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copying this here from facebook so i can discuss it on a platform that isn’t facebook. this is a status arthur lewbel posted a few hours ago:
“About a month ago I posted about the difficulty of properly defining the word juggling. Given the enormous amount of feedback, I’ve worked with Jack Kalvan to develop an improved definition, given below. Comments/suggestions welcome. Like a dictionary entry, it’s multiple definitions, corresponding to the different ways the word is actually used.
Juggle (ˈjəɡəl/, verb):
- To keep multiple objects in the air by tossing and catching, repeatedly releasing control of one object to attend to the next (also called toss juggling).
Example: Anthony Gatto set a world record by juggling seven balls for over ten minutes.
- To control the motion of objects using intermittent, unstable or risky methods.
Example: The juggling show included acts using diabolos, devil sticks, and spinning plates.
- To precariously manage control of more than one task at a time.
Example: Juggling work, children, and a social life is especially challenging for single mothers.
- To alter or manipulate in order to deceive or produce some other desired result.
Example: He juggled the accounts to conceal their losses.”
as well he left a comment on the status that said this:
“Note that definition 1 corresponds to what Erik called the specific activity of juggling, while definitions 2 and 3 correspond to what he refers to as the ‘genre’ of juggling. For comparison, this was my previous definition and comments:
my first gut reaction to what he wrote is that in the first 3 cases of his definition some sort of risk is needed to make something be considered as juggling. in #1, there is a release of control, in #2 there are risky methods, and in #3 there is precarious management. leaving #3 aside, the idea of having some sort of risk involved in the first 2 instances, somehow ultimately points towards technique… and i’m really convinced that you can’t define juggling by technique alone. as @Erik has shown me that context is maybe even almost everything when it comes to juggling… let’s start there, before i get to my next points about what he wrote-
well erik is sleeping because of the time difference between las vegas and stockholm… so i’ll jump in with another point since i have time right now backstage:
in #2 its implied how its written that you could use any one of the three adjectives to describe juggling = “To control the motion of objects using intermittent, unstable or risky methods.” so then… to control the motion of objects using intermittent methods, should be a possibility, no? and if that is the case, doesn’t that qualify any number of things as juggling that are not currently considered to be juggling? such as, but not limited to: eating lunch, playing hockey, reading a book, typing this response, etc.
#2 certainly makes sense if you already know what juggling is, but if you don’t have that context or cultural frame of reference, it seems kind of useless as it is now?
I just wrote this first response at the FB thread. I have more things to say, but busy atm.
I think it is ok, there are a few things I’d say about it, but first something else:
When I first started to present my ideas about the definition of juggling (that juggling could be one specific thing, or a broader set of things – something I had not seen before), some people liked the idea, some were against it. Out of all the people who were against it, no one has been more opposed to it than Jack Kalvan. That he is now the co author of something that is completely based on my thinking and arguing is pretty nuts! What is it that they say, change go through 3 stages: 1 ridiculed, 2 aggressively opposed, 3 taken as self evident. That is a spot on reflection of Jack’s development in this matter. Does that mean something to anyone? It sure means something to me.
Good counterexamples. I am confident that the wording can be fixed.
Here are some possible fixes that I don’t have time to fully explore:
Maybe the word intermittent can just be removed:
a. To control the motion of objects using unstable or risky methods.
b. To control the motion of objects using intermittent, unstable, or risky methods (when more stable methods would be typical).
c. To control the motion of objects in an atypical manner, and by that I mean using methods that are intermittent, unstable, or risky.
d. To maintain control over an object’s motion even without typical continuous control.
i like that this include the “non juggling” use of “juggling” in 3 and 4 but it seems incomplete or vague when it comes to defining juggling in a juggling context
1# seems to excludes multiplexes and bounce juggling and siteswaps with lots of 2s where an object is not released until several counts later but the bigger problem i see i with 2# which seems incredible open.
Drunk driving would be a risky method to control the motion of an object, beeing blindfolded would be another option to add risk to anything you can do with objects,
also even if there is always the chance of dropping i feel like juggling techniques are usually the most consistent/stable techniques to control the motion certain objects atleast within the context of juggling. The 3b cascade is pretty consistent, stable and risk free compared with randomly throwing up 3 balls and hoping to catch them. I feel like either the risk has to be defined or put in relation to something else (the drop?). Its not the method that is risky, just the intended goal that is unlikely to happen by accident.
