Friday, August 8, 2014

Scientific Terms

At the beginning of the week, I noticed a headline in The Washington Post:
After 40 Years, Nixon's Vitriol Still Resonates
This is pretty standard headline writing, but it distracts those who remember that vitriol means "sulfuric acid". We imagine waves dashing back and forth in a beaker.

Later in the week, I found, in a most interesting and learned book, that
At the epicentre of the deepening opposition to the crown was the Serbian army.
I think not. The epicenter is the point on the surface above an earthquake. The author does not suggest that Serbian society shook, and the army fell on the king. Rather, officers of the army were leading conspirators. I think that the author has fallen into the bad habit of taking "epi" for an intensive.

And steadily we have"implode". Marriages implode, families implode, states implode. I believe that most of the entities said to have imploded simply failed. They might be said to have collapsed, from weakness in their structures, but generally they did not fail through sudden overwhelming pressure from without. Still, "implode" acquired a prestige at Los Alamos that it hasn't lost yet.


1 comment:

  1. The art of proper and accurate diction is, indeed, in decay . . . so says a teacher of writing and literature.