Thursday, June 02, 2005



From a United Synagogue Youth web page:
Now the group leader should present the concept of "dialogue". That is, "dia" means two and "logue" means conversation, or a conversation between two people.
The trouble is that dia doesn't mean two. It's a Greek preposition meaning through. But what can you expect from a group leader, a facilitator?

We see the same mistake in a paper that pretends to be scholarly -- Paul T. Arveson, "Dialogic: A Systems Approach to Understanding," Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 30 (June 1978) 49-59:
I have chosen this term because it includes four useful connotations: 1) dia means two, and -tog [sic, should be -log] means word; two words or statements are involved. 2) Dia + logic = doubling of the dimensions of classical logic. 3) Dialogic is juxtaposed to dialectic and competes with it; the former emphasizes kinship; the latter (in the Marxist sense) emphasizes contradictoriness. 4) Dialog (or dialogue) = a discussion between two people, which commonly results in an agreement in terms of a complementary pair of ideas (or else a standoff).
Balderdash. This is a sore point with me. My seventh grade English teacher told us that the dia in dialogue meant two. Even then I knew this was a mistake, and I told her so. She gave me the standard "Matilda" response: "I'm smart, you're dumb; I'm big, you're little; I'm right, you're wrong." That was the moment when my faith in teachers and grownups as respositories of knowledge and wisdom began to fade.

I also hate the use of dialogue as a verb, as in "I dialogued with my seventh grade English teacher about the etymology of the word dialogue." This is also a favorite locution of group leaders and facilitators. Yes, I know that Shakespeare said "Dost dialogue with thy shadow?" (Timon of Athens 2.2.67). Shakespeare also said "All debts are cleared between you and I" (Merchant of Venice 3.2.326-327). Both expressions -- "to dialogue with" and "between you and I" -- grate on my ear.

While I'm in a cranky mood, here's another pet peeve -- online copies of Shakespeare's plays without line numbers.

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