I first want to flag one difference between Arthur/Jack’s work, and my definition, which is that my work was based entirely on literature and iconic references of juggling. I was not aiming for a dictionary definition, but I think one could eventually be extracted, after the deeper work has been done. I posted a few polls on facebook, about metaphor and about risk. Here is some thoughts that came from observing the resulting conversations of the polls:
The more I observe these conversations, the more I realize that the problem of definition of juggling has not been the definitions themselves, but the components of them. What do you mean by risk? what do you mean by failure? and so on. We need a longer conversation about all the aspects of a definition, that results in a document where all each component of the definition are carefully unpacked. I did the ground work in my infamous 12 page document (which was then falsely taken as the definition itself being 12 pages) and we could finish the work together. Otherwise, we will just keep circling the same problems forever. If we had such a document, and someone brought up for an example risk, we could go:
RISK – Unpacked on page 12.
Each time someone starts saying things like “juggling is family, a fight with gravity, etc” (because this happens a lot), we could go:
MEANING CONFUSED WITH SUBJECTIVE ASSOCIATION – Unpacked on page 14
Is juggling your wife and career a metaphor for juggling? – Unpacked on page 10
And also even more fundamentally: What is a definition? What is a word?
Tom Schneider asked a question in the Facebook thread which I think could be useful and interesting to explore:
“Curious: How easily can these four points map into equivalent definitions in other languages?”
I posted this reply to Tom:
Great question. @ tom The Irish ‘Lámhchleasaíocht’ is specific to the meaning 1. It could (IMHO) be extended to 2 because this is culturally ‘under-the-umbrella’ of what I’d call lámhchleasaíocht.
It is a compound word: lámh=✋, cleasaíocht=‘trickery’ / ‘performance of tricks’
It wouldn’t be a good fit (again IMHO) for meanings 3 or 4. It’s too specific. There is a different word ‘ionramháil’ (manipulation) which already has both of these metaphorical meanings in established use.
Caveats: a) I’m far from an authority on Irish.
b)) Even if my opinion is correct now, languages evolve over time, and it would not surprise me to see a shift to where meanings 3. and 4. would be encompassed by ‘lámhchleasaíocht’.
Arthur, there has been a number of definitions including the term risk in them, and now, since it popped up again in yours and Jacks definition, I wanted to investigate it a bit more. Would you say juggling is more or less risky than playing the piano? Would you say juggling is more or less risky than acrobatics?
Arthur Lewbel: Erik, I would not attempt to rank those activities by riskiness, since as others have noted, the answer depends on whether one chooses to rank by frequency of of opportunities to fail or by the severity of the failure when one fails. All that’s relevant for the definition is that one of the features of the activities included in the 2nd definition of juggling is that they can be risky. And here I’m just using the dictionary definition of the word risky: “having the possibility of danger, failure, or loss.”
Erik Åberg: Ok! The reason I want to investigate risk further, is because I can see how someone would think it is relevant to juggling. I can also see risk being present in acrobatics. You also pointed out playing the piano as having even more possibilities to fail than juggling. It would surprise me though, to see risk as part of the definition of playing piano or doing acrobatics. So I was hoping we could push this a bit further to try to see why risk should be a defining component of juggling, if at all? Why do you think it is crucial to include?
Arthur Lewbel: I’m no longer sure it’s crucial to include the word risky. But it does seem that something like risk is present in most things that people call juggling. Maybe a better term would be precariousness? or the possibility, even likelihood, of failure without near-constant attention? The word risky seems to convey these ideas.
Erik Åberg: Arthur I cut risk along time ago, but since it was brought up again I saw it as a chance to poke at it some more. It is as if risk is portrayed sometimes by juggling to various extent, but it is not part of it to a higher degree than in many other things. When you walk you risk tripping. I know that walking is considered less risky than juggling, but it is hard to draw the line at exactly when something becomes risky enough for it to be part of the essance of the activity.
The “intent argument” came up again. I thought it was something everyone was done with, but we had another go at it. In case there are still someone confused about this, or have further things to say, here you go:
Jack Kalvan: The “point” of juggling is to control the motion of objects. I think the periods of released control (or at least very incomplete control) are why people call something juggling.
The words intermittent and risky were problematic, so maybe the broad definition of juggling (#2) becomes: The activity of controlling of the motion of objects, using precarious methods.
Erik Åberg: Jack i do not think that the point of juggling is controlling the motion of objects, because that would include hockey, soccer, chess, basketball, etc. Rather, the point is the specific way of dividing the control, so that more things can be controlled than the amount if control points(hands). It is not dependent on precariousness, but of the nature of the task, which needs to consist of a moment of control followed by a decay (approaching collapse/failure) where another control of another object can take place. If this is done cyclicly, you get juggling(specific activity).
