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aberration

Curse the English language all to hell! I always knew that this project of providing individual, usually flippant commentaries on every word in a particular dictionary, The New Penguin English Dictionary (1986), would take a long time, but it looks like it is going to be an even lengthier project than I thought.

I was certain that, because the immediately previous commentary was on the word aberrant, for aberration I could just make some flippant remark about an aberration being the outcome of a aberrant behavior or act or the person, place or thing that embodies that outcome and be done with it. That would vaguely summarize two of the definitions of aberration listed in my dictionary.

Unfortunately for me, there are three more definitions.

Aberration also means a mirror or lens that doesn’t reflect or project a true image. If it were up to me, unless it was a funhouse mirror, I’d just call that a flawed mirror or lens. There is no need to drag in the longer word aberration, particularly when most people aren’t aware of this definition of the word.

This raises a question that my dictionary is vague on. Is a funhouse mirror an aberration? It doesn’t reflect a true image, but that’s because not reflecting a true image is exactly what it was designed to do. If a funhouse mirror is an aberration—i.e., if it’s still an aberration even though its inaccuracy is intentional—then my suggestion of substituting “flawed mirror” for aberration doesn’t work. It’s not a design flaw; it’s a feature.

I could discuss this further, but I don’t want to stultify my reader. On the other hand, I seriously doubt that anyone is reading this, so my ennui is really the only consideration and it’s definitely reaching an intolerable level.

The unsoundness or disorder of a mind, or an instance thereof, is another definition of aberration. I could also talk about this further, but I don’t want to because it’s too personal for me.

If the movement of an observer (for example a person standing on some large piece of rock rotating on its axis and revolving around the sun such as, oh, I don’t know, maybe the Earth), coupled with the movement of the light source creates an periodic shift in the apparent position of a celestial body, that’s also called an aberration. (Note to self: Remember the phrase “celestial body.” It might come in handy when complimenting attractive women. You need all the help you can get with women.)

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