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Lexicon for Understanding the Human Experience

by Ian Adams (1937-2012)

UNIVERSAL: Total or complete

THESAURUS: Storehouse of knowledge

LEXICON: Stock of words

UNDERSTANDING: Ability to think

HUMAN: All people

EXPERIENCE: Everything done or being done


Eurêka is a compilation of knowledge, not a dictionary, the product of a single mind roaming through the thicket of information, gathering terms and compiling a structure, in order to understand the human experience. I have made every effort to be culture-free and non-judgmental; no subject, term or human activity has been knowingly left out. Once found, a definable term is in. Caviling about terms regarded as vulgar, obscene, sexist, racist or politically incorrect has no place here. Never forget, the term tells you about the mind of its user, not the messenger. But if a term is omitted, it is the agenda of the messenger that has to be questioned. If you suffer from delicate intellect, please do not use Eurêka, for ignorance has a certain attraction while truth is rarely pleasant.

Work in Progress

This is a work-in-progress, unedited, straight from the compiler's computer memory. Like all human activity, innocence, ignorance, error and accident are buried in its entries, but one thing you can be assured, there is no conscious deceit.


Term Unit of human activity, be it mental or physical, forming part of a process which is symbolized by a word, phrase, expression or number. Eurêka is not a dictionary, a random selection of words in alphabetical order, or an encyclopedia, a random selection of learned articles in alphabetical order. Eurêka is a guide to knowledge, a collection of terms arranged in an order that reflects their role in human life. The difference between the two systems is simple: a dictionary or encyclopedia requires a mundane search by someone who knows the sought after word, its spelling and the alphabet, whereas Eurêka requires readers to think about terms in their functional relationships. In the latter case, the process expands the reader's knowledge in unforeseen but advantageous ways, as well as supplying the unknown term. Those readers who simply need confirmation of a definition are advised to stay loyal to their dictionary, but for the rest, the knowledge of how we humans think, what we say and how we behave is now an open book.

Many people feel adrift, overwhelmed by the information flood. Remaining informed through "reading" alone cannot supply the breadth of knowledge required to keep abreast of change that is overtaking virtually every discipline. Learning the language of today's issues, problems and technology alone requires a vocabulary far beyond the imagination of the most erudite scholar just a generation ago. The goal of this work is to provide sufficient defined terminology for the reader to be able to grasp a basic understanding of any inquiry they undertake.

Eurêka is a chart designed to help the reader navigate towards understanding, knowledge and wisdom. In fact the reader can approach any subject at any point in the sixteen parts and proceed with the process of language acquisition on any issue - political, economic, social, ecological, technological, personal, etc. Once a term is located, the reader can expand the defined content by browsing backwards to elucidate cause, or forward to find consequence. A powerful search feature also allows quick access to terms and articles, based on one or more keywords. and comprehensive table of contents also provide access to the body of text. Most important of all, the object is to help the reader add value to their knowledge by discovering terminology which they did not know, exactly the opposite to the normal dictionary which only provides a definition of a word which they can spell.

Eurêka is designed to incorporate terms from all languages from all periods of time, for it is their descriptive function rather that the words themselves that give them worth. Thousands of terms from some of the world's 6,000 languages have been used because no adequate English equivalent is available. Each language contains terms that uniquely capture ideas and the world view of its speakers and when the language dies so does their cultural view. This is a critical feature, for at least half of the world's primitive languages are expected to become extinct in the 21st century.

All terms are grist for Eurêka, for language development evolved like the Big Bang theory of cosmology. Geneticists tell us that around 100,000 years ago, a woman in East Africa gave birth to language. Since then terms have proliferated as human beings expanded their abilities and activities, and needed to tell others about it. As people spread out from Africa around the world, they met an increasing variety of environments forcing them to expand their vocabulary. Sadly, the vast majority of these lexicons disappeared in remote antiquity.

