Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wordwide (for Worldwide)

There are several contenders for longest word, but what is the widest word in the world? According to the scholarly journal The Monist, volume 25 (1915), Bertrand Russell once wrote: "Whatever may be an object of thought or may occur in any true or false proposition, or can be counted as one, I call a term. This then is the widest word in the philosophical vocabulary." Later on he qualifies that claim by stating: "I shall use the word object in a wider sense than term, to cover both singular and plural, and also cases of ambiguity, such as 'a man.' The fact that a word can be framed with a wider meaning than term raises grave logical problems." Hmmm. Well, I'm no philosopher, by a wide margin, but I have been told that my "search terms are well formed" on the World Wide Web. As for how widespread today's typo is, we found five cases of it in OhioLINK and 78 in WorldCat.

(Portrait of Bertrand Russell, 1950 Nobel Laureate in Literature, image probably taken in the 1930s, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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