"hysterical soft"

"productive selection"

"eatable aboard"

"square circle"

All four of these phrases are incomprehensible, meaningless.

Why do so many people use "square circle" in arguments as if it were a thing or had meaning, why don't they see that it's just as gibberish as "yellow elegant"?

  • Words do not have to refer to existent objects in order to have meaning. To have meaning, they should just hint of some quality of being. Things are derivative of qualities, not vice versa (timber is due to stringiness plus other feels, like damp smell). We collide words into "incompatible" or "impossible" combinations to form fresh, spicy metaphors. We thus create nonexistent things with meaning. Some people (in psychosis, for example) believe those things really, shapely exist. – ttnphns Mar 15 '18 at 3:03
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    Some of your examples just sound like oxymorons, e.g., examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-oxymorons.html – John Forkosh Mar 15 '18 at 8:12
  • Square circles are certainly meaningful. The unit circle in the taxicab metric is a square. See the picture on the right halfway down the page and you will see a square circle. Philosophers: Stop using this example!! There are square circles. Have a nice day. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxicab_geometry – user4894 Mar 17 '18 at 17:25

I don't see 'eatable aboard' as incomprehensible or meaningless. It might refer to food items on sale at an airport terminal, for instance.

I'd say that 'productive selection' is hard to find a meaning for but contexts are imaginable : 'George was given the job of deciding what lines of goods we could sell in our shop. He made a very productive selection - these lines will sell'.

'Hysterical soft' : or 'hysterically soft' ? Either phrase might be used to describe a person who was so so supine that their condition was hysterically funny. (Not a charitable description.)

A 'square circle' is in any usual sense of the words logically impossible : nothing can be at the same time and in the same respects both a square and a circle. But that might be the point of using the phrase : 'According to your schedule you're supposed to be in London on Tuesday at 09.00 hrs and in Tokyo at the same time. That's impossible, like drawing a square circle'.

There is a different but related phrase, 'to square the circle'. When someone is trying to do what's just impossible, you could say that they are trying to square the circle. The point of that phrase is that it is geometrically impossible to create a square equal in area to a given circle. (But then, with alternative geometries I wouldn't put money on it.) I think it's true in Euclidean geometry.

Perhaps we move in different circles, Euclidean or otherwise, but I can't say I've ever heard your four phrases used. But I take your word for it.

  • +1. Even in Euclidean there are strange things. In 1D space (on line) both circle and square degenerate in one figure, the cut. In high dimensional space almost all points are distributed within hypercube corners, while hyperball is almost vanished: so to say, square has eaten up circle, so, in a sence, they are again one figure. – ttnphns Mar 15 '18 at 7:38
  • @ttnphns. This is just the kind of comment I relish, thank you. I'm embarrassingly aware of my lack of real mathematical knowledge. I was sure my geometrical observations were liable to qualification. Great - much appreciated : GT – Geoffrey Thomas Mar 15 '18 at 8:27
  • I take your subtle English irony. But I really liked your answer much. – ttnphns Mar 15 '18 at 11:20

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