The previous post traced ilusión/illusion—which can be “false friends”—back to the basic Latin verb ludere ‘to play.’ French turned to ludere to create the adjective ludique, which has become the non-so-common English ludic that means ‘having to do with or characterized by play or playfulness’; Spanish played along and carried the French word over as the synonymous lúdico. To see one way the word is used, we can turn to a Wikipedia article entitled “Black swan theory,” which points out that “One problem, labeled the ludic fallacy by Taleb, is the belief that the unstructured randomness found in life resembles the structured randomness found in games. This stems from the assumption that the unexpected may be predicted by extrapolating from variations in statistics based on past observations, especially when these statistics are presumed to represent samples from a bell-shaped curve.”

Using the word lúdico/ludic outside of technical or academic discussions would probably be ludicrous, an obviously related adjective, but one that Spanish doesn’t share; it comes from Latin ludicrus, which meant ‘done for sport, sportive.’ The 1913 Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary gave this statement by Thomas de Quincey as an example of usage: “A chapter upon German rhetoric would be in the same ludicrous predicament as Van Troil’s chapter on the snakes of Iceland, which delivers its business in one summary sentence, announcing, that snakes in Iceland — there are none.” And who, even among detractors of Germany, wouldn’t find that claim about rhetoric a ludicrous illusion?

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. shoreacres
    Apr 15, 2012 @ 17:18:39

    Well, well. This was more relevant to Grandma’s action vis-a-vis the Klan than I’d imagined. From what I remember of her, I suspect there was a bit of a playful gleam in her eye when she hatched her plan. (If you get here first, the story’s in “Madness & Method).


  2. Steve Schwartzman
    Apr 15, 2012 @ 22:16:56

    I can almost see that playful glean in Grandma’s eye.


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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