Talk:exponentially

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I added a note on the use of "exponentially" when it is used as an absolute (e.g. "exponentially large") or comparatively (e.g. "exponentially larger"), but someone has eliminated my note and replaced it with a sarcastic comment. I've re-instated a rough approximation of what I wrote before, but I fully expect the change to be vandalised again.

If someone disagrees with what I've written, would you please explain what "exponentially large/larger" means before reverting this entry again? StandardPerson (talk) 06:54, 24 April 2012 (UTC)

There is no superlative for exponentially so the inclusion of most exponentially is absurd on "common (ab)use" and logical grounds. StandardPerson (talk) 07:19, 24 April 2012 (UTC)
Your edits were reverted because Wiktionary is descriptive, not prescriptive: we describe how words are actually used, rather than prescribing or proscribing certain uses. When appropriate, we do inform readers that various authorities on grammar and usage proscribe (forbid) some uses — that's what Equinox reworded your usage note to; I can't see why you would think it was sarcastic; it was really just short and descriptively to the point. - -sche (discuss) 07:22, 24 April 2012 (UTC)
If the policy is to simply report and record the written, verbal and logical errors of people in the public eye, why do entries have Usage Notes at all? Why does the opinion of experts trump common usage, when the point is to report the latter?
However, if we pay attention to logic, I can assure you that 1.000000000001 — or any number greater than 1 — is exponentially bigger than 1, but I don't believe that this is the common (mis)understanding of the phrase. Again, why should we listen to the proscriptions of authorities on "grammar and usage" when the policy is to ignore common sense and logic?
As for most exponentially being the superlative of exponentially, I checked the entry for bigger but I couldn't find most bigger as a superlative. I've heard many illiterate people use most bigger so surely its inclusion is appropriate. Why isn't it there? StandardPerson (talk) 08:15, 24 April 2012 (UTC)
Entries have usage notes to note and describe how they're used, and usage notes also describe how various authorities say words should and shouldn't be used. There is a distinction between saying "X doesn't exist / is wrong" and saying "X is nonstandard / considered wrong by ___" (and we prefer to have references that record who considers X wrong, so as to avoid weasel words).
We don't list "most bigger" yet because no-one has added it yet. :) We make sure terms are used in durably archived sources before we include them (which means: books, magazines, etc, because these are archived by libraries and aren't likely to disappear—whereas we don't cite blogs, because they disappear frequently), but "most bigger" has been used in books for hundreds of years, so we should certainly account for it. I've added one quotation to the entry. - -sche (discuss) 08:51, 24 April 2012 (UTC)
While weasel words ought to be avoided in empirical matters, "exponentially large" is logically absurd. As mentioned previously, any number that's bigger than one is 'exponentially bigger than' one, so 'exponentially' is redundant. Similarly, any positive number at all can be described as being 'exponentially large.' These claims require no 'authority' to back them up, as anyone who has studied maths to year 10-11 of secondary school should be able to verify their truth.
I'm also puzzled by your preference for printed sources rather than blogs. If the aim of the Wiktionary is to "describe not prescribe" then blogs provide a better picture of English "as she are writed," if only because printed matter is usually distorted by proof readers and editors. The durability argument also seems specious to me, as most blogs are captured in archives such as "The Wayback Machine."
Furthermore, published works are being distributed electronically at an increasing rate. In contrast, printed books will probably be a curiosity for wealthy collectors in a few decades (at most), like today's mechanical watches. Consequently, it would make sense to embrace blogs and other online sources now, rather than clinging to a policy that will cause massive disruption when it (inevitably) has to be abandoned. The inclusion of online sources would also allow researchers to track the evolution of English over time, which would differentiate the Wiktionary from the OED rather nicely.
Of course, most of these problems could be avoided with a brief Mission Statement outlining the Wiktionary's aims and goals. If such a statement exists, I couldn't find it.
Finally, if most bigger is included in the Wiktionary as a superlative, I'll have to stop sending donations and I certainly won't be wasting my time trying to help with the Wikipedia or the Wiktionary. It's all rather unfortunate. Recently I've finally found time to contribute to these projects, yet the first, quite minor change that I made was reverted, without explanation, by a petty Wikifiddler who evidently regarded the subject as their personal property. I argued my case and eventually a third party implemented the change, but the 'owner' of the page did not apologies for the abuse he heaped upon me, nor for his claim that I had 'no right' to interfere with what he regarded as his own personal account of a devillishly tricky piece of arcarnum. (It wasn't. The subject is quite well known.)
I guess this is why users are constantly being asked for money, rather than their time. StandardPerson (talk) 02:48, 26 April 2012 (UTC)


Most exponentially[edit]

