Riker's Mailbox

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I know, I said I wasn't going to do this while I'm in the middle of scriptwriting, but I had to get this out on electron-excited phosphors*.

Time again for Semantical Paradoxy with Riker:


There's a word we needed, right up until it existed.

Yes, it is completely logical and expected over the course of the development of a language to come up with a word that means 'incapable of being expressed in words'. It's just that once that word exists, nothing is ineffable. All you have to do is call it ineffable and you're done. It's weird, because the word is simultaneously necessary and meaningless. If you don't have a word for indescribable things, then they remain indescribable. Once you have a word for them, they no longer exist within the category of indescribable, so what good is the word?

It's a word that has validity purely by needing to be defined in the first place, yet at the same time its validity renders it logically false. It is both valid, and invalid by the sake of its validity. WHAT????

As an afterthought, This is why I believe the English language is the best suited to writing poetry. Opera can keep Italian for its phonetically pleasing aspects and Asian languages can keep their discrete-symbol-for-every-little-thing precision, but the fact of the matter is that English just has so many words, and I'm pretty sure it's the only language that has more exceptions to its rules than it has rules. This leaves a tremendous amount of leeway to be clever with the palette of words available.

Let's say something is ineffable due to its rarity or its beauty. The best way to describe such a thing is to use a novel and insightful combination of words and language techniques which, when taken as a whole, are as beautiful and/or as rare themselves as the thing being described. It is obviously easier to achieve this when you have an unending supply of obscure, interesting, and confounding elements**.

* - or LCDs. My monitor at work happens to be a CRT. Plus 'electron-excited phosphors' sounds WAY cooler.
** - Admit it, that's English in a nutshell.

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