John McPhee on geological language

Started reading John McPhee’s tetralogue on geology, Annals of the Former World. Here is a memorable sampling of the thick sediments of geological language (p. 33):

As years went by, such verbal deposits would thicken. Someone developed enough effrontery to call a piece of our earth an epieugeosyncline. There were those who said interfluve when they meant between two streams, and a perfectly good word like mesopotamian would do. A cactolith, according to the American Geological Institute’s Glossary of Geology and Related Sciences, was a “quasi-horizontal chonolith composed of anastomosing ductoliths, whose distal ends curl like a harpolith, thin like a sphenolith, or bulge discordantly like an akmolith or ethmolith.” The same class of people who called one rock serpentine called another jacupirangite. Clinoptilolite, eclogite, migmatite, tincalconite, szaibelyite, pumpellyite. Meyerhofferite. The same class of people who called one rock paracelsian called another despujolsite. Metakirchheimerite, phlogopite, ktzenbuckelite, mboziite, noselite, neighborite, samsonite, pigeonite, muskoxite, pabstite, aenigmatite. Joesmithite.

He could have included turbidite, tsunamite, tempestite, unifite, homogenite, debrite, hyperpycnite, and contourite as well. As if this wasn’t enough, there are sedimentary geologists who suggest introducing new ‘ites’ (PDF link) like gravite and densite.

Bullshite.

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