[lit-ideas] Re: America's Greatest Word

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2011 16:35:53 +0000 (GMT)

--- On Mon, 31/1/11, jlsperanza@xxxxxxx <jlsperanza@xxxxxxx> wrote:

> I cannot see how the thumb and first finger forming a
> circle may be taken to indicate the rather precise concept
> of "Old Kinderhook".

Perhaps I should have mentioned that, in addition, the other three fingers are 
raised upright, to form a kind of rabbit shape [or should that be duck?]. Like 
the 'thumbs-up', this can be done with two hands for extra emphasis (though if 
you have hooks for hands it is probably best just to shout as your praise 
gesture may be misinterpreted as threatening and result in a fatality). 

JLS' point, about it being obscure how such a gesture could "indicate the 
rather precise concept", is doubtful:-
(1) There is no necessary correlation between the degree of precision of a 
concept and the precision required by the means of expressing it - a "precise 
concept" like, say, '3' may have a sign that is not so precise, and which can 
be successfully conveyed by individuals in a variety of ways; and a quite 
imprecise notion, like anything by Heidegger, may require very precise means to 
convey it. 
(2) While it may be as precise as the 'GFAMultiply' and 'Swivel on it' 
concepts, the concept of 'ok' is arguably not a very precise one compared with 
'3', usually conveying a meaning that achieves only o.k. levels of precision 
and rarely features in even elementary math.

The WhiteHouse/CIA/NASA discussions did not canvas the possibility that the 
first words and accompanying gesture on the moon be "Swivel on it" or such, 
with Armstrong adding "One small step for yet another triumphant American, one 
giant kick in the ass for anti-Americans". So we do not know whether they would 
have agreed with JLS that 
"The f- word comes complete with a finger sign, but in general, praise words do 
and might have be swayed by this convenience to opt for an f- word or similar. 


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