Thursday, September 4, 2008

Do we keep track of what our words mean

One of my professors LOVES the word "sophistication" and tells us that we aren't "sophisticated" enough if we don't agree with his views. This led me to track down the origins of the word and here they are:

Word Origin:
c.1400, "use or employment of sophistry," from M.L. sophisticationem (nom. sophisticatio), from sophisticare "adulterate, cheat quibble," from L. sophisticus "of sophists," from Gk. sophistikos "of or pertaining to a sophist," from sophistes "a wise man, master, teacher" (see sophist). Meaning "wordly wisdom, refinement, discrimination" is attested from 1850; sophisticated (of persons) "worldly wise, discriminating, refined" is attested from 1895.

Sophistry: 1340, from O.Fr. sophistrie, from M.L. sophistria, from L. sophista, sophistes (see sophist).

Sophist: 1542, earlier sophister (c.1380), from L. sophista, sophistes, from Gk. sophistes, from sophizesthai "to become wise or learned," from sophos "wise, clever," of unknown origin. Gk. sophistes came to mean "one who gives intellectual instruction for pay," and, contrasted with "philosopher," it became a term of contempt. Ancient sophists were famous for their clever, specious arguments.

Current Dictionary Meaning:

1. sophisticated character, ideas, tastes, or ways as the result of education, worldly experience, etc.: the sophistication of the wealthy.
2. change from the natural character or simplicity, or the resulting condition.
3. complexity, as in design or organization.
4. impairment or debasement, as of purity or genuineness.
5. the use of sophistry; a sophism, quibble, or fallacious argument.

1. a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning.
2. a false argument; sophism.

Sophist: (often initial capital letter ) Greek History.
1. any of a class of professional teachers in ancient Greece who gave instruction in various fields, as in general culture, rhetoric, politics, or disputation.
2. a person belonging to this class at a later period who, while professing to teach skill in reasoning, concerned himself with ingenuity and specious effectiveness rather than soundness of argument.
3. a person who reasons adroitly and speciously rather than soundly.
4. a philosopher.

My point? If we use a word to symbolize and define ourselves, watch out for alternate meanings which might also be appropriately attributable!!!!!


Jorgen said...

I'm going to go ahead and label myself as a Sophist. I think all of those descriptions define me to a T (or maybe to a O?). Either way. I'm now a Sophist.

LeAnne said...

Jorgen, you rock!

armycoug said...

Any educator who believes his/her way of thinking is the right way, and believes any differing view is less, is insane!

It is a dillusion, and can be a god complex if someone thinks they are that wise. There are medications for that condition.

Scott Abbott said...

I love the way words come to mean things, often contradictory. Alex has a couple of great poems where he moves from a word to a synonym and from there to another synonym and so on. After a while he gets to a meaning just the opposite of where he started. I bet you could get from Sophist to Prophet in that way. Or from truth to falsehood. Or from Jorgen to Leanne.

Loz said...

I looked up the meaning for the word a few years ago after i read the first issue of this comic book "Runaways" This thread just reminded me of the exchange one of the characters, Gert, has with her parents.

Gert: If you guys are so obsessed with helping the poor, why won't you let me join the socialist club?

Mum: Gertrude, as we discussed, while capitalism may be the unequal distribution of wealth, socialism is the equal distribution of poverty.

Dad: And you're only a sophmore in high school, Gert. Theres a reason they call you kids "Wise Fools."

Gert: Actually, thats a fake etymology dad. "Sophmore" is derived from "Sophist." It has no direct correlation to the greek word for "fool" any fool would know.

Dad: Do other parents have to deal with this?

Always amused me.