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> Words Are Not Ideas

Words Are Not Ideas

While I was putting my thoughts on neology in order, I realized that, in spite of what I said in Words Are Ideas, words are not ideas. Rather, words refer to ideas. When, out of laziness, I make up a new name for an idea instead of tracking down the existing one, I'm not creating a new idea, just creating a new word that refers to the existing idea.

Let me say the same thing in software jargon: I'm not creating a new object, just creating a new pointer to an existing object. Thinking about it in those terms gets my mind all stirred up, but doesn't actually seem to lead anywhere.

The two statements “words are ideas” and “words are not ideas” remind me of the two koans that Achilles and the Tortoise consider. They also remind me of the idea that it's easier to think in terms of two catchy extremes than one boring but accurate statement.


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@ August (2000)