Logodaedaly, logodaedalus, logodaedalist and logodaedale are related words to be found in the larger dictionaries of the English language. Their origin dates back to the seventeenth century. They are derived from a combination of the Greek logos (λογος) meaning "word", and daidalos (Δαίδαλος) meaning "cunning worker". The two words combine to give λογοδαίδαλος which means a person cunning in the use of words, rather like the modern expression "wordsmith".
It's not easy to find examples of those words used in earnest. A very few serious-minded Victorian writers used them with varying precision, commonly in theological literature and usually with pejorative overtones, suggesting what in the second half of the twentieth century was described by the dismissive catchphrase "semantic arguments" or "semantic quibbles", though that fashion has largely given way to correct use of the term "semantic". Nowadays "spin doctoring" might be a more appropriate expression. Illustrative pre-twentieth quotes include firstly one by George Field:
- And as to scholastic wrangling and debate, in particular, they are mere logodaedaly, or a war of words ; which, though affecting to employ reason, puts the winning of the game or victory in the place of truth, and is altogether sensual, unknown to true philosophy, unworthy of the logician, and may be properly consigned, with all the logic of sophistry, factious clamour, and special pleading, to the abusers of reason at the hustings, the rostrum, and the bar.
Samuel Bailey used the term with greater precision, distinguishing between logodaedaly and logomachy :
- In questions of philosophy or divinity, that have occupied the learned, and been the subjects of many successive controversies, for one instance of mere logomachy, I could bring ten instances of logodaedaly, or verbal legerdemain, which have perilously confirmed prejudices, and withstood the advancement of truth, in consequence of the neglect of verbal debate, i. e. strict discussion of terms.
Neither however, used either term in anything like a favourable sense.
In modern times the terms appear to be practically confined to sesquipedalian humour. Perhaps the finest modern example is in the poem Defenestration, by R. P. Lister. It relates the thoughts of a philosopher undergoing defenestration who, as he falls, considers why there should be a word for so obscure an activity when so many other equally obscure activities have no single name. In an evidently ironic commentary on the word that the poem takes as its title, Lister has the philosopher summarize his thoughts with, "I concluded that the incidence of logodaedaly was purely adventitious."
- Brown, Lesley (1993). The New shorter Oxford English dictionary on historical principles. Oxford [Eng.]: Clarendon. ISBN 0-19-861271-0.
- Field, George. Outlines of Analogical Philosophy. Charles Tilt, 1839. May be downloaded from http://archive.org/details/outlinesanalogi00fielgoog
- Bailey, Samuel. Letter to a Political Economist. R. Hunter London 1826. May be downloaded from: http://archive.org/details/lettertopolitica00bailrich
- J. M. Cohen (Ed.); “Yet more comic and curious verse”; Penguin Books (1959)