Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wörter und Sachen

Annoying Orange

Wörter und Sachen means "Words and Things" in German. It refers to a movement in Germany/Austria, in the early 20th century, that insisted we use the etymology of words to study the cultural products named by those words.

It’s also a 1959 book by Ernst Gellner* titled Words and Things: An Examination Of, and an Attack On, Linguistic Philosophy.

The study of the language of smells requires a most astute clarification of the words from the things, which is made most difficult by the fact that smells are the things their words describe. The smell of an orange is an orange. The color of an orange is not. The color of anything is instead white light being reflected off of a surface, the color being the portion of that white spectrum not absorbed into the surface. So the color of a thing is almost like the opposite of the thing.

*Gellner is a personal favorite of mine; I have many posts on my other blog inspired by him or in reference to another work of his, Plough, Sword and Book (1988).

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