RE: How to find the meaning of words (was: A question about tombs)

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Apr 06 1999 - 20:21:26 EDT

I find it somewhat difficult to know what to make of this, inasmuch as it
appears to be in part some suggestions for determining word-meanings--and
in this respect, certainly, suggestions are welcome--, but also, to a
considerable extent, it appears to be a dialogue or critique of arguments
proposed on this list but not cited and of what may be an argument on
another list which is characterized rather than explained. If I may say so,
I think the absence of citation of what is being objected to here is almost
as much a hindrance to understanding as the lengthy citation of entire long
messages when one intends only to comment on one portion. I wondered
whether this was aimed at the private correspondence that was forwarded to
the list earlier today by Perry Stepp, but it's by no means clear that it
is: there's no knowing who the "you" of the "your" is and the reference to
something "below" is hanging without anything referred to.

At 1:18 PM -0500 4/6/99, Bill Ross wrote:
>Since I offered the post extracting flavor (not "meaning") from the
>*origins* of the two words for tomb, I think I'll throw in a couple more
>* your "steps to understanding" below *completely excludes* etymology, which
>I consider a huge error;
>* your methodology is somewhat impractical because one has to assume too
>much about our understanding (*interpretation*) of the *intended meaning* of
>various authors, which in the end can have words meaning just about
>anything! For example, someone on Corpus Paul made the absurd affirmation
>the "dying for another" was used by an author previous to Paul to mean some
>kind of social restoration or some other strained connotation, and therefore
>Paul's words have that "meaning." Donkey-dust. Words themselves have
>meaning, much or most of which is conveyed in their etymology and historic
>* it is *very* edifying to read the introduction to English dictionaries and
>to see the *variety* of approaches that they take to arrive at the ordinal
>value they assign to the various definitions of a word. Some work from most
>common current usage, others from major usage historically, others by
>etymologic evolution, others from "psychological association." A resourceful
>person would do well to learn all of these tools (and consult more than one
>* as to the "tomb" words, I don't believe that I made more of the origin of
>the two "tomb" words than I ought to have. The origins are there, and to
>glean a richness from them is "found money."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

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