Jack Kalvan: Erik Åberg Re: hockey, soccer, basketball, chess: I would say the point of these activities is not to control the ball/game aparatus. The point is to win the game. Controlling an object is a side effect. The point of playing a piano is not to hit the keys. But the point of juggling, I believe is controlling the motion of objects. Maybe crux is a better word than point.
Erik Åberg: Jack The good ol´ “object manipulation with the intent of object manipulation” argument. That is by Bernardo, published in 1999 in the Italian juggling magazine, and I talked about it in my paper that you read. But we can certainly revisit it. It is probably my favorite argument through out my entire time looking into this. Here is why it does not work. You can of course play soccer and all the other things casually, without the framework of a game. You can practice aspects of them with no other intent than those practices themselves. The other side of the argument is that then all juggling competitions (volley club, combat, perhaps even the IJA championships?) would then cease to be juggling, since the objective is to win the game, as you just gave that as a disqualifying factor to something being juggling. [image missing]
Sports and games have many sub-goals which help accomplish the main goal of winning.
If two players are trying to control a ball to keep it away from the other person, then the point is to keep it away from the other person. Even in casual practice related to a game, you may be practicing part of the game strategy. If you are truly just practicing controlling the motion of the ball, and it is done in a precarious manner, it could reasonably be referred to as juggling. By that, I mean if someone did call it juggling, it would communicate that your play is about controlling the motion of a ball, more than trying to achieve the goals of the sport.
You would seem to be setting up a contradiction, but I maintain that the point is still to control the objects / be the last one controlling 3 objects / control objects better than the other guy.
We have done this dance many times before so I see no reason to return to it.
You think juggling is defined by hard lines: the specific way we handle the object and our intent for doing so. I think that internal context (what the language user knows and feels) and external context (what culture surrounds the activity, what is seen) plus hard lines, are the defining factors. You describe what you wish that the language use would be (and I may or may not agree from that perspective) and I am describing what is actually deterministic for language use. Those are different pursuits, and even if you do not agree with my approach I hope you can at least see the difference by now. Why not find the real mechanisms behind the use of the word juggling, and try to fully understand them BEFORE we attempt to write a dictionary definition?
I AM setting up a contradiction. Compare the intent in volley club and volleyball.
Object hits the ground on the opposite team’s side = your team wins.
As far as I can see, there is no new argument here, just a restating of an old argument. That only leads to an endurance of stubbornness. The formula becomes “I still think that XYZ” and then the response becomes “well, I still think that ABC” and then we keep doing that until someone gets too tired of it. In order for this to move forward you have to at least attempt to show how my position is invalid.
Giving this some more thought. This really comes down to the difference between the meaning of a word according to language use, and the distinction of a concept.
Perhaps we need to distinguish from now on if we are talking about language use or inherent components of a concept that we can outline pragmatically. Those two things do not align properly, and there is plenty of evidence for that. For an example Rhythmic Sport Gymnastics and Juggling, which share some identical activities, but are represented by different words. I am all for outlining and distinguishing concepts, which I have been trying to push in the other thread about the specific activity. It seems to generate much less interest, perhaps because it lacks the aspect of ego, in the sense that the word juggling is not defined by it.
Here’s what the argument looks like to me…
Suppose you want to define running.
I say it’s “a method of locomotion where the feet are in contact with the ground less than half the time.”
You say, “wait, what if I’m hopping, and staying in the air more than half the time? That’s not running.”
Ok I’ll add in “and you have to alternate between right and left feet.”
You say “Mikhail Baryshnikov alternates feet, is in the air most of the time, and he spins around each time he is in the air. That’s not running!”
Now it’s dancing, that’s different. It’s like fancy running. Running has no fancy movement.
You point out that if you run while juggling, you’re legs are doing exactly the same thing but people will call it joggling. So clearly it isn’t about what your legs are doing.
Others suggest, maybe it’s about speed. Nope, you can run slow.
Maybe it’s intent? Nope, some people run for fun, some people run for competition.
Dogs and horses can run, they don’t even have 2 legs.
You conclude that running can’t be defined by the activity alone; it depends on context and a relationship to the default form of running…
This same wordplay exercise can be done with any activity. Is this useful?
Thanks Jack, for giving an account of your perspective. You are addressing four different things and I will comment on each one. Even if they are related, they each deserve a discussion and unpacking of their own.
1. Approach to finding the definition
This deals with:
What is a word?
Answer: A single unit of speech or text representing a specific concept.
What is a definition?
Answer: The meaning of a word to a group of language users.
What do we derive a definition from?
