Synonymy is a myth

Thursday, 12 February, Year 7 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

Ballas quote :

Took a selection of writing samples (grad school applications, sociology dissertations etc), and changed each of the words to more complex/longer synonyms. Then he gave these samples to 71 students and asked them to judge the intelligence of the authors. The more complex and flowery the language, the dumber the author was assumed to be.

Think about it...

I am thinking about it, and what I'm coming up with is that I never fucking heard of something this stupid in my life, except for every single other thing I read from the pointlessly-literate crowd.i

The very notion that synonyms even exist is third grade logic. Sure, as far as a ten year old's needs and abilities are concerned, "power" and "energy" are "the same thing". Except they aren't.

What exactly are these synonyms you keep thinking about ? Which are they ? "Love" and "affect" ? Not so - one's subjective, the other's objective, in the fortunate circumstance where someone mentally stunted enough to even think in terms of "synonyms" can distinguish the noun from the verb.

What is your prototypical pair of synonyms, exactly ? "Type" and "kind" ? One's structured. "House" and "dwelling" ? A condo is not a house, but is a dwelling. If the text discusses condos and some derp changes an occurence of "dwelling" to "its synonym : house" wouldn't you also score the text down, for apparent inability to use the noggin ?

Let's do it to Shakespeare a little, what could it possibly hurt ? Score the following texts :

SHYLOCK: Till thou canst rail the seal from off my bond, thou but offend'st thy lungs to speak so loud: repair thy wit, good youth, or it will fall to cureless ruin. I stand here for law.

SHYLOCK: Till thou canst castigate the imprimatur from off my bandii, thou but aggrieve'st thy alveolus to chat so big: adjust thy fun, acceptable minority, or it will decline to cureless bankruptcy. I erect here for act.

SHYLOCK: Till thou canst objurate the notification from off my networkiii, thou but trespass'st thy pleura to lip so strong: replace thy satire, marvelous teen, or it will slump to cureless extinction. I rank here for requirement.

Note that these suffered no encumberement to try and be "more flowery", whatever that may mean. The first set simply had some words replaced for the first "synonym" provided by, whereas the second set had the same words replaced by a random choice from among the same set.

So score them, why don't you. I for one have never seen Shakespeare this purple in my life, but I do believe that should he feel so inclined, he could find his life's work writing fanfic for the Internet population of the day.

There's no such thing as "synonyms" anymore than there's square circles, intelligent socialists, unicorns or happy postop transsexuals.iv Grow up already, wouldja.

  1. Here's a thought : that 9x% of young adults can write in 2015, as opposed to 1x% in 1715 does not mean that 80% more young adults should write in 2015 as opposed to 1715. Or have anything meaningful to say. Or even could in principle have anything to say whatsoever. No, "mooo" is not something to say, and if a way were found to teach the ungulates to write plain English the result wouldn't be "more science", the result would be moo reddit. Dexter has the details. []
  2. Yes, seriously. []
  3. Hey, don't look at me, this synobusiness wasn't MY idea. []
  4. Here's a thought experiment : suppose you get divorced, and suppose I offer you a choice of two girls : Mary and Jane, with the understanding that if you divorced because your wife wasn't sexy you should date Jane, whereas if you divorced because your wife was annoying you should date Mary. Suppose you date one accordingly, and then marry her.

    Now, supposing you're just a normal contemporary derp, you therefore had a 50% chance to divorce your first wife, like any other contemporary derp. What are your chances to divorce your 2nd wife, be it Jane or Mary ? Lower than 50%, right, because now you've selected one that's closer to what you want. Or actually, higher than 50%, because you're the same derp that didn't like the first one, and so will probably not take that long to either find the same problem with the second or invent a whole new problem altogether. In other words you're already statistically selected for failure, and the reasonable prediction to make is that you will fucking fail. Because if you wouldn't, you probably wouldn't have.

    Now forget about the girls, which somehow utopiacally - the quite apt merging of utopia and mania - are a subject of your choice in the pretend world of the present day, and instead imagine you're living in the pretend world of tomorrow, a place where your own gender is utopiacally a subject of your choice. What chances do you have to perform (not like! fuck you!) with the second, after failing the first ? So there you go.

    For the more visually inclined, see Daisy Diamond, it's in there. []

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4 Responses

  1. > ...unicorns or happy postop transsexuals.

    For some reason thought this was due to the fact that the 'new parts' elementarily don't work, and the whole concept being a palliative chumpatron.

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Well, maybe that's why. Or maybe that's not why. Wives also elementary do not work. Nor do shoes nor jobs nor the fucking weather. What's "work" anyway ?

  3. You might want to watch the film "Idiocracy", where what you describe is the theme of an entire movie; the court case in particular.

  4. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Thursday, 12 February 2015

    I watched it a while back, sorta, but didn't like it (Romanian).

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