[Ads-l] "fourth dimension" is not "time" to the OED?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jan 5 14:03:03 UTC 2015


On Jan 5, 2015, at 6:50 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> The "fourth dimension" as 'time' was so familiar to TV viewers by late 1959
> that Rod Serling had to insist there was a fifth one.
> 
> Physicist George Gamow's popular book _One, Two, Three, Infinity_ (1947)
> explained it to me at just about the same time.
> 
> JL

Ah, _One, Two, Three, Infinity_.  A wonderful pop science book, and it made the world safe for "google".

LH
> 
> On Mon, Jan 5, 2015 at 6:48 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> 
>> The "fourth dimension" as "time" was so familiar to TV viewers by late
>> 1959 that Rod Serling had to insist there was a fifth one.
>> 
>> JL
>> 
>> On Sun, Jan 4, 2015 at 7:56 PM, Jeff Prucher <
>> 000000b93183dc86-dmarc-request at listserv.uga.edu> wrote:
>> 
>>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>> -----------------------
>>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>> Poster:       Jeff Prucher <jprucher at YAHOO.COM>
>>> 
>>> Subject:      Re: "fourth dimension" is not "time" to the OED?
>>> 
>>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>> 
>>> The OED's definition for "fourth" states that it has not yet been fully
>>> updated since 1897; the "fourth dimension" part looks like it was added in
>>> OED2, and presumably therefore dates from the Burchfield supplements
>>> (1972-86). I don't know why Burchfield omitted the "time" aspect, though.
>>> Possibly it wasn't well-established at that time, or not enough for the
>>> editors to think it meritted a separate entry, or it was established but
>>> they didn't have many citations for it. (I'd vote for the third, but that's
>>> just a guess -- I'm pretty sure fourth dimension=time was pretty common in
>>> SF by that time.)
>>> 
>>> Jeff Prucher
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> On Saturday, January 3, 2015 5:03 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at ATT.NET>
>>> wrote:
>>> 
>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>> -----------------------
>>>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>>> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
>>>> Subject:      "fourth dimension" is not "time" to the OED?
>>> 
>>>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>>> 
>>>> Why does the OED's definition of "fourth dimension (under "fourth")
>>>> not include "time"?  The definition there is merely "a supposed or
>>>> assumed dimension, additional to length, breadth, and thickness (see
>>>> dimension n. 3 note)."  And in the note, the only mention of anything
>>>> beyond L, B, and T is "Modern mathematicians have speculated as to
>>>> the possibility of more than three dimensions of space."
>>>> 
>>>> Searching for quotations including "fourth dimension", the earliest
>>>> referring to time is perhaps "1885   Nature 26 Mar. 481/1   Since
>>>> this fourth dimension cannot be introduced into space, as commonly
>>>> understood, we require a new kind of space for its existence, which
>>>> we may call time-space."  (Well's "The Time Machine" is 1895.)
>>>> 
>>>> Joel
>>>> 
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>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>> 
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>>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> --
>> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
>> 
> 
> 
> 
> -- 
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> 
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