Author Topic: word suggestion: ansible  (Read 698 times)

TRex

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word suggestion: ansible
« on: January 22, 2020, 10:14:37 AM »
The word ansible is a common device in science fiction. It even makes the OED which defines it thus:

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In science fiction: a device that enables instantaneous communication over any distance. Also: this as a form of communication.

The OED has usage going back to 1966 which jibes with the Wikipedia article.

birdy

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Re: word suggestion: ansible
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2020, 03:55:24 PM »
I know it from science fiction, though I don't remember seeing in more recent literature.  Is it still being used?

TRex

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Re: word suggestion: ansible
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2020, 08:32:58 AM »
I know it from science fiction, though I don't remember seeing in more recent literature.  Is it still being used?

It was used in Ender's Game. Even made it into the movie.

mkenuk

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Re: word suggestion: ansible
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2020, 11:44:48 AM »
'Ansible' seems to be something of a nonce word, coined by Ursula le Guin for use in a 1966 novel and then used by her again in later novels.

In this it's a little like the 'babel fish' in the Douglas Adams 'Hitchhiker' novels; this device, when inserted in your ear allowed you to understand any kind of spoken language. This term was later used by Yahoo for a free online translation service.
Another example of such a word is 'Floo powder' in the works of J.K.Rowling, which allowed Harry Potter and co. to travel around by using people's chimneys!

The Wikipedia page for 'ansible' claims that  'the name of the device has been borrowed by numerous authors'.
Numerous? It quotes only one, somebody called Orson Scott Card, with whose works I am unfortunately not familiar.

The article goes on to claim that 'Numerous (again!) other writers have included faster-than-light communication devices in their fictional works' . It doesn't, however, make it clear in just how many of these, if any. the device in question is called 'an ansible'. In at least one of them, 'Gridlinked' by Neal Asher, the device is named runcible not ansible.
In the only one of the works quoted which I have read, The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, I certainly can't recall any reference to something called 'an ansible'. Lyra, the heroine of the novel, is able to make instant contact with a witch friend of hers by holding a piece of 'cloud pine' and calling the witch's name, but this is a form of supernatural power rather than a scientific device of the kind found in science fiction.

 


« Last Edit: January 24, 2020, 01:26:18 PM by mkenuk »

Alan W

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Re: word suggestion: ansible
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2020, 02:35:33 PM »
I don't think I've read Orson Scott Card either, but he is quite well known in the field, being described as "one of the dominant figures of recent sf" by the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. The OED cites examples from him, D. Loeff, L.A. Graf and an unnamed contributor to Interzone magazine, as well as the word's creator, Ursula K. Le Guin.

Brave New Words, The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction, edited by Jeff Prucher, has examples from Le Guin and Card, and also Vernor Vinge, E. Moon and I. Stewart and J. Cohen. Ansible is also mentioned in the preface of that dictionary. Prucher says that when he tells people he is writing a dictionary of science fiction, they often try to guess words that would be in such a work. "Serious SF readers, for some reason, almost always mention ansible."

None of this necessarily qualifies the word for inclusion in our lexicon. I'll have to look into that a bit further. Any outcome will be conveyed to you all at close to the speed of light, but no faster.
Alan Walker
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TRex

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Re: word suggestion: ansible
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2020, 08:15:19 AM »
'Ansible' seems to be something of a nonce word, coined by Ursula le Guin for use in a 1966 novel and then used by her again in later novels.

I don't think it fair to dismiss it as a nonce word. After all, it was Karel Čapek who created (in science fiction) the word robot which is now widely used. A science fiction writer necessarily deals in unusual concepts, some of which for which there may be no existing term and they need to coin a word. Other writers in the genre may choose to adopt the term, making it easier on science fiction readers. After all, why create a new word when someone has already done so?