Answer: We look at language use, and extract the meaning of the word, from how it is used.
You keep confusing the meaning of a word, with a concept that we can outline pragmatically by its inherent properties. Those are two different pursuits. For an example, you keep confusing what I have referred to as hard lines, with the reasons for language use. Those two are related but not the same. You keep listing properties such as “fancy movement”, “feet in contact with the ground”, “hopping”, “fancy running” etc. Those are all properties that you can identify, but they are not evidence of language use, which is what you should be looking for if you wish to find a definition.
The reason why looking for hard lines does not work is because we can have two cases made of IDENTICAL properties, that will be referred to by different terms. There are feats of rhythmic gymnastics, cardistry, freestyle soccer, yoyo, and many other things, that are examples of activities where you can find an identical move in juggling, yet it will not be referred to as juggling.
2. Default form
There is no sport of sports, no dance of dancing, no game of games, no sculpting of sculpting, no painting of painting. So if I ask a connoisseur of each of those to teach me to do sport/dance/sculpt/paint, there is no standard, there is no DEFAULT that most everyone will bring up. Juggling is different here (perhaps even unique?) that we have a default, in many more ways than one. The first thing you are taught, the base that you learn tricks from, the pattern with least components (mirrored versions of one identical type of throw), and maybe even the oldest trace (Beni Hassan, Egypt).
Just because juggling happens to have a default form does not mean it should be part of the definition of juggling, that is a different question.
3. Definition truth
The problem that we are facing is that we can not define juggling by hard lines, such as throwing, catching, balancing, etc. because identical things will be referred to as different things, depending on the cultural context that they exist in. So how do we deal with that?
The truth is, that juggling is a set of activities, that have increased and decreased in number, throughout history. The activities have their root in entertaining, you could say that from the beginning juggling meant “entertaining” and slowly moved to mean “things by which you entertain”, and then yet a bit later, those things by which you entertain were further specified. That set of activities was slowly more and more distinguished, and a culture came to exist around it. Things that were related in one way or the other, to any of the things in that set, as well as existing in the culture that surrounded said activities, were referred to as juggling. For some reason, one of the activities in the set got a central role: Cyclic throwing and catching more objects than the amount of hands. That activity became known as juggling, and from there on, both the set of activities and that specific activity became referred to by the same term “juggling”. That is the truth and what do we make of it?
4. Definition conclusion/proposal
To say that the set of activities known as juggling is defined by a relationship to the default form, plus a cultural context is a proposal. The actual, causal truth is listed in 3.
The truth listed in #3 results in #4. If you can make a better conclusion of #3 than default form+cultural context, I am happy to discuss it. I have seen ZERO arguments against #1,2,3 since I started talking about the definition. Only people who are confused by what a definition is, what a word is, and what juggling has and is. If you wish to discuss any of the 4 points, please refer clearly to which one you are addressing.
Well done for recognizing why I feel no need to contribute to this forum anymore.
Jack, I think there are still arguments you could make here. Perhaps not for intent, but there are other comparisons between sports and juggling that are worth doing.
Take the (fake) video of a guy hammering in nails in the ceiling, by juggling hammers. The fact that the goal is to hammer in the nails does not effect whether the activity is juggling or not.
Goal or intent are often external factors, existing outside of the actual essence of the activity.
I do think that the goal and intent in the game of basketball or soccer drives the activity in a more involved way than for an example juggling combat. If you remove the people you are playing against in combat, you are still juggling, but if you remove the other players in basketball, it is a hard to say what is left. A person bouncing a ball with their hand perhaps?
A relevant comparison between sport and juggling is this one:
If a person throws a ball to another person, who strikes it with a bat, are they playing baseball or softball?
Is a person who is rolling a ball across his body doing juggling or rhythmic sports gymnastics?
It is clear that both cases does not provide enough information to make a distinction. Since dictionary definitions tend to be very brief, they will suffer from this inevitably.
It would be useful when writing a dictionary definition, that the author would also write an adjacent document explaining the flaws of the definition and the choice and intent of the words used in it.
I think that we agree that the definition (one of the 2-4) is about control/handling/manipulation (whichever word you most prefer) of objects, but that we all feel that it is not enough to leave it at that. You have tried some additional words to specify the concept, such as risky, precarious, unstable, atypical or intermittent. I agree with you that something additional is needed, the question is what word(s) will help communicate the essence of the concept most distinctly?
I started off with 2 definitions, one for the set and one for the specific activity. You have proposed 4. I tried at one point to separate between the specific activity and what I called the juggling phenomenon, which makes it possible for me to stretch to 3, at least. So I think we are getting closer.