Thursday, January 29, 2009

Words Without Boundaries

I was sitting in grammar, minding my own business, taking notes on infinitives, when my professor said something along the lines of, "Put your pens down. I'm going to give you a question to think about for Tuesday." I finished my sentence, listening for the question while looking scrutinizingly into his sociolinguistics eyes for the answer.

"Is there a difference between 'infinity' and 'eternity?'"

My first thought was that he had gotten himself into a bet with the philosophy professor and had waded into deeper waters than he could handle alone. Fortunately, he's too cool for that and was merely having an in-class existential crisis, I'm pretty sure. I have a fairly brief attention span myself and have been known to ponder such questions while appearing to study infinitives.

But I did ask him why he asked us this.

"Well, if there's a difference, it's got to be a pretty important one, right?"

I've been thinking about it all day, whenever I get bored with writing the first draft of my thesis. I think I may have a hunch.

I think "eternity" can only mean "atemporal," while "infinity" can apply to time and space. And Merriam-Webster says quantity as well.

Hmm. "An infinite quantity...." Does that work? I don't know.

No comments: