Monday, October 19, 2015

Word of the day: semiotics

The word of the day is semiotics:
  1. the study of signs and symbols as elements of communicative behavior; the analysis of systems of communication, as language, gestures, or clothing.
  2. a general theory of signs and symbolism, usually divided into the branches of pragmatics, semantics, and syntactics.
study of signs and symbols with special regard to function and origin, 1880, from Gk. semeiotikos "observant of signs," adj. form of semeiosis "indication," from semeioun "to signal," from sema "sign."

"But since the FTC's role was to regulate tobacco advertisements, it could certainly investigate whether 'filtered' cigarettes were truly as safe as advertised.  It was a brave, innovative attempt to bell the cat, but as with so much of tobacco regulation, the actual hearings that ensued were like a semiotic circus.  Clarence Little was asked to testify, and with typically luminous audacity, he argued that the question of testing the efficacy of filters was immaterial because, after all, there was nothing harmful to be filtered anyway."

 - Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

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