Signification Quotes

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FV: Annandale defines 'definition' as "an explanation of the signification of a term." Yet Oxford, on the other hand, defines it as "a statement of the precise meaning of a word." A small, perhaps negligible difference you might think. And neither, would you say, is necessarily more correct than the other? But now look up each of the words comprising each definition, and then the definitions of those definitions, and so on. Some still may only differ slightly, while others may differ quite a lot. Yet any discrepancy, large or small, only compounds that initial difference further and further, pushing each 'definition' farther apart. How similar are they then at the end of this process... assuming it ever would end? Could we possibly even be referring to the same word by this point? And we still haven't considered what Collins here... or Gage, or Funk and Wagnalls might have to say about it. Off on enough tangents and you're eventually led completely off track. ML: Or around in circles. FV: Precisely! ML: Oxford, though, is generally considered the authority, isn't it? FV: Well, it's certainly the biggest... the most complete. But then, that truly is your vicious circle - every word defined... every word in every definition defined... around and around in an infinite loop. Truly a book that never ends. A concise or abridged dictionary may, at least, have an out... ML: I wonder, then, what the smallest possible "complete dictionary" would be? Completely self-contained, that is, with every word in every definition accounted for. How many would that be, do you suppose? Or, I guess more importantly, which ones? FV: Well, that brings to mind another problem. You know that Russell riddle about naming numbers?

Mort W. Lumsden
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