Panglossian

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Dr. Goodword
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Panglossian

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Nov 02, 2020 6:36 pm

• Panglossian •


Pronunciation: pæng-glahs-i-ên, pan-glahs-i-ên • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, noun

Meaning: Like Doctor Pangloss in Voltaire's Candide: unrealistically optimistic, Pollyannaish, holding the view that this is the best of all possible worlds.

Notes: This adjective is capitalized like most adjectives based on proper names: Pollyannaish, Boswellian, Shakespearean. I know only one such adjective whose spelling allows a lower-case initial letter: Caesarean when referring to Caesar, and caesarean when referring to an operation (section). Today's adjective may be used as a noun referring to a Panglossian person, as 'a Panglossian who sees the world through rose-colored glasses'. Remember the suffix is spelled with an I, not an E.

In Play: The suffix on this word proves that it is basically an adjective: "The Great Recession of 2007 proved the arguments for an unfettered market economy to be based on Panglossian assumptions." As a noun, it refers to people: "Heinrich is a Panglossian who believes that every cloud has a silver lining."

Word History: Voltaire created the name of his character out of two Greek words: pan- "all" + glossa "tongue, language". These two meanings are connected in all languages. We can say figuratively 'the English tongue', but langue in French, yazyk in Russian, ezik in Bulgarian, jezik in Serbian, and lingua in Latin all mean both "tongue" and "language". Since Pangloss was portrayed as the greatest philosopher of his time, he must have spoken many languages. Pan- is the combining form of pas "all" (neuter genitive pantos, derived from PIE pant- "all". We find evidence of this word only in Greek and Tocharian. Greek glossa and gloxis "point" come from PIE glegh-/glogh- "thorn, point, tip", which went into the making of Serbian and Bulgarian glog "hawthorn" in the original PIE sense. (We don't have to be Panglossian to thank George Kovac for yet another Good Word that deserves more attention than it gets.)
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bbeeton
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Re: Panglossian

Postby bbeeton » Mon Nov 02, 2020 10:20 pm

I can provide one other adjectival form that isn't capitalized -- "abelian", after the Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel. It is most often seen as the modifier to "abelian groups", an area of math that didn't arise until after Abel's death, but is based solidly on his work.

During the development of the "Mathematics Subject Classification System" (MSC) https://mathscinet.ams.org/mathscinet/m ... ns2020.pdf, considerable attention was paid to whether the names of mathematicians that were closely associated with particular topics should be capitalized or not. It was decided that once a mathematician's name became consistently lowercased, that mathematician had truly "arrived". Only "abelian" is accorded that honor in the MSC, although in the mathematical literature, some other names are accepted in lowercase form, among them, "boolean" and "euclidian".

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LukeJavan8
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Re: Panglossian

Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Nov 03, 2020 1:34 pm

Most interesting.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----

tkowal
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Re: Panglossian

Postby tkowal » Wed Nov 04, 2020 1:13 pm

Does it mean that Euclid (euclidean geometry), Boole (boolean algebra), and many others never "arrived"?!

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Re: Panglossian

Postby George Kovac » Thu Nov 05, 2020 1:39 pm

Bbeeton wrote:

considerable attention was paid to whether the names of mathematicians that were closely associated with particular topics should be capitalized or not

That is a fascinating insight into the culture of mathematicians. So, the greatest honor a mathematician can have is to be decapitated? At least as an adjective.

It is better to be a brilliant mathematician because you are immortalized for your discoveries, discoveries about the highest or most significant levels of abstract thinking of which humans are capable.

Compare that honor to the brilliant doctors who identified and described illnesses. Those doctors are forever associated with the dreadful diseases they researched. Alois Alzheimer, Thomas Hodgkin, James Parkinson, Daniel Elmer Salmon (salmonella), George Huntington, Moritz Kaposi, Burrill Bernard Crohn, to name a few.
"The messy layers of human experience get pulled together, and sometimes ordered, by words." Colum McCann, But Always Meeting Ourselves, NYT 6/15/09

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Re: Panglossian

Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Nov 05, 2020 2:24 pm

All such eponyms should be "decapitated", as George Kovac puts it, once they are commonized, used in senses unrelated to their proper noun usage. In fact, the names of people have no linguistic relations; they are distinguished by being semantically empty identification labels rather than identifying lexical categories with semantic content.

The linguistic expression Boolean logic is "unaware" of the inventor of this type of logic, just as all words are synchronically unaware of their etymology. That's why becoming aware of word origins is so surprising and enjoyable to all of us.
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