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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Words and Meaning II

The Impossibility of the Dictionary

A Spade a Spade
My Kingdom for a Spade

Arise My Love, Arise My Love:
Apollo's Lighting the Skies My Love

A Rose by Any Other Name
Still Would Not Be a Rose

Gentlemen: Choose Your Title

Here is the danger of the notion that words have meaning: It is the danger of believing that things as such exist. "Why don't you call it by its name?" Because it doesn't have one. It is not a question of the abitrary nature of the signifier merely. It is the "arbitrary" (in de Saussure's sense, which is only tentatively related to what is generally capable of supporting the name "arbitrary") "nature" "of" "the" "signified" (all words require quotation marks, which, for sheer convience, will, from this word forth, be invisible, mostly). A horse, a chair, a word, a duck: "things" "[that]" "exist" but not as horses or chairs or words or ducks. They are all existants momentarily snapshot-frozen into a form which we, running along beside them in the restless race of time, accidentally perceive as namable. Poor Adam; his very first test could not be passed. Was it not for naming the animals that he lost paradise? "Species" change--we could use the name "grow" here--from one "thing" to another. We call it evolution when we take a wider-angle shot and put our series of frozen snapshots in filmic sequence. It was a dinosaur, now it is a bird; who knows what it will be when if finally matures, which it will never do. Think of the butterfly who starts a journey from Mexico, arriving generations later, in Canada, returning, generations later, to Mexico.

Evening and Morning, the First Day.

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