Chambers's Technical Dictionary

Chambers's Technical Dictionary

Chambers's Technical Dictionary

Chambers's Technical Dictionary

Excerpt

The aim of this dictionary is to give, in the light of present knowledge and opinion, definitions of terms that are of importance in pure and applied science, in all branches of engineering and construction, and in the larger manufacturing industries and skilled trades. It is a dictionary of technical terms, written by specialists, partly for other specialists but more particularly for the technically minded man-in-the-street, and for students and interested workers of all kinds and ages: indeed, for all who wish to understand what scientists and engineers have to say to each other.

What, it may be asked, is a technical term? It may be defined as a word or expression which has special significance and value to a person learned or dexterous in a branch of knowledge relating to some particular human activity or to some particular aspect of nature. A dictionary of technical terms, therefore, must aim at including, as far as its scope allows, all terms having such 'special significance and value.' It will naturally include many thousands of words which form no part of daily speech. On the other hand, it will also include very many which do form part of daily speech but which, having acquired at the hands of scientists and technical workers 'special significance and value,' have become technical terms. Accuracy, error, mistake, efficiency, work, speed--all these are technical terms because they mean more (or, at any rate, something more definite) to the scientist than to the ordinary man. Similarly, many everyday words (e.g. canaries, miser, capitalist, even plum and apple), having acquired meanings which will be totally unsuspected by most people, are as 'technical,' and therefore eligible for inclusion, as, say, pericardiomediastinitis or diplochlamydeous chimaera.

To be safe, indeed, one must regard technical language as a language apart from ordinary speech. Technical terms are in reality symbols adopted, adapted, or invented by specialists and technicians to facilitate the precise expression and recording of their ideas. Without them they would find themselves hindered in their mental processes, just as the ancients were hindered by the lack of a convenient system of numbering. Each word or expression is a short method of denoting a particular idea; it is a term ad hoc, and its meaning cannot safely be guessed. Etymological deduction may, and often does, help, but it is dangerously apt to mislead, for countless technical terms, many of them relics of a less understanding or a less particular day, are misnomers, e.g. vitamins, maria (of the moon), magnetising force, legal ohm, and the names of many minerals.

From what has been said above it follows that the safest authorities on the meanings of technical terms are those who understand and use them. The Editors have, therefore, in every field covered by this work, turned without . . .

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