Friday, March 9, 2007


Coterminous (DD definition link)

Interesting how a word whose origins derive from "boundary", a spatial relation, ends up with a usage of "duration", a temporal relation. Did the time/space continuum get warped for this word? Or does it have to do with velocity? a speed in a particular direction from which we can derive how long something takes by how far the thing got? In both cases, it would need to be a physical thing with the intent that it will end, as opposed to an abstraction. Despite the horizon and great cinematography, boundaries don't go on forever. Massachusetts is a coterminous state to Connecticut. That's too easy. Moreover, why not just say abutting or adjacent? They don't have to share the entire same border. Coterminous cubicles. That has some cute alliteration. Coterminous rip cords are precisely measured? Although technically they would have the same length and run out at the same time, it just sounds silly. The state and district courts share coterminous jurisdiction over certain tort claims. Although possibly accurately stated, it still not accurate. The phrase is only, ever, concurrent jurisdiction. Possibly because, as I discussed above, coterminous requires an ending and jurisdiction is an indefinite. Hmm. Something to consider later (coterminous v. concurrent). Their coterminous exams allowed them to meet promptly for lunch? It's harder to apply with the "duration" aspect. Their coterminous work schedules made organizing child care difficult? Again, concurrent works better, or even contemporaneous. So, in short, this appears to be a quirk of a word with no real common good usage. There are so many other words that are more nuanced to describe relatively the same thing. What is to be gained by using coterminous except the implicit idea of the finite ending which is knowable. Oh, well, I'll keep working on other near synonyms for coterminous, in the meantime.

1 comment:

JWu said...

I completely agree with your conclusion... same "coterminous" concept can be easily expressed more simply... (i.e. fitting, representative, reflecting, etc.) Seems completely unnecessary. In fact, I have a hard time just understanding the definition (beyond pure geometry)!