My father was one. My brother still is. So are the scientists who study Mount St. Helens and its ilk, and some at least of those who peer at the night sky. The professor of music and the professor of infectious diseases are. The woman who offers makeovers at my local drugstore [sic] is one, as are some members of the research teams that will save us all from the pandemic. 

They’re all Ologists: geo-, herpet-, vulcan-, cosm-, music-, epidemi-, cosmet-, vaccin-.  That last one bothers me a bit, I admit: vaccinologist. It sounds like a made-up word, it’s too ugly by half, and it’s too easy to confuse with vulcanologist. Don’t get me started on cosmologist and cosmetologist.

I get the standard progression from the discipline to the studier thereof — from  -ology to -ologist — but then how did we get theology and theologian?

I mean, who’s in charge here? I know for sure it’s not editologists. If anyone had thought to check with me first, I would have nixed vaccinologist and suggested vaccinator, although I guess that could evoke the Terminator: not the most-desirable connection.

Vaccinist, anyone? Vaccinician?

Which brings us to a whole other set of inconsistencies. If physicists study physics, surely mathematicists should study mathematics, and linguisticists should study linguistics. If those are too tongue-twisty, can we at least standardize on either mathematicians and linguisticians, or linguists and mathematists?

It appears not. Indeed, the whole business of discipline and discipline-purveyor terminology is past undisciplined. It’s out of control.

If they won’t take the advice of an experienced editist, then at least hire a qualified termist. Or maybe a terminologian? I’m thinking we might need some divine intervention.

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5 Responses to Ologist

  1. barbara carlson says:

    “I’m thinking we might need some divine intervention.”

    Or, Interventionist!?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – LOL. An interventionologist? Now that you raise it, I’m a bit surprised we haven’t made-up even more -ology words (like the Federal Government’s [blessedly]short flirtation with deliverology). Interventionology. I kinda like the ring of that.

  2. Wait a sec, physicians study physics, which brings the mathematicians back into the fold.
    Linguists study linguae (tongues, languages) and speak several languages. They do not necessarily study linguistics: the analytical approach to languages that includes structures, forms, and social influences on language. I think we have identified a gap here. Do we need “linguologist” to make that distinction?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – 🙂 That would be a different meaning of “physics” for medical doctors, but is perhaps where their name came from. As to why not physicologist (akin to psychologist, now that I think of it), I knoweth not. I suspect obscure word-origin arguments apply here. And as for your discovery of a potential linguologist gap, it certainly reinforces my point (to the extent that I have one): We need a wholesale reconsideration of these terms which appear, like Topsy, to have just growed.

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