I think all three of these citations work. --BenjaminBarrett12 (talk) 09:13, 24 April 2012 (UTC)

I disagree. In the first case exponentially can be replaced with rapidly without any change of meaning whatsoever. The second quotation is either incoherent or uses most exponentially as a synonym for most.
In the third quotation exponentially may actually serve some purpose. If you check the original article, the authors are discussing the change of military destructive power over time. In this case, it is possible that destructive power as a function of time is most accurately approximated by an exponential function (i.e. the time rate of growth of destructive power is faster than any polynomial one cares to nominate.) If this was the meaning intended by the authors, then most exponentially was not being used as a superlative: rather most exponentially was being used as shorthand for best approximated by an exponentially increasing function of time, or something similar.
The first two fragments are examples of otiose and pretentious writing. Both use exponential to suggest a level of precision that is necessarily absent in the remaining text. The third example may be reasonable, but I'd have to read the entire article to see. StandardPerson (talk) 05:35, 26 April 2012 (UTC)
Thank you for the follow-up. Although I personally don't care for "most exponentially," the point isn't whether the citations are pretentious or odd, but whether this sort of use is likely to be found by readers who then turn to Wiktionary as a reference. These three citations show that "most exponentially" isn't a one-off or an error, but something that is likely to be encountered. --BenjaminBarrett12 (talk) 06:03, 26 April 2012 (UTC)
Thank you for the clarification. I had thought about this issue, as you can see in my reply above, where I asked whether the Wiktionary has a Mission Statement that spells out the precise aims of the project. If you could help me with this question, I'd be most grateful.
AFAIK, there is no mission statement. The Help page provides a link to an introduction. For the rules that govern what is included, see the Criterion for inclusion page.
I can say that Wiktionary is a huge project. The English Wiktionary aims to have all words in all languages, so you will find such words as コブラ in Japanese and kobra in Polish. Also, if you go to the cobra page, you will find translations (click "show" where it says "translations"). Ideally, the goal of Wiktionary is to have all words of all languages defined, and translations of all English words as well. And Wiktionary in general aims to replicate that in every language.
As I'm sure you're aware, at least part of the success of the Oxford English Dictionary in academic circles can be attributed to its organisation "on historical principles." While I'm not suggesting that the Wiktionary duplicate the OED, it would be very helpful to have the aims and organising principles of the Wiktionary stated as clearly as those of the OED. (For example, if the Wiktionary is "to describe" word usage then it would make sense to track the evolution of a word's meaning. Furthermore, if the evolution of meanings is to be an important aspect of the project, then the Mission Statement should say so. Personally, I think this is quite an exciting idea: in a century, the Wiktionary might be a valuable tool for academics, without detracting from its general usefulness in the meantime.)
I remain puzzled by the claim that the Wiktionary aims to "describe, but not prescribe." As I mentioned earlier, there is tension between this aim and the occasional deference to 'experts' in the Usage Notes.
For this, you might ask at the Information Desk. AFAIK, it is because people feel that information is useful though it is not descriptive per se.
Furthermore, I've just checked some other common verbs, that are often seen in printed fiction, despite sounding very strange to my (Australian) ear, yet I couldn't see the most frequent forms of these verbs defined here. For example:
— "The suit fit / fitted like a glove." The past tense of "to fit" seems to be "fit" in the US, but "fitted" in Australia and England, yet the Wiktionary seems to contain only the latter usage.
— "She was laying / lying on the sofa." The most frequent, past continuous form to "to lie" is "was laying" yet I would say and write "was lying" and the Wiktionary agrees! (In the imperative form, Dylan sang "Lay lady lay.." where I, and the Wiktionary, would say "Lie lady lie.."!)
At least for these very heavily used verbs, the Wiktionary seems to be prescribing rather than describing.
I agree that "fitted" should be addressed, and the "lie/lay" situation should be addressed better as that verb change is undergoing change. In the US, the verb "lie" is used almost exclusively to mean "not tell the truth," with "lay" taking over the other meaning of "lie" (hence the past tense "was laying"). But as we see with songs like "Chasing Cars," the traditional distinction continues on. (In that song, the use in "If I just lay here" is the subjunctive.)
I imagine the answer might be that the Wiktionary started from an out-of-copyright (hence old and prescriptive) dictionary and that these entries have not yet been updated to reflect common usage. If this is the case, I would appreciate having my suspicions confirmed. StandardPerson (talk) 02:38, 27 April 2012 (UTC)
Although the 1913 Webster's dictionary has been incorporated into Wiktionary, that is not the reason for the lack of updates on those items. The reason is that there is so much work to do and so few people doing it. I hope you will consider making improvements! There is a lot of work for those interested :) --BenjaminBarrett12 (talk) 03:29, 27 April 2012 (UTC)