Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Quine on Maps and Dictionaries

In 1963, Quine wrote a review of the National Geographic Atlas of the World.

Here is an illustrative exerpt:

"I shall keep the old loose National Geographic maps for trips. And, since the National Geographic omits counties, I shall keep my old inferior book for counties. Grudgingly. It is before me now, a 1948 Hammond of even larger format than the National Geographic Atlas, and it is open at south central South America. The polychrome two-page spread is something between a poster and an imposture. Its detail is sparse and irresponsible. Part of Brazil is elaborately misplaced within Paraguay, and part of Paraguay in Argentina, as a glance at other pages bears out; the name of the Paranà is applied by mistake to the Iguassù, as well as to the Paranà; Aconcagua is omitted, though lesser mountains are marked; and two provinces of Chile are shown in a way that conflicts with another page. The 1954 Hammond is better, but I disagree. The point of my sad example is that such ineptitude is neither to be found nor imagined in National Geographic maps. They have an air somehow of selfevident accuracy, they are visibly as real as earth itself."

He also reviewed dictionaries.

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