s knees. Job had a buddy named Bildad the Shuhite, humorously noted for being so short he was only as tall as the height of a normal man’s shoes. escame up to the height of a shoe.
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Re: Nescience

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sun Jun 02, 2013 10:06 pm

I got it. Nahum the Vegemite is just a spoof.
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