This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
We are now pursuing ourselves in ever diminishing circles.
A dictionary is merely one set of compiler's beliefs against another.
The one which is more often right may be the one that sells the more copies? Who decides what is the true definition and whether a word is standard or not?
Some languages attempt some authoritative control such as the French who (at least in official use) are strongly opposed to terms such as "le weekend" and computer - l'ordinateur, le "Jumbo Jet".
And as James points out, the Germans also tried a simplification and one word quoted (I can't find it at the moment) was a ships captain or some such where there was a succession of ssssss to make the mind fog over(is there a German version of Countdown? is their a German Carol Vordman? how big is a German scrabble board?)
But such attempts fail. We might conclude that in the end it is the people who decide on words and spellings and the dictionaries merely document what is. But of course, there is ample room for debate.
What otherwise is the difference between dictionaries except perhaps that one may be more comprehensive than another or one may choose to include more "non-standard" words or more "patois" regional dialect words, jargon and the like?
I am put in mind of the idea that Mathematics is founded proven concepts or laws and which is where we should expect to see order, where we should expect to see all arguments and proofs built logically and incontrovertibly on smaller proofs and fundamentally, upon the simplest of axioms.
Bertrand Russel: "Russell wanted a theory that could plausibly be said to derive all of mathematics from purely logical axioms. "
Now I could be very wrong here, but it is my understanding that when it came to proving the most fundamental of the mathematical axioms,he encountered a problem. He had to introduce some new axioms, certainly but did he not run into trouble finding proofs for the "axioms". Does not axiomatic mean "taken for granted" or "accepted"?
Russel also gives us the "Cosmic Teapot" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell%27s_teapot which one might well take sides on.
According to Wiki this analogy was: "intended to refute the idea that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon the sceptic to disprove unfalsifiable claims of religions.
But does it?
It seems to me that it may not place the burden squarely with either side since it has some commonalities with Schroedinger's Cat.
It is only when we have the ability to detect the teapot that we are able to demonstrate if it exists or not. Until then, all things are possible, nes pas?
Sorry, just a little mental rambling before my coffee. I'll stop before I get in too deep as I am already having trouble breathing under water.
Everybody has some fundamental beliefs or axioms that cannot be proved from more basic concepts. The superiority claimed for atheism is that has fewer axioms than religious systems without (allegedly)explaining fewer things. That this makes it superior is itself an axiom.
Ultimately it's a matter of choosing axioms that seem to make sense of the world and the people in it without appearing to contradict each other.
The reason for using a teapot is that a teapot in orbit around another planet in the solar system is inherently implausible. A claim of an asteroid in orbit still philosophically demands proof, but you aren't going to dismiss the possibility for being ridiculous, and are likely to accept two observations from a halfway-competent astronomer rather than insisting on seeing it yourself.
The ability to detect a god or gods is given, since there are those (essentially all the religious) who claim to have detected the existence of a god. If they have done so they can share their methodology with the rest of us.
Russel's point being that the majority (if not all) god claims, and certainly the ones which we are most familiar with, fall into the same category of inherent implausibility.
And indeed they do this the minute they start fleshing out with burning bushes, virgin births, dictations of holy scripture from archangels and so on. In moving past deism, religion becomes a teapot rather than an asteroid.
The word JMW is looking for is Donaudampfschifffahrtskapitän (Danube steam shipping captain), but you can expand these compound nouns more or less indefinitely:
Danube shipping company paddle steamer captain's quarters' door security key.
I can go one better:
Nail on which is hung the Danube shipping company paddle steamer captain's quarters' door security key.
Hammer for nail on which is hung the Danube shipping company paddle steamer captain's quarters' door security key.
Sadly the board doesn't like German compound nouns. The last 3 should be:
The existence of a god is a claim for something fundamental rather than some detail of everday reality. Such a thing or person is bound, by definition, to be 'extraordinary'. One might as well argue that because the existence of Albert Einstein is fundamentally improbable, he cannot have existed.
I'm not sure I agree with the distinction between fundamental and everyday. But for the sake of argument let's argue that the existence of Albert Einstein is on the face of it as improbable as the existence of, say, the Islamic god (sunni branch). We nevertheless believe in the existence of Albert Einstein because we have good evidence of his existence. Like good scientists we recognise that nothing is incontrovertible, but at the very least it is more likely than not, as we have evidence, such as photographs, interviews, scientific works, payslips, and the testimony of people still alive who met him, that Albert Einstein really did exist. We don't however believe in the existence of the Islamic god (sunni branch) because there is no evidence for it.
Even fundamentally improbable things can exist, and doubtless given the size of the universe quite a lot of them do - the question is whether those defending the claim that such a thing exists are prepared to offer any evidence for their claim.
Indeed there are those who hold the universe is inherently implausible (though no one has bothered to explain how one could know such a thing from a sample of 1, and by definition not being able to know if there is more than one universe), but we observe the universe and know it exists, arguments about its plausibility aside. The theist basically goes on to say "right, now because you believe in one inherently implausible thing you have to believe in all of them, and I've got one here for you, the Rabbi up the road has another one, the Priest over there has another one, etc etc..."