I am writing about what-ish?

24 January 2010

I use my mobile phone to text my wife saying,

about 5ish.

I wonder if this could be a case of recursion. The “ish” after the 5 is really a reiteration of the “about”, as if I had said “about, about 5”, an approximation of an approximation.

But this really will not do. Surely recursion must involve a repeated expression not just two or more expressions with the same meaning or function. Or must it? Is it necessarily necessary that recursion must have to require repetition of the same term? Can recursion be instanced by a repetition of a different term with the same semantic value?

But wait a minute, isn’t the example I’ve given “about 5-ish” just a case of redundancy or tautology? Like “yellow” in yellow jaundice, might the qualifier “about” simply be superfluous?

Well, that rather depends. I could say that writing “about 5”, would give the impression that I would leave some time around five o’clock, but not on the dot. But by adding, “-ish”, I intended to make it clear (or less clear) that I could leave anytime after four and and before six. So if that was how I intended to use “-ish”, then there was something like a recurring function, vaguification x2. I could have made it x3 by saying “some time around about 5-ish” but I suspect that at this point the law of diminishing returns would kick in.

The problem is partly that we have singularly failed to give a definition of recursion, even for for the purposes of this blog. Something we’ll have to do something about. Soonish.


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