The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

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92                    THE HUMANITY OF WORDS
down and played every Conover in the place. Finally, he said: "This one." They all looked alike and sounded alike to me, of course.
Everything that is man-made or made by machines that are man-made is unique. Any dealer will tell you that every car is differentdifferent in those ways over which man has no control. Every dealer will tell you that every now and then a lemon comes off the production line. Why, nobody knows. Every new car has bugs of one kind or another, they will tell you. And what flyer will ever forget the gremlins that plagued him during World War II? Out of the nowhere, something went wrong. A piston. An oil pump. The motors. And a plane would plunge into the sea! "Gremlins," they were called, for want of a better name to describe the differences left outthose differences that, unaccountably, spelled disaster.
Desk1 is not desk2, etc
Desk #157, Mahogany1 is not Desk #157, Mahogany2 etc.
Buick1 is not Buick2, etc.
Buick 19581 is not Buick 19582, etc.
The meaning of a word cannot go beyond the similarities of the class of objects it represents. Every word is an abstraction. It abstracts (takes away from the whole object) only the similarities of the class it stands forand leaves out all of the differences.
We accept the fact that our words do not tell all,19 but we must proceed accordingly.
Sometimes it suits our purposes to emphasize similarities. Frequently it is intelligent to ignore the differences left out. When we are ordering Desk #157, Mahogany, the
19 See Section 28 below, The Etc. to Avoid Allness.