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January 7th, 2003

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12:39 pm - Fred Hapgood is cool
The concept of a word whose sound reflects its meaning ("quack") has a label, but how about words or phrases whose usage reflects their meaning? One example is 'tragedy of the commons'. The right loved the idea because it seemed to speak to the inviability of public property; the left, because it suggested that the government needs to regulate everything. Everyone grabbed and pulled the term in all directions until the phrase just died from overuse, succumbing to the tragedy of the commons. Another example is paradigm or paradigm shift. When Kuhn thrust the word into general usage he changed the way everyone thought about intellectual change. The term generated an example of itself.

What do we call phrases like these? Any other examples?

From the latest Nanotech Study Group dispatch of Fred Hapgood.

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[User Picture]
Date:January 7th, 2003 05:46 pm (UTC)
There is such a thing as "too obscure for words."

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