A murder of crows
seaman at noao.edu
Wed Nov 21 08:06:25 PST 2007
On Nov 21, 2007, at 8:09 AM, Brian Thomas wrote:
> The one on my shelf, "The Random House Thesaurus", published 1984,
> has only singular terms for nouns (concepts). I did a quick 8 or 9
> page random survey, then I started looking for astronomical
> terms...all of the following appear singular:
> star, planet, satellite, celestial body, galaxy, comet.
> I also took a look at Roget's thesaurus online (http://
> thesaurus.com). Type in 'star'
> and you get synonyms that you might expect. Type in 'stars' and you
> get different information like "the stars and stripes". Try it again
> with 'galaxy' and you are in good shape. Try it with 'galaxies' and
> you get no match.
> So..I don't see an argument that things are generally in plural in
> thesauri, in fact, in English, it appears to be the opposite.
Clasp your loved ones close and look to the sky, I'm about to agree
with Brian - surely one of the signs of the apocalypse...
That said, I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around another
plural, that of "thesauri". I can see why completely different fields
might compile separate thesauruseses - it is more a question of what
to omit, than what to include. But really, don't these correspond to
subsets of the same Platonically ideal thesaurus? And I don't see why
a single coherent (ha!) field like astronomy would need more than one
thesaurus. Unlike a dictionary, even competing thesaur-thingies like
Roget's and Random House are, in a sense, different views into the
same cosmic tome. They feature different shadings of meaning, but
those shadings are inherent in the language and its ensemble of
speakers, not in the document.
Cutting to the chase - what are the requirements that result in this
working group pursuing multiple instances of the same type of document/
service? Vocabularies - several. Thesaurus - one.
To return to S vs P: if we need a tie-breaker, we might look to the
collective nouns. This would also bring its own subtle shadings since
we would henceforth be able to distinguish between geese in flight
(skein) and geese bobbing around like sitting ducks (gaggle).
So, we would have a "twinkle" of stars, of course, and a "federation"
of archives, but also a "confusion" of planets, a "used parking
lot" (or Used_Parking_Lot) of novae, and a "Pon Farr" of exobiologists.
More information about the semantics