The Gostak and the Doshes
by Miles J. Breuer, M. D.
Of late the pages of science-fiction periodicals have been filled with a lot of words about words. We refer to the stories based upon the neo-science of semantics, the talk about "non-Aristotelianism," and the multiple social, political, moral, and psychological concepts that the more fanatical followers of these word-schemes derive from them. At risk of calling down the wrath of devotees, your editor must confess that most of these stories do not seem to make too much sense. And it is just possible that some of the readers of "The Gostak and the Doshes" may also express, for a while, similar bewilderment. Dr. Breuer's story, we think, was the very first story about semantics to appear in a fantasy magazine. It was written many years before its time, back in 1930, and we still feel that it is the best of the lot. We also suspect that it points a moral that could well be heeded in these hectic days of slogans, advertising, and mass hysterias.
Let the reader suppose that somebody states: "The gostak disims the doshes." You do not know what this means, nor do I. But if we assume that it is English, we know that the doshes are distimmed by the gostak. We know that one distimmer of the doshes is a gostak. If, moreover, doshes are galloons, we know that some galloons are distimmed by the gostak. And so we may go on, and so we often do go on.—Unknown writer quoted by Ogden and Richards, in THE MEANING OF MEANING, Harcourt Brace & Co., 1923; also by Walter N. Polakov in MAN AND HIS AFFAIRS, Williams & Wilkins, 1925.
Why! That is lifting yourself by your own bootstraps!" I exclaimed in amazed incredulity. "It's absurd."
Woleshensky smiled indulgently. He towered in his chair as though in the infinite kindness of his vast mind there were room to understand and overlook all the foolish little foibles of all the weak little beings that called themselves men. A mathematical physicist lives in vast spaces where a lightyear is a footstep, where universes are being born and blotted out, where space unrolls along a fourth dimension on a surface distended from a fifth. To him, human beings and their affairs do not loom very important.
"Relativity," he explained. In his voice there was a patient forbearance