26 May 2009


That's not a word. Or maybe it is. I encountered it this week while reading a book by Daniel Tammet (Embracing the Wide Sky. A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind, Free Press, NY, 2009.) I was going to save this entry for Autistic Pride Day (June 18) but decided to do it today. Daniel Tammet is a high-functioning autistic savant whom I featured in a blogpost last fall - a truly fascinating 48-minute British documentary about Daniel's extraordinary abilities. Because of his high functioning status, Tammet has authored several books. The first ("Born on a Blue Day") was mostly biographical; in this one he discusses how the mind works - the savant's mind and the normal mind, with insights into how the principles seen in the former could be utilized by the latter. In the book he looks into some basic neuroscience principles re how the brain works, reviews the definition and measurement of intelligence, and explains how the brain's abilities are used for memory skills, number skills, and language skills (the last being the weakest part of the book). 

 Now - about "rationalizational." Tammet notes that the English language has an almost undefinable number of possible words because of the combinatorial possibilites generated through the use of prefixes and suffixes. As an example he offers the noun "ration," originally defined as "reasoning." When the suffix "-al" is added, the noun becomes the adjective "rational." Now add the suffix "-ize" to the adjective, and you create the verb "rationalize." Once again, add the suffix "-tion" and you convert the verb back to a noun: "rationalization." The triple-suffixed "rationalization" is the endpoint for conventional English, but in principle the process could go on forever. 

 The next step would be to add "-al" again to create the adjective "rationalizational." Tammet notes that even though this is not a word, many people have logically and unintentionally "created" it as a neologism to convey a desired meaning, and Googling the word yields 161 hits. (TYWKIWDBI may offer the 162nd after this blog post gets logged by Google.)


  1. I watched that documentary some time ago and find him to be fascinating man. BTW, I got 170 hits on Google with "rationalizational".


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