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The phenomenon of adoxography, if not the word itself, should be quite familiar to regular e2ers. Adoxography is writing which has a mundane, ordinary, or trivial theme, but manages to be well written despite that. The word reflects the charming human habit of coining words, jocularly or otherwise, to cover the most esoteric ideas.

'Adoxography' is sometimes stated to have been derived from the 'graphos' and 'adoxo', which are supposed to be Latin for "writing" and "why do men have nipples?" This wonderful piece of folk etymology is, alas, untrue. The word is much more prosaicly derived, coming from the Greek adoxos (αδοξος), meaning "opposed to common sense", and graphi (γραφη), meaning "writing". Researchers estimate that were it not for the qualification that adoxography be well written, over 98% of the combined output of the world press would qualify. Academia had done much to increase this figure, as a glance at the IgNoble Prize lists demonstrates.

Many view the trend of producing adoxography as a bad thing, peculiar to our age. It is quite common to hear people grumble about "the sort of rubbish that passes for literature nowadays". The complaint is, however, an old one. An Assyrian tablet dating back to 2600 B.C. reportedly grumbles about how "every man wants to write a book", and marks it as a sign of degeneration.

Thinkers such as Barrington Moore have led a more academic campaign against adoxography by saying that "some things are not worth knowing". Whilst they certainly may have a point (do we really need to be able to calculate the surface area of an elephant?), adoxography does have its virtues. The best written adoxography is a pleasure to read. A fine example is The Straight Dope, a fascinating column written by Cecil Adams. Past questions he has answered include the results of all the Chinese jumping at the same time, Isaac Newton's virginity, and the fate of Einstein's brain. The result is funny, insightful, and frequently profound.

More fundamentally, though, adoxography is an important part of the monument we build for the ages. The graffiti on the walls of Pompeii makes its inhabitants real people in a way the histories, invaluable though they are, do not. Similarly, whilst the carefully researched and documented scientific studies we commission today will be a significant resource for future generations seeking to understand us, the tales of precocious childhood pranks, unusual depilation, scrawls upon walls and innocent flirtation - even the lengthy descriptions of obscure squares - will say as much about who we were, how we lived, and what we made of it all as the most erudite literature.

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