Rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies © Robert Sommers 2017

Monday, March 25, 2013


Dust Breeding, 1920, printed ca. 1967
Man Ray (American, 1890–1976)
Gelatin silver print
Jon sent me the photo. Man Ray collected a year's worth of dust for a photograph.

Many of my friends and acquaintances consider me a bit of a word nazi. I am always correcting somebody's spelling, syntax, pronunciation and the like. I don't know where the personal obsession stems from but I come from a very literate family and my mother was a book editor in New York. As a young man I often had to proof galleys for her.

I say this because I was busted by some friends the other night on the way to or from dinner, I don't recall which. Hoisted on my own linguistic petard, as it were.

We were talking about something and I said that I had been cognitating on something. After a long pause, (I believe it was my wife but I suppose it could have been R) well, one of them said, "Is that really a word?" "No," I said, rather sheepishly, "But it should be."

the act or process of knowing; perception.
the product of such a process; something thus known, perceived, etc.
1375–1425; late Middle English cognicioun  < Latin cognitiōn-  (stem of cognitiō ), equivalent to cognit ( us ), past participle of cognōscere  ( co- co- + gni-,  variant stem of gnōscere, nōscere,  to learn (see know1 ) + -tus  past participle suffix) + -iōn- -ion

Related forms
cog·ni·tion·al, adjective
non·cog·ni·tion, noun
self-cog·ni·tion, noun

Now follow me here. What exactly is the inherent verb in the cognition process? The act or process of knowing has no verb? Preposterous. There has to be one or cognition can not take place. It certainly isn't cogitate, although that is closer it is a slightly different concept. Similar but not the exact latin root and the former 100 years older.

[koj-i-teyt]  verb, cog·i·tat·ed, cog·i·tat·ing.
verb (used without object)
to think hard; ponder; meditate: to cogitate about a problem.
verb (used with object)
to think about; devise: to cogitate a scheme.
1555–65;  < Latin cōgitātus  (past participle of cōgitāre ), equivalent to co- co- + agitātus;  see agitate

Related forms
cog·i·tat·ing·ly, adverb
cog·i·ta·tor, noun
pre·cog·i·tate, verb, pre·cog·i·tat·ed, pre·cog·i·tat·ing.

1. deliberate, reflect. 2. weigh.

I think that it is safe to assume that cognition takes place after one takes part in cognitive thinking. Can we call the person in which this satori realization takes place a cognite? Science fiction and writers of the paranormal have long referred to people with prescient awareness of future events pre cogs. If that is acceptable, is the term "cog" equally acceptable?

Of course this whole line of inquiry would not be fully mined if we did not at least briefly visit another cog word, cogent. The latins evidently spent a lot of time splitting semantical hairs on this root.

Appealing to the intellect or powers of reasoning; convincing: a cogent argument.
compelling belief or assent; forcefully convincing
[from Latin cōgent-, cōgēns, driving together, from cōgere, from co- together + agere to drive]
cogency  n
cogently  adv

Am I crazy or is it merely a matter of having too much time on my brain? Doesn't it seem to you like there is a big gap between cognition and cognitional, or the cognitive, a serious need for an active verb or force of doing? I will even accept the verb cognit if it is okay with the rest of you. Why is it perfectly acceptable to cogitate but if one attempts to cognitate they are only met with scorn and disdain? I believe that somebody needs to fix this, pronto.

Linguistically yours,


1 comment:

grumpy said...

another example is "effort": of late, i've heard this noun verb-alized, as it were, into "efforting", as in "i am efforting to do something", instead of "i am trying" or "i am attempting"; purists will cry foul, but English is constantly changing and evolving, which is what makes it such a vital and fascinating idiom.