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Name of a word that describes its own qualities

Discussion in 'English Only' started by moo bottle, Jan 4, 2013.

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  1. moo bottle Junior Member

    England, English
    Hello, thanks for reading.

    I have a problem that's been driving me mad and I hope someone can help! It's difficult to explain, but I am sure that there is a technical term for an adjectival noun that literally describes the characteristics of itself. For example, Skoda make a model called the Superb. Which, if we were to take Skoda's word for it being a literally 'superb' car, is an adjectival noun that describes the characteristics of itself.

    What is the term for such a word?

    This has been driving me mad so I hope someone knows what I mean! Otherwise I might have to go in the loony bin.

    Thanks again for listening to my incoherent ramblings. :)
     
  2. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    There are standard terms in philosophy, autological and heterological. 'Short' is a short word so it's autological, and 'recondite' is recondite, so it is too. 'Monosyllabic' is not monosyllabic, so it's heterological. Is this what you're after? Because I don't think the Superb is an example of this: these apply more to whether the word 'superb' is superb or not.
     
  3. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hi moo bottle

    You're not, by any chance, thinking of "performative verbs", are you - verbs like 'apologise' or 'promise' where saying the verb also carries out the action represented by the verb?
     
  4. morior_invictus

    morior_invictus Senior Member

    Slovak
    Hi, what about "descriptor", or "characteristic" or simply just an "adjective"?
     
  5. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    Akin to the Superb are many fictional characters, including all the Mr Men and Seven Dwarfs: Miss Naughty is naughty and Grumpy is grumpy. And of course Humpty Dumpty told Alice that he fitted this too. But I can't think of any word for self-descriptive names of this kind.
     
  6. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    I think you're looking for autonym. There may be other words for this phenomenon thrown around by word geeks; I'll think about it and see if I can find anything better.

    (EDIT for example: For example, "abbr." is itself an abbreviation.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2013
  7. kuronin New Member

    Japan
    English - Canadian
    Hi,

    From your example, I would suggest that the name Skoda is "self-referential."
    I am not sure of any other expression for this case.
     
  8. morior_invictus

    morior_invictus Senior Member

    Slovak
    You probably meant "Superb", not "Skoda", because the word "Skoda" means "pity" or "damage" and that would be a very bad autonym for a car. :)
    entangledbank and lucas-sp are completely right that "superb" is an autological word (or autonym). My point of view was not good.
     
  9. kuronin New Member

    Japan
    English - Canadian
    Of course, you're right, thanks! I was just confused, writing after midnight. I agree that 'autological' fills the bill, and quite a few others as well.
     
  10. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    "Superb" would only be autological/autonymic if we decided that the word "superb" was a superb word. I like the word "superb," so maybe it is an autonym for me - but aesthetic judgments aren't necessarily universal. However, most everyone will agree that "four-syllable" is autonymic.

    You could say that product names like "Superb" and "Tastee Freez" attempt to be ethopoeic - they claim to give a description of the nature or manner of the the product they name. That's the best I can do.
     
  11. Biffo Senior Member

    England
    English - England
    That's the point moo bottle.

    I think that your formulation of the question is not at all clear. Could you explain precisely what you mean? :)
     
  12. velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
    I don't find the question very clear either, but maybe what is required is "euonym": 'A name well-suited to the person, place or thing named' (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). "Superb" and "Swift" could fit this category, unlike "Polo" or "Golf".
     
  13. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    That is true in relation to the word 'superb' as an adjective. ('Autonymic' according to Chambers English Dictionary (1990) means: (of a book) published under the author's own name).

    However, in the case of the Skoda Superb, 'Superb' is not an adjective, but a proper name.
    Thus it might be held to be autological or self-referential, provided that the car lived up to the name.
    Even so, though, it is a subjective judgement whether the car does so or not.

    On the other hand, words like 'short' and 'polysyllabic' are strictly autological or self-referential.
    The nouns corresponding to 'autological' and 'self-referential' will be 'autologue' (AE 'autolog') and 'self-referent'.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2013
  14. Biffo Senior Member

    England
    English - England
    I'm having trouble seeing this. Suppose opinion wasn't involved:

    Let's say a manufacturer made a car that came in only one colour - red. If they called it the Red this would not be autological according to the definition unless the name Red was painted in red on the car. (In which case it would be difficult to read! :D)
     
  15. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    Seeing what, may I ask? You have quoted an excerpt containing various propositions, making distinct and differing points.
     
  16. Biffo Senior Member

    England
    English - England

    You say "it might be held to be autological...". I assume what you mean by 'it' is the word 'superb' (or in my example 'red').

    I'm agreeing with lucas-sp that a word is autological only it describes itself, not if it describes something else.
     
  17. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    "Self-referent" is actually also an adjective. "Self-reference" or "self-referentiality" are the noun forms (or "self-referential expression," etc.).

