Weekend Diversion: Save The Words!

“No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous.” –Henry Brooks Adams


There are plenty of advocates out there for letting go of the great, descriptive, but outdated words of our language. And I simply can’t get on board with that. As Storyhill will tell you, there’s value in holding on.

Holding On
Why? Those of you who’ve been reading this site for a while know that one of the great struggles I deal with is expressing, in a clear, straightforward, and meaningful way, these physical concepts that baffle some of the world’s greatest minds. And I need the help of all the words I can get.

While some people want to simplify our languages, I want to learn more about their complexities, and their ability to express certain intricacies. That’s why I’m pleased to introduce you to a project I’ve just come across: Save The Words!

And — thanks to Oxford dictionaries — you can help save from obscurity words that often don’t even return a single hit on google! Maybe you need to know how to express such a concept as “magical astrology,” and don’t have a good word for it? Well, they’ve got you covered.

Perhaps you need a good adjective for the famous apple falling on Newton’s head? Good thing they provide such entertaining, descriptive sentences for each of the words you can adopt.

But perhaps the greatest gift you can give to one of these words is to make it your own, and pledge to use it. And so it is with great pleasure that I announce my adoption of the word “plenisphere.”

Google doesn’t really know. Google thinks I mean planisphere, which is a star chart/constellation finder. Which is, of course, a great tool for any astronomer, but that’s not what a plenisphere is.

You see, most spheres aren’t perfect spheres; they’re compressed or stretched in some way.

American footballs, for instance, are stretched out along one axis, and known as a prolate spheroid.

The Earth, on the other hand, with its equatorial bulge and compression at the poles, is an oblate spheroid.

And if you were unlucky enough — as we often are in astrophysics — to have all three of your axes be different, you’re stuck with a triaxial ellipsoid.

But what if you’ve got an ideal, perfect, equal-in-all-ways sphere?

Well, if you want one, single, solitary word to say it, and to emphasize the perfectness of that sphere, that’s what a plenisphere is. It’s also the word I’ve adopted and agreed to help save! So check it out, and don’t be ashamed of holding on to your favorite words. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you next week!