Some Loose and Tight Definitions
AN article in our May issue entitled Microphotography for the Amateur added fuel to the flames of the raging controversy about the usage of the word microphotograph.
Savants from all over the world are lined up on both sides of this philological battle, and our mailbag has bulged for weeks with heated arguments pro and con. Since even our editorial staff can’t agree, we’re quoting the best statements we have found from authorities in the field. Read them over, and then try to decide for yourself!
Says Harold H. Laskey of the American Library Association:
“Dr. M. Llewellyn Raney, Director of Libraries at the University of Chicago and editor of our recently published book Microphotography for Libraries, has pointed out that ‘even now, unless your dictionary is dated in the thirties, you are pretty sure to find a microscope mixed up in the definition (of microphotography). The reference will be, not to a small picture of a large object, but to an enlarged picture of a small object. For the latter the exclusive term photomicrography has been coined and accepted.’ ”
On the other side of the fence is W. J. Luyten, writing in Science for March 5, 1937:
“Recent issues of Science have brought suggestions on scientific nomenclature and the use of English. In this connection I would suggest for relegation to oblivion that horrible hybrid ‘photomicrography.’ I have never been able to see the reason for coining this cacophonous misnomer—surely the term microphotography is descriptive enough.
“One shudders to think what would happen if the precedent set by photomicrography were followed consistently: we should then have to drop color photography and celestial photography in favor of photo-chromography and photouranography. If we sanction photomicrography astronomers will be at a loss to know whether chi'omograph refers to an instrument used in measuring time or to a picture of Saturn, and we may, perhaps, look forward to the day when the studio photographer who specializes in portraits will announce himself as an expert in photo-prosopography.”
Ralph Creer, who is a high ranking medical photographer and certainly knows what he is talking about, lined himself up with the photomicrography adherents on page 18 of our July issue.
And Herbert McKay, a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and an outstanding authority, takes issue with the use of misleading names and what he calls “coined terms,” among them “microphotography,” on page 59 of the July number.
Even Webster’s dictionai’y adds its coolly decisive tone with the following definition: “Micro-photograph: a microscopically small photograph; loosely a photo-micrograph.”
Well, there’s the facts. How would you interpret them?