Saturday, March 9, 2013

to disinvent.

I should like to erect here a modest stele to the memory of Sir Arthur Helps (1813-1875), a secretary and confidant of Queen Victoria. It was probably he who invented the marvelously useful verb to disinvent. The only illustration of this word in the Oxford English Dictionary (Vol. III) is a quotation from Helps dated 1868: "I would disinvent telegraphic communication." The word is not listed in Vol. I of the Supplement (1972), but a recent use will be found s.v. fantasy in the same volume. If I were younger, I would found the Coverers' and Disinventors' Club.

Erwin Chargaff, HERACLITEAN FIRE. Sketches from a Life before Nature.
(Footnote in the Trembling of the Balance chapter)
Image from the German edition: Das Feuer des Heraklit (KLETT-COTTA, Vierte Auflage, 1988)