Thursday, 13 September 2012

Suspicious Minds

I blame Wittgenstein with his Philosophical Investigations for bringing forensic language games into philosophy. The 'I suspect' trope has become global. None of those that use it should join the police force should the world of philosophical employment prove inhospitable. For them suspicion is guilt. Perhaps they mean a Theory of Interest (TOI).

In suspicionI discussed this.

Where does it come from? It is hard not to avoid the 'suspicion' that they are following like Tinbergen's ducklings the great bearded Prof., first sighted as they emerged from the philosophic egg.

POI (Western Australia Police)
Person of interest. A POI is a person who has come into the scope of an investigation in some way, or may have information relevant to assisting an investigation. A person of interest is NOT necessarily a suspect.

The unmarked pronoun 'he' in philosophical papers is now being replaced by 'she' which is a sort of role reversal. In fifty years time editors will have little footnotes saying 'I have replaced 'he' for 'she' when it is an unmarked pronoun as being less confusing to modern readers. cf.golden cobra

'Egregious' in the present American usage cuts itself adrift from its etymological moorings 'ex' 'grex' that is to say out from the flock. 'Egregious' on its own does not refer to what flock it stands out from. Egregiously foolish, an egregious error. On its own 'egregious' leaves us wondering what flock. Curious that in Latin 'egregius' means excellent or eminent and that it has in the American free standing form become pejorative as in the linked form generally also.


ktismatics said...

Regarding the impoverishment of "egregious" usage, it seems unjust for your suspicion to land so heavily on America. Today at the library I took a look at the entry for the word in the Shorter OED, a decidedly British dictionary. Definition 1, "remarkably good," is deemed "rare." That leaves definition 2, "remarkable in a bad sense." Here's Shakespeare illustrating definition 2 in Cymbeline:

Posthumus Leonatus. [Advancing] Ay, so thou dost,
Italian fiend! Ay me, most credulous fool,
Egregious murderer, thief, any thing
That's due to all the villains past, in being,
To come! O, give me cord, or knife, or poison,
Some upright justicer! Thou, king, send out
For torturers ingenious: it is I
That all the abhorred things o' the earth amend
By being worse than they. I am Posthumus,
That kill'd thy daughter:—villain-like, I lie—
That caused a lesser villain than myself,
A sacrilegious thief, to do't: the temple
Of virtue was she; yea, and she herself.
Spit, and throw stones, cast mire upon me, set
The dogs o' the street to bay me: every villain
Be call'd Posthumus Leonitus; and
Be villany less than 'twas! O Imogen!
My queen, my life, my wife! O Imogen,
Imogen, Imogen!

ombhurbhuva said...

The usage I’ve been seeing is ‘egregious’ on its own eg. ‘George Bush was egregious’, 'the treatment of Michael Jackson was egregious’, and I’m left wondering in what respect. In Cymbeline it’s ‘egregious murderer’ - he stands out from the flock of murderers and Shakespeare tells us why. The linked usage is there too but my impression is that the stand alone is gaining ground.

This must stop.

ombhurbhuva said...


Some egregious officials are now gone, often returning to the private sector whose interests they served.
Rather, they consider it an egregious invasion of privacy.
It is particularly egregious that these students' tutoring will be interrupted mid-year.

ktismatics said...

But in neither of the OED definitions does "egregious" mean simply "exceptional." If except in rare circumstances the word means "remarkable in a bad sense," then a stand-alone usage should convey the intended meaning: remarkably bad officials, remarkably bad invasion of privacy, etc. A lot of words get cut loose from their etymology; egregious isn't remarkable in that regard. How about awful officials, an awful invasion of privacy?

I appreciate your effort to preserve the language, though, Michael. As a consequence of your alerting me to its uses and possible misuses, I suspect that in the future I'll more likely to use "egregious" in a sentence, preferably in accord with its now counter-intuitive definition 1.

ombhurbhuva said...

Doesn't represent actual usage and the O.E.D. best usage 'on historical principles'? The two may diverge. 'Aweful' and 'awesome' have been stricken of their numinous roots by the vulgar. 'Vulgar' in that sense is lost to us. I'll have to take a turn round the garden to steady myself. I'm not the same since Eric Partridge (Usage and Abusage) bit me when he was unhinged by a bad ginger nut biscuit.