[lit-ideas] Jack Fell Down

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 1 May 2014 11:30:55 -0400 (EDT)

As opposed to 'up'?
of Rome, etc. 
In a message dated 5/1/2014 9:50:16 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx writes of 'fall':
"[...] it has been often written, probably  before Gibbon, that  empires 
"rise and fall"; so in that sense Rome did eventually fall.  Even  if the city 
remained and Odoacer was king of Rome, the Roman Empire had  fallen.
Of course one could argue that bits of Roman power existed in  
Constantinople, Trieste and elsewhere, but if they are considered to comprise  
empirical continuity then the definition of "empire" is being  strained.
On the other hand, the straining of that term seems a modern  enterprise: 
many writers attempt to fit the U.S. into the Roman or British  mold.  I 
think of Niall Ferguson arguing that the U.S. is an empire, just  not a very 
good one since it doesn't do any of the things that earlier empires  did -- 
but, not to worry.  The world has changed; so empires need to do  things 
differently nowadays."
But I was thinking more along, er, Griceian lines. 

We do fall a verb, 'to fall'.
What goes up must come down. Sort of thing.
It is an Anglo-Saxon verb. The Roman term, when used to apply to Rome, is  
'caduta' (the fall). 
It may be argued that we should examine more closely the etymology of  
INTERLUDE on etymology of 'fall' from 
Old English feallan (class VII strong verb; past tense feoll, past  
participle feallen) "to fall; fail, decay, die," from Proto-Germanic *fallanan  
(cognates: Old Frisian falla, Old Saxon fallan, Dutch vallen, Old Norse falla,  
Old High German fallan, German fallen), from PIE root *pol- "to fall" 
(cognates:  Armenian p'ul "downfall," Lithuanian puola "to fall," Old Prussian 
aupallai  "finds," literally "falls upon"). Most of the figurative senses had 
developed in  Middle English. Meaning "to be reduced" (as temperature) is 
from 1650s. To fall  in love is attested from 1520s; to fall asleep is late 
14c. Fall through "come  to naught" is from 1781. To fall for something is 
from 1903.
Now, Grice, in unpublications, wants to stick with Occam's razor, which he  
formulates, "Do not multiply SENSES of words beyond necessity." So there is 
ONE  sense of 'fall'.
Should it apply to PHYSICAL events?
I think Grice considers examples like
"Tom is above Jerry"
"Tom is between Jerry and Joe."
Grice wants to say that, whether a merely PHYSICAL or non-physical  
(figurative, in terms, say, of moral esteem) is meant, or regardless of whether 
this or that use is meant, the word 'above' (or 'between') are NOT  polysemous.
The idea that the MATERIAL, PHYSICAL 'sense' is the original one was, I  
think, fashionable back in the day when Metaphor was a hot topic among  
philosophers. I think I learned about that from Lands volume in Longman  
Linguistics Library: "The concept of form".
A similar point I found at
The author writes:
"A large proportion of the words in all languages, in truth all that  
express intellectual and moral ideas, were originally FIGURATIVE, the universal 
law being to represent immaterial by material objects. Examples are the 
words  exist, existence, emotion,affliction, anguish, etc."
"But in these, and innumerable other words, 
has become obsolete, and thus the secondary spiritual meaning is to us  
But it shouldn't, of course. As in 'fall' -- Adam's fall, Satan's fall --  
Satan's fall is literal. Adam not so much so. 
Fall of Rome, figurative.
The author goes on:
The fall of the statue of Nero -- the Colossus -- literal.
The fall of the Colossus of Rhodes, literal.
The fall of Constantinople, figurative.
The author goes on:
"Or, what often happens, while the original physical signification is  
retained, a secondary figurative meaning of the word has become so common that  
its use hardly recalls the physical meaning, and it may therefore be 
regarded as  literal."
But again it shouldn't. Grice calls figures of speech (such as metaphor, or 
 to use I think a favourite with L. Helm, synecdoche, or I think a 
favourite with  Omar K, metonymy, or metaphtonymy) are IMPLICATURES. It's 
the utterer  IMPLIES (and can thus cancel) rather than EXPLICATE or express 
in EXPLICIT  terms.
The author finishes the paragraph:
"As in the words "hard", "harsh", "rough", when applied to  character."
Or 'fall' as applied to Rome.
"In the first of the above examples: "It is hard for thee to kick against  
the pricks," the transfer of the word "hard" from what is physically hard to 
 what is painful or difficult, is so common that it can hardly be regarded 
as  figurative".
But hardly a Griceian will agree!
"But the expression that follows is figurative in the fullest sense of the  
Only that it's best not to multiply senses beyond necessity!
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