Today we live on the outer circumference of the expanding linguistic sphere with terms proliferating in every direction. So much so, the world is turning to terminological English to rescue us from the language flood. Not British English, nor even American English, but a World English, spoken with unemotional precision by non-native speaking academics, aviators, business people, diplomats, politicians and UN Peacekeepers. Around the world, there are now more speakers of English as a second language than there are native speakers. At the same time English is totally inadequate in many spheres of activity, thus it behooves native English speakers to expand their vocabularies of foreign terms in order to appreciate the complex spectrum of human diversity. This work is a compilation of non-English and English terms providing the initial step in achieving a global oversight to the complexities of human experience through our daily language.


"Taxonomy may not be much fun, but it is fundamental. Until you can arrange the contents of the universe in categories, it is hard to say anything about them...." (The Economist, Gamma-ray astronomy: Enlightenment, vol. 327, No. 7808, April 24, 1993, 88-9)

Order is necessary to gain an understanding of the worldview around us and to be able to communicate about it. According to the hermeneutics of Genesis, Adam gained mastery over the animals by naming them. A certain feeling arises from the activities of naming (onomasiology), defining (lexicography) and ordering (taxonomy), that gives us a greater sense of mastery over an ever changing world. Through these activities we can see relationships between things and can compare and contrast their characteristics, impacts and, at times, hidden agendas. It is an opportunity to begin to make order out of chaos.

The encyclopedic nature of Eurêka is readily apparent. Conventionally we go back to Pliny for the origins of peoples' desire for encyclopedic knowledge. Although I claim a degree of originality for Eurêka, it really has medieval precedents. Reference books at that time were truly encyclopedic in their scope for the church saw all things in a single framework. The seven liberal arts, grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music, were the basis for most works, but a variety of other subjects also appeared. A good example is De proprietatis rerum (On the properties of things), an encyclopedia created c.1230-40 by a Franciscan friar, Bartholomew the Englishman that consisted of 19 books, beginning with God and the angels, and progressing through psychology and physiology, home economics and medicine, cosmology and chronology, natural history of birds, fish, trees and animals, colors and scents, food, and weights and measures. Unusually for the period, it was addressed to ordinary people (simplices et rudes), and was popular for centuries, still being hired out after 14 editions to students at the University of Paris in 1500. It is now time to revert to the holistic world.

Eurêka is a taxonomy of the human experience, placing terms in a coherent classification and order, which portrays a symmetry from the beginning of the universe to the potential destruction of the Earth by humankind: from time zero and the primeval Big Bang to thermonuclear Armageddon. Within the classification, terms are placed in sequence based on their functional order. The source of the language itself does not matter, so the head word can reflect the geographical, social or any other origin of the activity: thus for terms in viticulture we turn to French, bullfighting to Spanish, martial arts to Japanese, computing to IBMese or Applespeak, etc. The language can also be slang, jargon or vulgar, for these are terms which are often ignored or treated in a derisory fashion in "normal" dictionaries, but are full of vitality with fully functional meanings.

A taxonomy of terminology of this nature has never been done before and marks a completely new way of ordering and accessing knowledge. At best we have had word menus or reverse dictionaries but in neither case did they abandon alphabetization or create a universal taxonomy.

Eurêka is totally different, a virtual knowledge machine by which the reader can access any part using any pre-existing knowledge in order to retrieve totally unknown terms within an easily comprehensible framework. If the reader can envisage a function, like a great mechanical spinning frame going backwards and forwards, then terms like `spinning,' `cotton,' or `mule' will lead them to `draw,' the textile trade term for that movement.

Amplitude of definition in Eurêka is in the hands of its users. For example, if you wish a definition of the term `gender' it can be spelled out in three lines or 45 pages, the choice is yours. We can see the benefits of this by using the example of the Holocaust, which is defined in the Oxford Concise Dictionary (OCD) as "mass murder of Jews by Nazis (1939-45)." If that is satisfactory, so be it. However questions immediately spring to mind: "Was it just Jews?" or "How did they go about mass murder?" and those dates look suspiciously like those of World War II. Browsing is no good, for in the case of the OCD, the adjacent terms are `holophote' and `hologram;' interesting but not applicable to the subject in question. On the other hand Eurêka presents the reader with a greater challenge of comprehending knowledge on a massive scale: one section alone is devoted entirely to the Holocaust with 160 entries encompassing 312 terms. In addition, 11 bulleted cross references produce a further 500 entries encompassing more than 1000 terms, a virtual dictionary in its own right on the diabolical impact of Nazism in the 20th century. This pattern is repeated at different intensities throughout, be it particle physics, asteroids, tornadoes, creationism, phobias, chickens, fabrics, paraphilias, dim sum, wakeboarding, smoking, stamp collecting or the political fortunes of Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Pakistan or President Clinton. There are no limits to knowledge.