The OED lists four different authors as using ansible: U. K. Le Guin, O. S. Card (author of Ender's Game and the series which has followed eighteen published, two more planned), 'L. A. Graf' (not certain why the OED placed the name in quotes (pseudonym, perhaps?), and D. Loeff.

mkenuk

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Re: word suggestion: ansible
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2020, 09:49:07 AM »
The phrase 'nonce word' is  not meant to be dismissive in any way. It's simply a term in linguistics for 'a word or expression coined for one occasion'. (COD)

There are plenty of examples of nonce words in literature - 'yahoo' for instance from the fourth part of 'Gulliver's Travels', not to mention 'houyhnhnm' from the same book.
The first has survived to the present with the meaning of 'ill-mannered lout'; the second is less well-known, perhaps because so few people know exactly how to pronounce it!!

Writers of fantasy and science-fiction are constantly inventing new concepts and are, as you say, of necessity inventing new (nonce) words to name these concepts.
I mentioned J.K. Rowling's 'Floo powder'. Other examples from the same author would be 'muggles' (non-magical people) and 'portkey' (an ordinary object such as an old boot which may be used by witches and wizards for travelling to other places)

Lewis Carroll's famous  'Jabberwocky'  from 'Alice' contains many nonce words - 'brillig', 'slithy', 'toves', 'gyre','gimble' and 'wabe' - and that is only from the first two lines!
Many an English teacher has spent many an English lesson getting his/her students to suggest what Carrol's words might mean.
At least one nonce word from the poem, 'chortle' has made it to common status on Chi!
No mean achievement.

Finally, the immortal bard himself is credited with the longest nonce word in English - 'honorificabilitudinitatibus' from 'Love's Labours Lost'.




Jacki

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Re: word suggestion: ansible
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2020, 11:46:20 AM »
Yep, when my son was little and we would roll up the hems on his jeans, he would call them "pags". And pags it is from now on in our house. Not sure it would qualify for Chi but it is cute!

TRex

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Re: word suggestion: ansible
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2020, 11:52:17 AM »
The phrase 'nonce word' is  not meant to be dismissive in any way. It's simply a term in linguistics for 'a word or expression coined for one occasion'. (COD)

Which suggests, IMO, that it is a one-time usage and not suitable for Chihuahua. That is why I used 'dismissive'. That's all.

Linda

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Re: word suggestion: ansible
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2020, 02:41:22 AM »
To me, the word is far more sinister:

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(Britain, slang, derogatory, prisons) A sex offender, especially one who is guilty of sexual offences against children.

mkenuk

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Re: word suggestion: ansible
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2020, 03:26:12 AM »

I think we are at cross-purposes here, Linda.

'Nonce' is certainly British slang for a child molester, but that's a fairly recent word.
COD says '1970s, origin unknown'.

The other, much older, meaning of 'nonce' is 'occasion' - hence the linguistic term 'nonce word' - a word that is invented by an author for literary reasons.

Linda

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Re: word suggestion: ansible
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2020, 11:20:11 PM »
Sorry!  Just read the word 'nonce' and decided to add my two penn'orth!!  Should have read the posts more carefully.  Will try harder in future!  >:D

Alan W

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Re: word suggestion: ansible
« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2020, 11:19:18 PM »
Sorry, TRex, but I'm not persuaded at this stage to accept ansible. It's in two dictionaries that I know of: the OED and Wiktionary. But both of these aim to be as comprehensive as possible. I consider that these dictionaries include a lot of words that are too obscure to go in our lexicon.

There's also an article about the word on Michael Quinion's World Wide Words site.

In 2010, I accepted rogue_mother's proposal to add decloak, a word originating in Star Trek. This was a few years after she first made the suggestion, and only after she provided thirteen examples of the word being used in figurative ways, such as "Republicans Decloak Health Care Plan". At that time I didn't know of any dictionaries that included the word, but I accepted RM's argument that the dictionaries simply hadn't caught up with an emerging usage.

But I don't see any examples of ansible being used outside the world of science fiction, except as the name of a software platform of some sort - a proper name. (It's also the name of David Langford's excellent monthly sf newsletter.)

So, with no dictionary recognition outside unabridged works and no evidence of usage outside a very specialised niche, I'm not inclined to incorporate it into Chi.

Alan Walker
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TRex

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Re: word suggestion: ansible
« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2020, 08:42:47 AM »
Thanks, Alan, for the consideration.