C.'s Reviews > Wordwatching: Field Notes of an Amateur Philologist

Wordwatching by Julian Burnside
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's review
Nov 26, 09

bookshelves: australian, language-linguistics, non-fiction, started-and-put-aside
Recommended to C. by: Ben Morgan
Recommended for: more dedicated wordnerds than me
Read in November, 2009

According to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, it is impossible to know both the exact position and the exact velocity of any particle at any one time. This has nothing to do with experimental limitations; even a hypothetically 'perfect' experiment would not be able to simultaneously determine these two physical properties with precision.

Instead, the existence of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is due to the inherent properties of the particles in question; the wavelike properties of matter, as described by the equations of quantum mechanics. WOO exciting stuff, right?

So anyway, books like this - popular books written for the layperson with a passing fascination with language, about words, about interesting little titbits of language, have an inherent limitation for me: due to their bitty and necessarily choppy-and-changey style (jumping from one topic to another, NO sense of narrative arc, I mean really), I can't really enjoy them. I am keen to meet a word book that transcends these limitations; unlike knowing the position and velocity of a particle with arbitrary precision, I do believe it is possible. Unfortunately, however, no matter how much I worship and adore Julian Burnside (he is my idol; he should be yours too) I can't give this book - or any other word book I have encountered thus far - more than three stars.
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