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Musical sensor shows bad medicine plays false note (phys.org)
39 points by dnetesn 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments





Meta: The original title is much better ("Musical sensor shows bad medicine plays false note").

The submitted title is using "literally" in the inverse meaning ("figuratively"), which is very confusing.

The described sensor (it's just a single design, not multiple that as the submitted title suggests) has sound as its output, and detects changes in density by changing the pitch of the tone generated. This is not music, and the sensor itself is not music (which would be the proper meaning of "literally" here).

Or maybe I'm just old and stupid (and, of course, a non-native speaker at that) to find this annoying.


I think the definition of "literally" as its opposite is already included in the OED. Literally now literally means figuratively. Thanks English.

But I hear "literally" used a lot these days as a random emphasis that has no real meaning. Hopefully people will literally over-use it to the point where it literally sounds as jarring to use as "literally instead of figuratively" literally sounds to us.

THEN we can tell them to get off our figurative lawns!


> I think the definition of "literally" as its opposite is already included in the OED. Literally now literally means figuratively.

No, it doesn't.

Some words change meaning over time, as language naturally changes.

That is not the case with this word. This word is fundamental, like a gatekeeper to discussion of reality. It can no more mean its opposite than can "light" mean "dark", or "good" mean "evil."

> Thanks English.

English is not a person. English didn't do anything. By saying this, you deflect blame from those who are actively working to disrupt our use of language and corrupt our discourse.

The OED is not in charge of the English language. Just because someone who works there decided to rubber-stamp a definition into being doesn't mean that a word literally has the opposite meaning. If it means that people are already commonly misusing it, then it's all the more reason to stand up for the correct meaning. If we lose the ability to refer to reality, to distinguish from fantasy, then how will we even discern them in our own minds?

This is not centuries ago, before electronic communication, when trends took decades or centuries to travel. Today, you can post on Twitter one minute, and be world-famous (or infamous) the next. Use that power to make language better, stronger, and more meaningful. There are already enough people throwing in the towel, and others actively working to destroy.


Oh, do I have a bit of linguistic fun for you! English disagrees with you. Literally is a contronym and depending on which linguist you ask, it's actually two words that happen to be spelled and sound the same but each has their own meaning - a homonym. Whether literally is a contronym or a homonym is up to the linguist you ask - some might happily say it is both!

When you clip something - are you attaching it or cutting it off? When you scan something are you reading word for word or are you skim reading? When you set an argument on the table are you presenting it or shelving it for later? If your actions are transparent - are they invisible or obvious?

When you puzzle over a puzzle you're solving a problem.

The most wonderful thing about languages, from a linguistic anthropological view, is precisely how they change over time as the living generations shape and mold language to their liking.


> depending on which linguist you ask, it's actually two words that happen to be spelled and sound the same but each has their own meaning

In this case, I'm pretty sure those linguists are wrong.

I'm not being prescriptivist, and it's certainly possible that there's a usage I've not encountered established somewhere out there in the wild, but every use that I've seen pointed at as "using 'literally' wrong" reads to me as simply ordinary hyperbole. "It's so figuratively X it's almost literally X, but of course we understand it's still figurative." I've never seen an example where someone added the word "literally" to communicate that the utterance is figurative. We shouldn't call that another meaning for "literally" any more than we say that "miles" has a secondary meaning of "tens of feet" because someone said "I've walked miles around this store looking for you!"


> Oh, do I have a bit of linguistic fun for you! English disagrees with you.

As I said in the previous comment, "English is not a person."

Let's look at a good source: Webster:

1. "According to the primary and natural import of words; not figuratively; as, a man and his wife can not be literally one flesh." (emphasis added) No comment required.

2. "With close adherence to words; word by word." For this definition, the given example helps: "So wild and ungovernable a poet can not be translated literally. --Dryden." Clearly this definition is not the opposite of the first.

> When you clip something - are you attaching it or cutting it off?

As I said in the previous comment, there are some words that have multiple, contradictory meanings. "Literally" is not one of them; by its nature, it cannot be. If you disagree with me, you should argue this point rather than cite irrelevant examples.

> The most wonderful thing about languages, from a linguistic anthropological view, is precisely how they change over time as the living generations shape and mold language to their liking.

Linguistic anthropology cannot confer wonderfulness on anything, for it merely observes and catalogs; it does not pass judgment. My argument does not lie within its purview.

The problem arises as a living generation loses touch with reality, and as certain entities strive to confuse it by muddling their language. It's not important whether "table" means "to consider" or "to not consider." It is important whether "literally" still means "literally", especially in this day and age, as the pace of change is ever increasing. As fragile, finite, foolish humans, we desperately need solid handles on reality to cling to. Those who would encourage us to render the word useless are doing a disservice to us all. You would do well to not be one of them.


>As I said in the previous comment, there are some words that have multiple, contradictory meanings. "Literally" is not one of them; by its nature, it cannot be. If you disagree with me, you should argue this point rather than cite irrelevant examples.

Literally is quite literally one of those words and you've yet to cite any reason why it isn't or can't be. You can't just cite one dictionary that you happen to agree with (Webster) while ignoring other dictionaries you don't (Oxford).

Words don't have a nature - language is a man made construct and ultimately defined by cultures which are ever changing. Changing cultures directly results in changing languages. Words being adopted from one language to another is the direct result of mixing cultures. Words changing meaning is a direct result of a changing culture. Languages are a living construct - with the exception of conlangs - nobody sat down and designed and defined entire languages and, arguably, even conlangs eventually adapt to their culture over time so being designed doesn't prevent it from change over time.

There is a reason there is an "Olde English".


Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Further, Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

"This word is fundamental, like a gatekeeper to discussion of reality."

I will be borrowing this wonderful sentence.


By what must have literally been the 12,000th time I read literally in your post I literally suffered a brain hemorrhage.

It reminds me of how kids used the word 'random' when I was in middle school. Two years from now there'll be a new annoying filler word.


> The submitted title is using "literally" in the inverse meaning ("figuratively"), which is very confusing.

While even dictionaries get this wrong, the non-literal usage of “literally” doesn't mean “figuratively”, it assumes the audience understands that the comparison it modifies is metaphorical without “literally” bearing any load in that, but asserts further that the feature evoked by the metaphor is strongly present, that is, that it is an intensifier for the comparison built into the use of metaphor. It is roughly the equivalent of, were the bare metaphor replaced by an “as if” simile, the “literally” in the metaphor functioning as converting the “as if” in the simile to “very much as if”.

The incorrect explanation of this use is as big a pet peeve of mine as the use itself is to people who don't like the idea that “literally” has a figurative use (which, OTOH, I have no more problem with than I do with “figurative” having a literal use.)


We changed the title from "Sensors that are literally 'music to one's ears'". (I think it might have been the original title on that site?)

Just make sure we're calibrating these crude instruments to the same pitch.

I'd hate to have a medical mishap because one instrument is tuned to A450, and another A432.


If that is a problem, then let prescribe the following process flow by the app: first sound the empty tube, then the tube filled with water, and only then the tube filled with the test liquid. The first two checks should catch any miscalibrations, I think.

Hence why it wasn't proposed to take one reading, but instead one of a known good control substance and one of the test substance. It doesn't matter if it's tuned properly or not, as you aren't looking for a specific frequency, but instead a difference in the two frequencies.



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