Sunday, 19th October 2014

by Joshua Gaskell

I remember hearing years ago that on any Wikipedia article, if one clicks on the first link and then repeats the process as many times as it takes, one will almost always end up on the entry for Philosophy. The idea is that this phenomenon is consonant with philosophy’s status in the groves of Academe, its broad literal meaning (‘love of knowledge’), and the fact that, no matter the subject, a PhD is a doctorate of philosophy: all roads lead to Rome, but all hyperlinks lead to Athens.

To while away the lonely nights, I’ve devised a similar but more involved game to play on the OED website. Rather than trying to get from the most specific to the most general, I try to get from one word to its opposite. Each new word in the chain is used synonymously in the definition of the previous word. For example,

OED: Getting to the Opposite #1 (Good to Bad)

  1. Good: ‘Having in adequate degree those properties which a thing of the kind ought to have’
  2. Adequate: ‘acceptable in quality or quantity’
  3. Acceptable: ‘Tolerable or allowable’
  4. Tolerable: ‘of middling quality, mediocre, passable’
  5. Mediocre: ‘indifferent, of poor quality, second-rate
  6. Second-rate: ‘A person or thing of inferior class’
  7. Inferior: ‘comparatively bad

The theoretical justification for this game would doubtless have something to do with synthesis and the signifier (all words are contronyms!); but not being one who seeks the truth among the groves of Academus, I just play it for kicks.