Re: Reading ranting grunting.

Michael Lorrey (
Wed, 24 Sep 1997 21:25:28 -0400

Anton Sherwood wrote:
> the Inventor of the Lorrey Drive wrote
> : SF is the only place where I can find new ideas that someone isn't
> : trying to bury under umpty million syllables of latin-ish scientificese.
> : Why do highly skilled and specialized scientists insist on writing about
> : their discoveries in nomenclature and acronyms that only someone also in
> : their own highly specialized field would understand?
> Short answer:
> "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction
> is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't." (Mark Twain)
> Long answer:
> "The untrained man reads a paper on natural science and thinks:
> `Now why couldn't he explain this in simple language.' He can't
> seem to realize that what he tried to read was the simplest
> possible language - for that subject matter. In fact, a great
> deal of natural philosophy is simply a process of linguistic
> simplification - an effort to invent languages in which half
> a page of equations can express an idea which could not be stated
> in less than a thousand pages of so-called `simple' language."
> (Thon Taddeo in _A Canticle for Leibowitz_ by Walter Miller, 1959)

I'm hardly an untrained man, and I when I refer to complex terminology,
I don't mean long words derived from latin syllables. Those I can figure
out rather easily. Its acronyms and "in" terms that seem to be only
known by specialists in the field, which seems to reinforce that
exclusivity. I'm not alone in this. I've seen several articles in
prestigious science journals write similar complaints in the last year.

This phenomenon is not just part of science publishing. While studying
mechanical engineering at WPI, I noticed that there were texts that were
educating and informative, and texts that had the same sort of elitist
nomenclature that acted more to filter people out of fields than bring
them in by educating them. I also noticed that these two types of texts
were used by professors that behaved on a similarly polar scale toward
students in the classes they taught.

			Michael Lorrey
------------------------------------------------------------	Inventor of the Lorrey Drive
MikeySoft: Graphic Design/Animation/Publishing/Engineering
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