    And again, we are talking about names of things (I think): the "Superb" is supposed to be a superb car (not a superb name for a car), Mr. Grumpy is a grumpy Mr. Man (not a grumpy proper name), and so forth. I think we can still tell the difference between a signifier and its signified in these cases (in fact, there is often a more absolute difference between signifier and signified in the case of proper names); for a word to be properly autological its signifier has to be included amongst its signifieds. The "Skoda Superb" signifier opens up a set of signifieds that are cars; the material arrangement of letters or sounds "Skoda Superb" is not included in that set.

    We have to talk about rhetorical figures of naming, not self-reference, because a name does not refer to itself (perhaps that's the difference between a name and a pronoun, ha ha). We want a word for a name that (putatively) describes a characteristic of particular the thing it names. The best answer is velisarius's euonym: a name happy (felicitous) enough to stick to its referent not only linguistically but semantically as well.
     
  18. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    This is pointing out that a proper name is a different thing.
    This means: 'Some people might conclude that the proper name 'Superb' was self-referential, as long as the car proved to be superb in practice.' (Such a conclusion would apply to that name, but not to the adjective 'superb').
    This points out that such a view would still be based on a subjective opinion.

    In other words, my point is that while it is disputable whether the proper name 'Superb' (as distinct from the adjective 'superb') is self-referential, it is indisputable that 'short' and 'polysyllabic' are self-referential.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2013
  19. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    Those people, unfortunately, would be wrong. The proper name "Superb" could be called self-referential if and only if it were a superb proper name, if it performed its function as a proper name in a superb manner. It's unclear to me what the criteria for being a "good" or "better" proper name are, so I cannot make the judgment of whether "Superb" as a proper name is self-referential or autonymic.

    I'm starting to think that as a brand name "Superb" is autonymic, inasmuch as it became our example for all brand names that try to communicate something of the flavor of the product they're selling. It seems like the name stuck in all of our heads and got us thinking about the car being superb. That is, "Superb" would be autonymic as a brand name because it is doing its job as a brand name well, because it's getting people to discuss and consider the product it names.

    Note that the superbness of the product itself does not enter into our consideration of the self-referentiality of the proper name/brand name "Superb."
     
  20. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    It is true that 'self-referent' is also an adjective. That does not stop it being a noun, meaning 'the object of self-reference'.
    Likewise, 'referent' is both an adjective and a noun (the object of reference).
    The other noun, self-referentiality, has a different meaning: 'the condition or state of referring to self'.
     
  21. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    This is still my point.
    The correct analysis of the reference of a proper name seems a larger question than this thread would justify.
     
  22. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    Although it may seem that "self-referent" could be used as a noun by analogy to "referent," there is no such noun as "self-referent."

    The noun "referent" means "the thing being referred to," and the adjective "referent" means "referring [to something]." Obviously only the adjective can take "self" to make the hyphenated form. We are discussing signifiers that would refer to themselves; we thus want to add "self" to the process of reference, not to the referent itself.

    To use "self-referent" as a noun mixes the levels of "sense and reference" in the sense given the words in analytical philosophy and - much more importantly - the processes of signification and reference as defined by linguistics.
     
  23. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    We don't need to analyze the reference of a proper name. We know what the referent of "Skoda Superb" is, and it is neither the sounds "sss-co-da-soo-puh-erb" nor the letters "ess kay oh dee eh ess you pee ee ar bee" nor the function by which sounds and letters point humans towards objects in the phenomenal world. Instead, it is a particular kind of large hunk of metal with fabric and plastic in it that moves around at relatively high speeds compared to humans on foot and contributes to climate change.
     
  24. Biffo Senior Member

    England
    English - England
    Okay the real problem was that the original question was ill-posed. I think what we are looking for is simply a name that aptly describes the object it is naming.

    I concatenated "apt" and "nym" to get "aptonym". I looked it up and there it was.


    An aptronym (also: aptonym) or charactonym is a name aptly suited to its owner. Fictional examples of aptronyms include Mr. Talkative and Mr. Worldly Wiseman in John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress (1678),
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aptronym
     
  25. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    Posts 22 and 23 invite plenty of discussion: off topic, though.

    Even so, it is still disputable whether 'Superb' would qualify as an 'aptonym'.
    Perhaps what moo bottle wants is a name that tendentiously describes what it names: since that is what 'Superb' does.
    For this, I propose 'jactonym' (from Latin jacto, I boast).
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2013
  26. Biffo Senior Member

    England
    English - England
    Indeed and of course, since the original question was about an auto-mobile, the word auto-nym is in fact an apto-nym for a word describing the name of a car :D
    If it was also boastful...
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2013
  27. Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    It seems that this thread has demonstrated that it is possible for new forms of life to be created from nothing more than the actions of neurotransmitters and ion shifts in foreros' synapses, and the movement of electrons. For the protection of future readers, and now that the Christmas period of festive fun is over, I will close this thread.

    If moo bottle would care to contact one of the forum moderators to clarify his question we might consider reopening it. We would, of course, expect clarification along these lines:
    Andygc, moderator
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2013
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