Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

06 Jan 2002, 10:20 a.m.

This morning I was reading Hofstadter and I realized that…

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2002 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

This morning I was reading Hofstadter and I realized that one thing in this book that annoys me is his wordplay. I mean, as you all know, I am heavily in favor of wordplay in almost every situation, but Hofstadter's endless wordplay leads me to suspect that he makes arguments just so he can play with spelling in punny ways.

This connects to my other peeve I just discovered. de Becker does this and lots of rather unprofessional writers do this. They'll mention a word root or a dictionary definition as though that, in and of itself, is an invincible argument for their position. It's often a conclusion/capstone or an introduction rhetorical trick. Definitions should be used to clarify the premises of arguments, not to make arguments. And word roots are seldom relevant to the discourse.