This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Sunday Rest: orthogonal. Word Not To Use Today.

Well, ortho is boring: it means straight, right, or upright. And gonal presumably means having a certain number of sides or angles (as in octagon or hexagon).

So, as well as sounding like the death-groan of something ancient and hopefully extinct, the word orthogonal is clearly going to be far too tedious to bother with.

Or is it? Perhaps it really describes something marvellous, like the path made by an enchanter's wand, or a type of gold-encrusted biscuit eaten by enclosed nuns at Septuagesima, or the soft first fur of a young wombat.

And does it?


Sorry, orthogonal is just what it sounds like, only, if anything, worse. It means to do with right angles or uprights. Unless, that is, you're doing maths, when it describes a pair of vectors that have a defined scalar product equal to zero, or a pair of functions that have a defined product equal to zero.

I don't know about you, but neither of those definitions is going anywhere as far as I'm concerned.

While I'm here, an orthogonal projection isn't something to hang towels on, but a way architects can draw buildings. If they so wish.

But, I mean, who would?

File:Orthogonal projection envelopes 24-cell.png
Image produced by Robert Webb's Stella software :

Word Not To Use Today: orthogonal. The Greek orthos means straight, right, or upright. The Greek gōnia means angle.

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