Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 4 May 1994 to 5 May 1994

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 4 May 1994 to 5 May 1994
From: John Oriel <oriel -at- NTSC -dot- NAVY -dot- MIL>
Date: Fri, 6 May 1994 08:33:22 EST

I see an interesting connection between what Doug, Data Librarian, and Barbara
J. Philbrick wrote in this morning's TECHWR-L digest.

From Doug:

>I understood there was supposed to be some sort of broad philisophical agenda
>behind E-Prime; far more than the goal of clearer, more forceful writing. I
>read an Atlantic Monthy article some time ago that said (disclaimer: I'm
>relying on memory here) that it was originally created by a fanatic Polish
>linguist who believed that the construction "to be" led to all sorts of
>conceptual errors in human thinking, which in turn resulted in political
>problems, social problems, etc.

>Does anybody out there know more about this? Maybe from some better sources?

From Barbara:

>I've found quite a few engineers who are actually interested in the writing
>and formatting process.

Doug's "fanatic Polish linguist" sounds to me like Count Alfred Korzybski, who
is generally recognized as the founder of the General Semantics movement. Most
people who have heard of him are not aware that, if asked about his profession,
the "Krazy Kount" probably would have called himself a mechanical engineer.
Korzybski wrote several books about semantics, but his best known is _Science
and Sanity_. It was published by the institute he founded. Last time I
checked, it was still listed in _Books In Print_.

Many of Korzybski's ideas from _Science and Sanity_ can be seen in the popular
book _Language in Thought and Action_ by S. I. Hayakawa. That's the same
Hayakawa who pulled the plug at San Fransisco State, and later served in the
U.S. Senate. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have a copy of Hayakawa's
first edition, called _Language in Action_, can see the relationship between
the two books even more clearly.

What do you suppose Hayakawa was doing for a living when he wrote _Language in
Action_? Teaching engineering students, of course. I think it was at the
Illinois Institute of Technology.

Benjamin Lee Whorf is another engineer who is better known for his work on
language than for his engineering. Interesting as his hypothesis about
language and thought may be, his engineering work is probably of much greater
importance, since it affects every one of us every day of our lives. Whorf's
contribution in engineering related to the development of the fire safety
regulations that keep us all from being burned alive.

John 8-)

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