[lit-ideas] Re: Presumptive Meanings: Geary vs. Davidson

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 12 Feb 2015 08:19:37 -0500

Nevertheless, as Davidson and Geary say, the key is 'presumption'. What if  
all is, nevertheless, a big mispresumption?
The same applies, nevertheless, to meaning -- hence 'presumptive meaning'.  
We say things to each other but do we know what we mean?

Nevertheless, Geary gives an example:

i. The slithy toves 
did gyre and gimble  upon the wabe, 
all mimsy were the borogroves 
and the mome raths outgrabe. 
Nevertheless, Geary adds: "[T]he thing is, without words to throw around  
we''d all be throwing rocks."
On the other hand, nevertheless, we can marvel at the great truth behind  
In a message dated 2/11/2015 11:30:25 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
jejunejesuit.geary2@xxxxxxxxx writes: "Here's a start:  The slithy toves  did 
and gimble  upon the wabe, all mimsy were the borogroves and the  mome raths 
outgrabe.  What greater truth could be said than that?"
The greater truth was for a time missed by Alice. But she took the occasion 
 for enlightment when meeting Humpty Dumpty.
`You seem very clever at explaining words, sir,' Alice said to Humpty  
`Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem called  "Jabberwocky"?'
`Let's hear it,' said Humpty Dumpty. `I can explain all the poems that were 
 ever invented -- and a good many that haven't been invented just yet.'
This sounded very hopeful, so Alice repeated the first verse:
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the  wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
`That's enough to begin with,' Humpty Dumpty interrupted.
'There are plenty of hard words there.'
"Brillig" means four o'clock in the afternoon -- the time when you begin  
*broiling* things for dinner.'

`That'll do very well,' said Alice: and "slithy"?'
`Well, "slithy" means "lithe and slimy." 
"Lithe" is the same as "active." 
You see it's like a portmanteau -- there are two meanings packed up into  
one word.'
`I see it now,' Alice remarked thoughtfully. 
`And what are "toves"?'
`Well, "toves" are something like badgers -- they're something like lizards 
 -- and they're something like corkscrews.'
`They must be very curious looking creatures.'
`They are that,' said Humpty Dumpty: `also they make their nests under  
sun-dials -- also they live on cheese.'
`And what's the "gyre" and to "gimble"?'
`To "gyre" is to go round and round like a gyroscope.'
'To "gimble" is to make holes like a gimblet.'
`And "the wabe" is the grass-plot round a sun-dial, I suppose?'  asked 
Alice, surprised at her own ingenuity.
`Of course it is.'
'It's called "wabe," you know, because it goes a long WAY Before it, and a  
long WAY Behind it -- '
`And a long WAY Beyond it on each side,' Alice added.
`Exactly so.'
'Well, then, "mimsy" is "flimsy and miserable" (there's another portmanteau 
 for you).'
'And a "borogove" is a thing shabby-looking bird with its feathers sticking 
 out all round -- something like a live mop.'
`And then "mome raths"?' said Alice. `I'm afraid I'm giving you a great  
deal of trouble.'
`Well, a "rath" is a sort of green pig.'
'But "mome" I'm not certain about.'
'I *think* it's short for "from home" -- meaning that they'd lost their  
way, you know.'
`And what does "outgrabe" mean?'
`Well, "outgribing" is something between bellowing and whistling, with a  
kind of sneeze in the middle.'
'However, you'll hear it done, maybe -- down in the wood yonder -- and when 
 you've once heard it you'll be quite content.'
'Who's been repeating all that hard stuff to you?'
`I read it in a book,' confessed Alice.
Geary: "Nevertheless (I've never understood that word -- why  "less"?)"

This should possibly be approached alla Davidson -- and HPG -- via  logical 
form. Is "nevertheless" a logical operator. Is it an adverbial modifier.  
Consider Wittgenstein:

"Nevertheless, p"

The merged expression  arose somewhere in a mediaeval castle (in the Heart 
of England), and was then  spelled (by those who could write -- and read): 
"neuer þe lesse". The reasons  are obvious: Those Englishmen had travelled to 
Rome, and seen on inscriptions on  buildings that there should not be a 
distinction between 'u' and 'v' (hence  "neuer" meaning "never"). The "þe" 
should of course require no explanation for  Geary whose favourite poet is 
Chaucer. Chaucer, and many owners of pubs in  England use 

But surely "þe" should be preferred. Not in vain  was "þ" called the 
'thorn', and a thorn it resembles more than the 'y'.  

Anyway, Back in 1300, it was still unmerged: "neuer þe less".

As  communications became more fluid, especially in letters and stuff, the 
thing  merged in the early 14th century as "neuerþeles."

It should be pointed  out that 'never' here means "not at all; none the".

In fact, while  'nevertheless' is a merged expression, there are unmerged 
expression with  'never' having the same meaning: "never the wiser", "never 
the worse".  

For the record, what modern linguists call Middle English (it would be  
otiose of a middle linguist referring to Middle English) also had  
"neverthelater", and the odd thing is that "neverthelater" was used "in same  
sense" as 

>I've never understood ["nevertheless"] --  why "less"?

Geary is right. Literally, it should be more. "neverthemore".  My 
presumption is that we have here a case of British misunderstatement -- as in  
is more". 

Consider a context:

"I applaud him. Nevertheless  I bid your patience." (Cfr. Geary: "I applaud 
him. Nevertheless. I bid your  patience"). 

"I applaud him. Neverthemore I bid your patience."

Is  this more understandable?

Not really, because if 'never' means 'not at  all', "neverthemore" becomes 
self-contradictory: it is saying that there's none  the more -- but there is.

The "less" then is contradicted by the 'never'  -- it is the "the" that 
becomes otiose: 'neverless' seems apt). Because there is  NOT less, as the 
expression says, but more.

In general, the expression  should not be used unless you have to (but then 
that applies to most  words).

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