Tuesday, December 11, 2007


What is symbolic is not parabolic or hyperbolic. The three words are similar in some ways but very different in others; 'symbolic' means 'thrown together with', while 'parabolic' means 'thrown alongside' and 'hyperbolic' means 'thrown above'. The difference between the symbolic and the parabolic is the hardest to see, but it can be likened to a darts competition in some ways.

If some equally flighted darts are thrown together at the same time, follow the same paths and land in the same small group, one of those darts can be used as a proxy for the rest; it is symbolic. If some equally flighted darts are thrown at different dartboards set up in parallel, their general direction is the same, but the exact groups are far apart. A parable is therefore a lot like a shadow which moves in concert with the original; a symbol is an image that represents other things according to convention. With both, as with hyperbole, great care is required for proper usage. Of course, a hyperbolic dart would totally miss the target and land above it.

It's a similar problem with 'catabolic', 'anabolic' and 'metabolic'. 'Catabolic' means 'thrown apart'; you might imagine a ball of little pellets scrunched together which falls apart in flight. 'Anabolic' means 'thrown into togetherness' (I would have said 'thrown together' but that might have looked too much like 'symbolic'); you might imagine a barrage of pellets which when thrown fall into a neat little lump. 'Metabolic' means 'thrown with transformation'; you might think of a magician's trick in which a ball is thrown into the air and turns into a bird.

At this point, leaving the list incomplete since the point is largely demonstrated, it has become obvious that the '-bolic' part of the word represents the verb, 'to throw'. The first part, modifying the relationship between things thrown, must be a preposition. And thus endeth an impromptu lesson in Greek.

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Blogger xinhui said...

xin goes ballistic.

(must be said with a deadpan face to get appropriately ironic effect - which is why I definitely won't be able to say it...I really will start to go ballistic and giggle...you'll just have to say it for me in your most serious voice...but then you also CMI because your voice is too smooth...like a cat or a wolf)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007 9:44:00 pm  
Blogger Ballista said...

Isn't that some kind of chemical structure representation? I remember it's called ballistic representation of molecular structure.

Thursday, December 13, 2007 3:34:00 am  
Blogger Khayce said...

Or perhaps the origin of the phrase "Bols to you"?

Thursday, December 13, 2007 7:35:00 pm  

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