Monday, March 21, 2011

Whatever happened to cogitation?

Periodically I'm blindsided by a cultural reference or a piece of information that I think is common knowledge but it turns out to be a generational thing. A recent example:

Last week I was in a meeting with a fellow faculty member and several graduate students. At one point, the other faculty member said that he wanted to "cogitate" on something. The graduate students (who are bright people) looked puzzled, and one of them asked what that word meant. I was really surprised because I thought that was one of those everyone-knows kind of words.

So, later that afternoon I asked my Sociological Methods class if they knew what it meant, and not one of the 40 kids did. I asked several other people who were over 40, and they all did.

So, here's my question: What happened to cogitation? (The word, not the action). Is it the case that most young people don't know it and most old do? If so, why? I don't think that it's just that young people know far fewer words; in fact, they probably know more than past generations. Also, I haven't found this big a generational difference with other words, so... what happened?

Something to cogitate on....



Knumb said...

It's back on the rise.

Knumb said...

Apparently, Microsoft Word will underline it with a squiggley, blue line.,19739/

Brad Wright said...

Very funny!

Cool that Google supports the drop in usage.

Mike Crowl said...

Interesting thoughts on 'cogitate' Bradley, but the link to Google's Nigram viewer intrigued me, so I substituted my surname for 'cogitate' an lo and behold (also not an expression you hear much these days) the word 'crowl' peaked hugely between 1780 and 1800, died for twenty years, and then has had spasmodic rises and falls ever since. You have to wonder what happened in those 20 years at the end of the 18th century!

phill said...

Mmmmm something to think about. lol
yours phill with rucksack with wheels

K T Cat said...

I found it by looking it up on Google on my Droid.


(Not really. I knew what it was, but then again, I'm over 40.)