Thesaurian System

Thesaurian system is a method of ordering knowledge in which all terms are arranged by their functional relationships with each other within a hierarchical structure. From the basic four quarters to ultra-detail, every term in every language has a single location. Remember that a word can be listed in many places, each time representing a different term.

Classification: Eurêka is divided into four quarters with sixteen parts which embrace all the activities that comprise the human experience. First, the basic structure of the universe from time zero to today with all its physical processes and bits and pieces that provide the foundation of everything. Secondly, the utilization of those resources that provide sustenance and foundation for human existence. Thirdly, the human interaction that all these activities engender. Finally, the exercise of power in all its forms to control the population whose latent intellect poses a constant threat to the governing elite.

Parts are then divided into categories. The basic level of classification is provided by the subcategories. The most fundamental unit is the `entry' which is comprised of a term and definition. The entry becomes a `set' when amplified with increasing detail.

Progression Achieved by placing the terms in functional order. This can be done in a variety of ways:

  1. Process Series of actions, operations, or motions involved in the accomplishment of an end for any human activity. For example, the car as an artifact in the human experience, embracing extraction of raw materials, making metals, ceramics, plastics, etc., manufacturing parts, assembling the final product, distributing it, retailing by dealer, daily use whether for commuting, shopping or recreation, filling with fuel, causing pollution, accidents and wear and tear, repair and maintenance, resale on the car lot, and finally scrapping with the materials recycled to start the process all over again. Simply, birth, life and death.
  2. Chronology Arrangement in order of occurrence, first things come first and the rest follow thereafter.
  3. Evolution Process of change in a certain direction, one term's function evolving or mutating into the next.
  4. Typological sequence Continuous or connected series, a succession of types, from beginning to end.
  5. Synonyms Multiple terms meaning the same thing are provided in brackets immediately after the entry term, or where there are a large number in an alphabetically arranged table.
  6. Categorization Placement into related groupings.

Non-progression Simply listing terms without reference to their relationships. They are random, thus listed alphabetically.

Dates Normally historians seem happy with the year but I felt extremely unhappy at this approach as history occurs in real time and many events and ideas often have profound impacts immediately, thus dates, where possible, are rendered day, month, year and occasionally, the hour.

Universal Language

Greek, Latin, French and Swahili have all tried to be a universal lingua franca but failed. Now English is in the same game: the power of language. First the British Empire, upon which the sun was never supposed to set, followed by its subset, the American empire, although to be precise, the American hegemony. Yet the power of English is not in their hands, for its universality is a function of its use by vast swathes of people and their daily activities. For the world's youth, English is the lingua franca of freedom in their own firmament. For the world's airline pilots or mariners it is part of the daily grind. More and more it provides a neutral third language in lands with no single mother tongue. English flourishes in India with no love lost for the old Raj. The United States of Europe is a good example. When Volkswagen produced a new Beetle, it called it "New Beetle." When the great French and German armament firms joined to create the world's third largest defense producer, they called themselves the "European Aeronautic, Defense and Space Company." [Note the failure to use the English spelling "defence," nice put-down.]

Yet a dictionary in English is a deficient document because of the limited cultural base that gave it birth. Eurêka has terms from well over a hundred languages necessary for an initial step in tracing cultural diversity of our world. We are not talking about translation, but of terms without English equivalent. Yet this produces a major difficulty, for many languages do not have an agreed system of transcribing them into English letters, and one does not have to look further than Thai to see why. The problem lies in the tonal nature of the Thai language which cannot be expressed easily in European transcription. Further many Thai sounds lie somewhere between two English letters, thus K and G (the Thai `kuh' and `guh' sounds) are hard to distinguish. This makes for a great variety of spellings for the same word. For better or worse, I have taken each example as found.

