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Orientation of a merperon's tail

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Hairy Scot
1349153.  Tue May 26, 2020 6:08 am Reply with quote

Sandi confused "at right angles" with "perpendicular".
An increasingly common error these days.
Perpendicular means "at right angles to the plane of the horizon".
ie: vertical

 
suze
1349163.  Tue May 26, 2020 7:30 am Reply with quote

If you put the word perpendicular into Google, you will in very short order be given the definition "at an angle of 90 to a given line, plane, or surface or to the ground".

You're entirely right to say that when the word was first used in English in around 1400 it meant "vertical". In those days the word was used only by astronomers and navigators.

The style of English Gothic architecture which we call Perpendicular was very much in vogue in around 1400, but it wasn't given that name until 1817 when an historian of architecture gave labels to the various styles. (Rickman, T (1817). An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of English Architecture from the Conquest to the Reformation. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown.)

Etymologically, the word ought indeed to mean "vertical" since it comes from the Latin perpendiculum, a plumb line. But there are citations from before 1600 to mean "at right angles to" irrespective of orientation, and we should very soon find our lives getting very complicated if we attempted to restrict every word to the meaning that its etymology would suggest it should have.

 

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