Tricky Words in this week's OVI
Scientific, and science generally. The original Latin meaning of science was no different from "knowledge", but in the Middle Ages science was contrasted with art, and whereas art was performed and
needed no other proof of its trueness, science was associated with logic and with demonstration using objective evidence, such as the results of experiments. In this way science became restricted
to the natural sciences (physics, chemistry and biology) or the exact sciences (knowledge which can be expressed mathematically).
A scientist was then someone who does experiments to prove or disprove theories explaining natural phenomena, and a scientific approach means the carefully controlled collection of data to produce
objective, independent conclusions. So literally speaking the Vedecká rada of a university should be the Scientific Board, although personally I would prefer to call it the Research Board, because
that is what it is responsible for in practice.
This week's question comes from an exasperated language student wanting to know why English can't be written the way it is pronounced (or vice-versa - but that would be a terrible perversion of the
principle of language, which is that the spoken form has priority). Specifically, if the English alphabet goes /ej, bí, sí, dí, íí/, then the pronunciation of "may" is normal, but "can" is
abnormal, and "might" is ridiculous. G.B.Shaw said that "fish" could be written as "ghoti", based on "gh" from "cough", "o" from "women" and "ti" from "station".
I would say two things: one is that English has become a modern world language partly because the written form is separated from the spoken, giving it great freedom in borrowing words from other
languages; and the second thing is: just learn harder ;-) Please send questions about English language habits to email@example.com, and I will choose one to answer each week.