Entropy

Pet peeve time.

The word "entropy" has a very specific meaning. Yes, statistical thermodynamics says that it is related to disorder. No, it's not entropy's fault that your desk is a mess. Although it hasn't been hijacked to the extent that the word "quantum" has, it does tend to be misused. If you want to tell me about entropy, explain about heat engines and Carnot efficiency first, so I know you aren't just spouting buzz words, okay?

Comments:

Yes, the word entropy has a very specific meaning, and m-w.com indicates its origin is scientific. However, m-w.com also lists the 3rd meaning as "chaos, disorganization, randomness". You can always snipe (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=snipe) at people for using words in ways that aren't in the dictionary. However, the odds say that if everyone's doing it, then it'll show up in the dictionaries soon. (Hmmm couldn't get my href link to work on 'snipe'.)

Posted by Chris Quenelle on August 21, 2005 at 09:49 AM PDT #

I know it is like Cnut trying to turn back the tide to wish that language didn't change over time. The problem in my mind comes when people take a statement of a scientific law about the original meaning of the word and apply it to the new, more general meaning. That leads to erroneous conclusions. Anyway, I suppose the fact that I sat through so many boring thermo lectures makes me feel like I have some ownership of the word. I should get over it, I guess.

Posted by Terry Heatlie on August 22, 2005 at 12:09 AM PDT #

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