You Keep Using That Word

In 1878, The Reverend William Stanton Moses wrote a treatise on Psychography in which he acknowledged that the word itself had become complicated to use. link


THE following pages are concerned with what has been variously called Independent, Direct, or Spirit Writing. I have ventured to call it PSYCHOGRAPHY, a term intelligible in itself, moulded on already existing words, and expressive of what clumsy periphrases have hitherto vaguely conveyed. I was under the impression, when I first applied the term, that it was as new to the subject as it certainly was to me. I find, however, that I am using a word which has been before applied; and I am not sorry that I am only giving extended use to a term which is obviously applicable and convenient.

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Psychography as a term has had many claimants, from the study of spirit writing, to automatic writing (not the same) to phrenology to lie detection to its current use as term for psychological profiling of potential market segments in advertising (where it is more commonly spoken of as "psychographics").

Wrestling over meaning of apparently descriptive terms is not confined to psychography. Discourse, for example, is strongly connected in cultural studies to the idea that it is the function of all forms of communication (including dissertation) to generate and reproduce power. Looked at this way, a particular discourse indicates the scope of thinkability on a topic.

This variant on discourse makes Dissertation over Discourse and related notes complicated to read, and easy to misunderstand.

When the specific provenance of apparently common language is discursively mainstreamed, the thinkability of minority or alternate histories becomes harder to sustain.

This becomes increasingly significant to the preservation of cultural diversity in education.