[Ads-l] quote: fire in a wooden box

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue May 24 16:42:31 EDT 2016

To ADS mailing list cc: David Gold
  Below is information from a Google Books match circa 1983. An
instance of the saying was ascribed to Martin Joos, but the article
did not give a citation (apparently). I realize this is a late date;
Joos died in 1978. Perhaps other researchers will find this partial
information useful.

Year: 1983
Journal: Babel: revue internationale de la traduction. International
journal of translation
Volume 29 (Vol 29 does correspond to 1983 according to Stanford catalog)
Quote Page 139 (visible in snippet)
Database: Google Books Snippet; month unknown; article title and
author unknown; data may be inaccurate and must be verified on paper


[Begin excerpt]
Definitions written in a human metalanguage all result in vicious
circles, as if the lexicographer were trying to "kindle a fire in a
wooden box" (Martin Joos). Occasionally, the inconvenience is
recognized, only to be swept under the carpet: "It is . . .
[End excerpt]

Below is another GB match circa 2005.

Year: 2005
Title: Eurasian Studies Yearbook
Volume 77 (Vol 77 does correspond to 2005 according to UNC catalog)
Quote Page 24
Database: Google Books Snippet; data may be inaccurate and must be
verified on paper


[Begin excerpt]
Yes, parts of those definitions sound confusing or circular, but, as
said, defining ethnonyms and glottonyms is not easy and, as Martin
Joos once remarked, using language to talk about language is like
making a fire in a wooden box.
[End excerpt]

Garson O'Toole

On Tue, May 24, 2016 at 3:47 PM, Arnold M. Zwicky <zwicky at stanford.edu> wrote:
> query from David Gold dl.gold at yahoo.com
> As a student of linguistics in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I remember reading the quip "linguistics [or maybe it was: defining linguistics] is like making a fire in a wooden box," that is, language is used to describe language.
> I have a vague recollection that the quipster was Martin Joos or some other American structuralist (Bloomfield? Bolinger?).
> Now that I want to cite the quip, I cannot find the exact wording or the author. Might you know?
> ....
> AMZ: if you respond, please send a copy of your e-mail to David Gold, who's not a subscriber to this list. (i am not a good forwarding service.)
> arnold
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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