Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

Eisenmania II – When Dissimilation Resembles Dissemblance

Posted by NT Wrong on June 19, 2008

I was drawn back into the 1,013 videos of Robert Eisenman lectures now available on YouTube. Right at the start of Eisenman’s second Dead Sea scrolls lecture, he talks about a “great word” he wants his class to learn.

Unfortunately, he gets the word wrong. He says “Dissimilation” when he means “Dissembling”. After explaining this great word to his students for a while, he begins to realise he really means “Dissembling”. But instead of confessing that “Dissimilation” was the wrong word altogether, he says, ‘Here’s a synonym of Dissimilation: Dissembling!’

One of the ironies is, of course, here is Eisenman identifying two quite distinct words that sound similar and saying they must mean the same thing. Isn’t that just a microcosm of his whole work?

“[Writes ‘dissimilation’ on whiteboard] You probably don’t even know what ‘dissimilation’ is, some of you. Dissimilation, dissembling, means that you don’t really believe what you’re saying [sic]. You’re saying something what you think will help you, or will please the ears of the person you’re saying it to, or you know it wasn’t true to begin with, or in fact you know its false. You’re “dissimilating” it. You’re “dissembling”. That’s what that means. It’s a great word. And, um, it’s got a synonym [writes ‘dessembling’ [sic] on whiteboard], I don’t know if I’m spelling it right. Probably not. This is probably an i [changes second letter from ‘e’ to i]. I don’t know which it is, ‘e’ or ‘i’. I can’t spell either. Look it up in spellcheck. I mean later on.”
– Robert Eisenman

dis·sem·ble – “to give a false or misleading appearance to; conceal the truth or real nature of: to dissemble one’s incompetence in business”

dis·sim·i·la·tion – “Phonetics. the process by which a speech sound becomes different from or less like a neighboring sound”

4 Responses to “Eisenmania II – When Dissimilation Resembles Dissemblance”

  1. steph said

    so a beach is a peach – or peech?
    !It’s all a bit John Cleesish.

  2. Maybe this is the person who taught George Bush a few years ago that “disassemble” means the same thing as “dissemble.”

  3. ntwrong said

    Good calls, both Steph & MS.

  4. alana v said

    unless he meant dissimulation. Dissimulation is a form of deception in which one conceals the truth. It differs from simulation, in which one exhibits false information. Dissimulation commonly takes the form of concealing one’s ability in order to gain the element of surprise over an opponent.

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