Roundness and knowledge

Updated: Mar 17

Knowledge is related to roundness in language in a way that seems similar to how it relates to solidness, suggesting that we associate round objects such as a sphere, ball, round fruit, eye, pupil, circle or point with coldness, solidness, order and other things in the colder, less-exciting category. Some potentially relevant phrases are “a well-rounded education” (round—knowledge), “on the ball” (round—knowledgeable), “spot on” (round—reality), “four eyed” (round—knowledge), “connect the dots” (round—reality), “two sides of the same coin” (round—related), “in the loop” (round—knowledge), “set the record straight” (round—order—knowledge), “good point” (round—reality), “strong point” (solid—round), “not to put too fine a point on it” (mostly round—mostly real), “a few pointers” (round—knowledge), “pennywise” (round/solid—knowledge), “penny wise and dollar foolish” (round—knowledge—not round—lack of knowledge), “the penny drops” (round/solid—down—realization), “on point” (round—reality), “I can’t quite pinpoint” (not quite round—not known), “you get the point” (round—knowledge), “see eye to eye” (round—knowledge), “know your onions” (knowledge—round), “a tree is known by its fruit” (knowledge—round), “a smart cookie” (round—knowledge), "don't know beans" (know—round), “in your wheelhouse” (round—knowledge), “you can’t put a square peg in a round hole” (round—in—reality), have a hunch (round—know) and “spherical cow” (round—theory), a humorous name for a concept that oversimplifies reality.

At least 26 popular English expressions suggest that we conventionally relate knowledge to roundness. This should be true of other languages as well. A comparison of the frequency of these types of phrases with those which relate knowledge to something which is opposite to roundness, such as length or spikiness, in more than one language, might reveal whether or not in fact there is a universal tendency to think of round things as more similar to knowledge than things which are not round.

Downwardness, inwardness and knowledge

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