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A Definition Is Where You Don’t Say “Is Where”

A definition is where you say what something means. Or is it?

Is where. What an unuseful, unsatisfying phrase. I’m talking about definitions like these:

  • A gravy train is where someone makes lots of money without doing much for it.
  • A retweet is where you forward a tweet.
  • Horticulture is where people grow plants.

If you wanted to understand gravy trains, retweets, and horticulture, these half-clarifications would leave you wondering what types of things these things are. Surely a gravy train has nothing to do with gravy or trains, does it? What exactly is a retweet before it gets forwarded? If horticulture is where people grow plants, does that make it a plot of ground? You might reread the definitions, suspecting that you missed something. You might feel vaguely cheated, left behind with the most basic of questions unanswered.

Is where. What a great big abandoner.

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