• reductive •
ri-dêk-tiv • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Simplistic, oversimplified in a way that beclouds or hinders comprehension. 2. Related to reductivism, minimalism. 3. Related to reduction of any sort.
Notes: The noun for the first sense word is reductiveness. (Reductivism is a rarely used synonym of minimalism.) Today's Good Word differs from reductionist in that the reduction implied by this word is not enough to becloud the description. It is a reduction to the basic principles of an idea that clarifies it. Reductionism serves as the noun for reductionist. Both nouns come from the verb reduce.
In Play: This word is generally taken in a negative sense: "Merrill Lynch's presentation on investment opportunities was so reductive that his audience couldn't even think of a question." Here is an example today's contributor found: "There was that agitatingly reductive 'everyone who loves Mad Men is a shallow idiot' essay by Daniel Mendelsohn in the New York Review of Books" (Emily Nussbaum "Mad Men Returns", March 25, 2012, New Yorker blog).
Word History: This word was borrowed from Old French reducer "bring back, call" from Latin reducere "lead or bring back, restore" comprising re- "back" + ducere "lead", The sense of "make smaller" arose in the late 16th century in French and English, possibly from the sense of "reduce a fraction", reduce it to the lowest possible values of its numerator and denominator. Latin ducere came from Proto-Indo-European deuk- "to lead", from which we also get duke, duchy and ducat—all borrowed from French, which inherited them from Latin. Duct and aqueduct come from the same source since they lead liquids somewhere. Old English received tigan "draw (together)" from its Germanic ancestors who got it from the same PIE source. Today that word is tie. (Let's now thank George Kovac for his recommendation of today's Good Word, in hopes my treatment isn't too reductive.)