Charting a Course

Eurêka is about understanding, not definition, for if that is all you want, take your word to a standard dictionary, it will be easier and a lot faster. For those remaining, the first and most critical question is, what subject area does your inquiry embrace? If your answer is "Where did the people of US come from?" the question immediately arises, "Do you mean the original inhabitants, modern immigrants, or those between, say African-Americans?"

If original inhabitants, then the subject falls within "Category:Peopling of the Americas in "Category:Spread of Human Beings which is part of Category:Origins:Human Society, a part of Universal Foundation in Resources" which is the First Quarter. If modern immigrants, then the subject falls within Category:Immigration into the United States in Category:Immigration which is part of Category:People, a part of Universal Foundation in Resources. If African-Americans, then the subject falls within Category:Slavery in the United States in Category:Slavery, part of Historical Inheritance in Power, which is the Fourth Quarter.


It is not possible to create a traditional index for Eurêka. An alphabetical collection of subjects which are wide-ranging categories throughout Eureka is included on the Contents page. This provides an index of categories.

Biographical Sketch

“A man may fulfill the objective of his existence by asking a question he cannot answer, and attempting a task he cannot achieve.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

Geographer Ian Adams enjoyed a lifetime exploring the world in a varied and unusual career. He left school at 16 and, after a spell at Nautical College, spent a couple of years sailing between the ports of western Europe, then on three voyages to the Far East in the British Merchant Navy. The following three years were spent in the British Army, at first on the barren moors of Yorkshire, in northern England, then on Ice Age moraines in Schleswig Holstein in North Germany guarding the Iron Curtain, finally on active service in the Malayan Emergency in the tropical rain forests around Ipoh, Malaysia. Going to the University of Edinburgh, he read geography as a mature student, graduating with First Class Honors in 1964 gaining the Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s Silver Medal and a Vans Dunlop scholarship for post-graduate study. Three years later he graduated with a Ph.D. having written a study of the fate of Scotland’s common lands.

In the meantime he joined the staff at the Scottish Record Office as an editor, compiling four volumes of the Descriptive List of Plans in the Scottish Record Office. In the following 16 years he published academic works dealing mainly with the agricultural, industrial and urban changes of Scotland. In 1969, he began a piece of research in historical agrarian terminology that was ultimately to lead him on a quest to create a taxonomy for the human experience and finally Eureka Encyclopedia.

A fascination for things North American began in the summer of 1961 working as a bank clerk in Toronto, Canada and exploring the northeastern United States. After a stay as a visiting professor at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon, in 1972-3 and again in 1979-80, Dr. Adams began a major shift in his academic interests. Increasingly it was the language of contemporary change that interested him, especially those forces at work in the United States. He visited the States every year since then, working, often for the US Forest Service, in all fifty states from the frigid shores of the Beaufort Sea to the swelter of the Mississippi Delta. This experience was incorporated in his teaching at the University of Edinburgh of Contemporary Economic and Social Change in the United States, Population and Global Resources, and the Geography of Computerization. He gave up his post as Senior Lecturer in 1990 and was awarded an Endowment Fellowship so as to devote more time to Eureka, retiring in 1995.

Over the years he usually spent a month or more traveling throughout Europe, more often than not coming to rest with a glass of wine on the route du vins in Alsace or sipping an apéritif in a hilltop village in Tuscany, or toasting with vodka in St. Petersburg. In 1995, he moved permanently to the United States.

From a Victorian sandstone tenement and dank medieval cobbled streets of Edinburgh, Scotland, to perpetual damp of a Pacific Northwest cedar-clad house, then on to frigid winters in a former concrete grain elevator beside railroad tracks in Minneapolis, Minnesota, then sampling the blistering desert heat in an ersatz pueblo in air-conditioned Scottsdale, Arizona, finally, coming to rest in a small flat on the edge of the pedestrianized medieval High Street, in the temperate royal seaport of Ramsgate, in the Isle of Thanet, England, the search for understanding the human experience turned out to be a fascinating itinerary.

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