Composition of Scientific Words: A Manual of Methods and a Lexicon of Materials for the Practice of Logotechnics

By Roland Wilbur Brown | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

Composition of scientific words is a revised and greatly enlarged version of my Materials for word-study, published in 1927, but retains the same general features. Because the lexicon of that book proved inadequate for the widest application in synthesizing words, I decided in 1941, after insistent urging from friendly critics among my scientific colleagues, to undertake the preparation of a larger reservoir of usable material preceded by a concise, introductory discussion of the methods for creating words, especially terms used in the sciences. As the fulfillment of this purpose unfolded I considered the invention of a more descriptive title for the new book.

The Greeks had several distinct terms for words and names, as onoma, noun, and rhema, verb, the sources of onomatology and rhematology, which are resounding creations for phases of semantics. Onomatopoeia, from onomatopoieo, to make names, now has the special sense of 'words made in imitation of natural sounds.' Epos and logos, used concretely and abstractly, denoted the spoken or written word; and a logotechnes was an artificer in words. From this word I derive logotechnics, the art of composing words. This inventive process could be implied by the term wordcraft, but the latter refers more particularly to the skillful use of words. The Greeks also had a figurative, perhaps slightly satirical synonym for logotechnes, namely, logomageiros, wordcook. This word conveys a subtle suggestion that not all cooks are artists,--an observation not inapplicable to some post-classical wordmakers.

The Romans apparently had no single term for 'a maker of words', but the Roman wordcreator could well have been called a verbifex and his art verbifactio or verbicultura. The nomenclator was essentially a name-caller or identifier, and a nomenclatura was a list of names. Other words from the same source (nomen, -inis, name), but with accessory or derived meanings, are nominator, namer, and nominatio, designation by name, especially for public office.

Although the materials just reviewed were suggestive, I concluded that a one-word title, such as Logotechnics, however appropriate, might prove to be too forbidding because of its novelty. After selecting that now used, and while cogitating about the menu offered under the new designation, I was reminded of a U. S. Department of Agriculture bulletin, entitled Turnips, beets, and other succulent roots, and their use as food. My book also deals with roots, more or less succulent, and the approved methods for cultivating them. It will, I trust, promote skill and pleasure in composing words, and thus, although not intended to be a panacea for all the ills of nomenclature, may, by offsetting some of the bad effects resulting from decreased instruction in classical languages, diminish the area and amount of verbicultural wrongdoing. My fervent hope, however, is that the book will not encourage the making of unnecessary words, the proliferation of jargon. It is intended to be a useful tool, and as such, whether or not it is considered sharp, should be handled carefully and wisely.

-3-

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