Topic: Etymology

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Bullshit asymmetry principle

Philosophy Philosophy/Logic Business Marketing & Advertising Linguistics Philosophy/Philosophy of language Linguistics/Philosophy of language Etymology

Bullshit (also bullcrap) is a common English expletive which may be shortened to the euphemism bull or the initialism B.S. In British English, "bollocks" is a comparable expletive. It is mostly a slang term and a profanity which means "nonsense", especially as a rebuke in response to communication or actions viewed as deceptive, misleading, disingenuous, unfair or false. As with many expletives, the term can be used as an interjection, or as many other parts of speech, and can carry a wide variety of meanings. A person who communicates nonsense on a given subject may be referred to as a "bullshit artist".

In philosophy and psychology of cognition the term "bullshit" is sometimes used to specifically refer to statements produced without particular concern of truth, to distinguish from a deliberate, manipulative lie intended to subvert the truth.

While the word is generally used in a deprecatory sense, it may imply a measure of respect for language skills or frivolity, among various other benign usages. In philosophy, Harry Frankfurt, among others, analyzed the concept of bullshit as related to, but distinct from, lying.

As an exclamation, "Bullshit!" conveys a measure of dissatisfaction with something or someone, but this usage need not be a comment on the truth of the matter.

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Mathematics Etymology

Zenzizenzizenzic is an obsolete form of mathematical notation representing the eighth power of a number (that is, the zenzizenzizenzic of x is x8), dating from a time when powers were written out in words rather than as superscript numbers. This term was suggested by Robert Recorde, a 16th-century Welsh writer of popular mathematics textbooks, in his 1557 work The Whetstone of Witte (although his spelling was zenzizenzizenzike); he wrote that it "doeth represent the square of squares squaredly".

At the time Recorde proposed this notation, there was no easy way of denoting the powers of numbers other than squares and cubes. The root word for Recorde's notation is zenzic, which is a German spelling of the medieval Italian word censo, meaning "squared". Since the square of a square of a number is its fourth power, Recorde used the word zenzizenzic (spelled by him as zenzizenzike) to express it. Some of the terms had prior use in Latin "zenzicubicus", "zensizensicus" and "zensizenzum". Similarly, as the sixth power of a number is equal to the square of its cube, Recorde used the word zenzicubike to express it; a more modern spelling, zenzicube, is found in Samuel Jeake's Logisticelogia. Finally, the word zenzizenzizenzic denotes the square of the square of a number's square, which is its eighth power: in modern notation,

x 8 = ( ( x 2 ) 2 ) 2 . {\displaystyle x^{8}=\left(\left(x^{2}\right)^{2}\right)^{2}.}

Recorde proposed three mathematical terms by which any power (that is, index or exponent) greater than 1 could be expressed: zenzic, i.e. squared; cubic; and sursolid, i.e. raised to a prime number greater than three, the smallest of which is five. Sursolids were as follows: 5 was the first; 7, the second; 11, the third; 13, the fourth; etc.

Therefore, a number raised to the power of six would be zenzicubic, a number raised to the power of seven would be the second sursolid, hence bissursolid (not a multiple of two and three), a number raised to the twelfth power would be the "zenzizenzicubic" and a number raised to the power of ten would be the square of the (first) sursolid. The fourteenth power was the square of the second sursolid, and the twenty-second was the square of the third sursolid.

Curiously, Jeake's text appears to designate a written exponent of 0 as being equal to an "absolute number, as if it had no Mark", thus using the notation x0 to refer to x alone, while a written exponent of 1, in his text, denotes "the Root of any number", thus using the notation x1 to refer to what is now known to be x0.5.

The word, as well as the system, is obsolete except as a curiosity; the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has only one citation for it. As well as being a mathematical oddity, it survives as a linguistic oddity: zenzizenzizenzic has more Zs than any other word in the OED.

Samuel Jeake the Younger gives zenzizenzizenzizenzike (the square of the square of the square of the square, or 16th power) in a table in A Compleat Body of Arithmetick:

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