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Geoff Wood




Location: UK
Joined: 31 Aug 2003

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PostPosted: Sat 04 Feb, 2006 12:50 pm    Post subject: terminology         Reply with quote

Trivial point, but I’m uneasy with our use of the term ‘distal taper’ as a distinct and different taper from ‘profile taper’. Taper means getting smaller at one end. Distal refers to the end away from the centre or point of attachment (opposite of proximal). On a typical western sword (e.g Type XII, XIV, XV, XVII, XX), as well as what we currently more normally refer to as distal taper, the profile tapers distally. OK, I accept that it has become adopted by usage, and language is a constantly changing thing and wrong becomes right if we repeat it often enough, etc. etc., but this usage that we have adopted in our small field is making a distinction as to what ‘distal’ means (by applying it only to thickness) that is at odds not only with the original meaning of the term, but also with its usage in other areas. It also seems to be unnecessary jargon. Could we not just say ‘thinning’ for what we now call distal taper and ‘narrowing’ for profile taper?
Think I’ll crawl back in my shell now.
Regards to all
Geoff
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Greyson Brown




Location: Windsor, Colorado
Joined: 22 Nov 2004
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Posts: 790

PostPosted: Sat 04 Feb, 2006 1:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ironically, I was just having a debate with my brother a while back about his field (communications) coming up with unnecessary jargon. Confused

To be honest, I never bothered to look up the word, and just went with what other people had used. I don't know that it is really worth the effort to change the usage now, but you are right that thickness is a more accurate descriptor. If you think about it, profile can actually mean a side view, so that might be a better term for what we now call distal taper. Then you would need a new term for that, of course. I don't think there is going to be any luck changing this, even if everyone agrees it should be changed.

I looked up distal and didn't find any definitions different from what you posted, so I'm curious of how it got applied the thickness of a sword blade. Does anyone know why we use the word distal in the manner we do? I know I first saw it in a Museum Replicas Limited catalog, but I don't know that they coined the term.

-Grey

"So long as I can keep the path of honor I am well content."
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 04 Feb, 2006 1:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting post. Perhaps the term came from how the blade tapers in thickness from the proximal end (where it's attached to something) to the distal end of the blade. Of course the width of the blade tapers towards its distal end in many case, too. Why we decided to call that profile taper is a mystery to me. Question

We can't just say "thickness," though, because we'd have to quantfy that: the thickness at which point(s). Distal taper (or whatever you choose to call it) is really a rate or percentage and comes from mutliple measurements.

Interesting to ponder, though...

Happy

ChadA

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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Sat 04 Feb, 2006 1:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A lot of common English words, such as "profile," "side," "top," "thickness," "width," etc., are ambiguous when applied to a blade as it is not obvious how people orient such a blade in their minds. Though thickness vs. width, according to their strict definitions, can only be used in one way when describing a blade, it is not *guaranteed* that a beginner will correctly identify the dimension referred to by "thickness."

I don't think that profile could ever be used to refer to the thickness. Profile denotes a side view; the definition of side is "either of the two surfaces of a flat object," according to dictionary.com, so it seems clear that the blade flats are the "sides" of a blade, and not the blade edges.

The choice of distal does seem to be imperfect, but I can't think of a better choice and I feel as if it would just confuse matters further to attempt to coin a new term. As long as "profile" can only be used one way, and we use distal specifically in comparison to profile, our meaning should be clear.

I just got unfortunately involved in a stupid argument over the necessity of such jargon at "another forum." It is jargon, yes, but there doesn't seem to be any more elegant way of handling the matter.
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Greyson Brown




Location: Windsor, Colorado
Joined: 22 Nov 2004
Reading list: 15 books

Posts: 790

PostPosted: Sun 05 Feb, 2006 1:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gabriel Lebec wrote:
it is not *guaranteed* that a beginner will correctly identify the dimension referred to


I guess you are right about that. I was thinking of profile in terms of how we view a sword when it is lying on a table, etc. That would make the edges the side. But, a sword was meant to be used, and you use it with one of the edges toward your opponent (I haven't studied WMA very much; I'm sure there are cases where this is not true, but as a general statement I think it works). That would make the flats, the side. Then, I suppose you could think of a sword laying horizontally (as it is depicted in the overview photo for reviews). That would make the end of the pommel and the tip of the blade the sides. Razz

I guess we'll either have to keep using the terms that most everyone understands, or we will have to use really long descriptions like, "when viewed witht the flat of the blade towards you, and the point down, etc., etc." It could get really crazy when you have asymetrical hilts, such as on rapiers. Eek!

-Grey

"So long as I can keep the path of honor I am well content."
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company
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