adept (the noun)

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adept (the noun)

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:12 pm

aaa
<2013 “Sydney Australia: Meet the world’s first self-styled ‘Instagram Hotel,’ . . . The new boutique property, located in a converted 1888 storehouse encourages guests to spread the word by providing Instagram adepts with extra perks.”—The Week, 8 November, page 30>
I read the second sentence over several times and decided that it was saying that two items were provided: “Instagram adepts along with extra perks.” [Instagram is an online photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service]. But ‘adept’ is an adjective meaning ‘very skilled, proficient.’ What are they doing using it as a noun? The only explanation I could think of was that it was some sort of relatively recent Internet lingo. However, to my surprise, when I checked a dictionary, I found the noun to be Standard English and it ain’t recent.

ADEPT noun [1674]: A highly skilled person: an expert. <He is an adept in philosophy.> <They are adepts at political intrigue.> [New Latin adeptus, an alchemist who has attained the knowledge of how to change base metals into gold, from Latin, past participle of adipisci to attain, from ad- + apisci to reach; to grasp.] (American Heritage Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Online, and Oxford English Dictionary)
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“Instagram adepts!” Aha! Now I’ve got it. Are Wordwizards familiar with this noun usage or am I alone in my ignorance?
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The following quotes are from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources:
<1674 “I confess I am none of those Adepts in Philosophy, that can tell us how to solve all the effects in Nature . . .”—Difficiles Nugæ by M. Hale, iv. page 55>

<1762 “An adept in all the arts of picture-craft.”—Anecdotes of painting in England by H. Walpole, II. iii. page 207>

<1891 “Clients . . . need to be represented by those who are adepts in marshalling facts and handling witnesses.”—The Law Times (London), Vol. 90, page 463/2>

<1938 “Skiing means not only fun and sport for its adepts, but business in terms of tens of millions of dollars.”—Life Magazine, 24 January, page 39>

<1980 “. . . Capote [Truman] . . . is an adept at bringing out surface beauty and terror, . . .”—Boston Globe (Massachusetts), 10 August>

<1997 “Like his mentor Locke, Sterne was an adept in exploiting the association of ideas, . . .”—The Spectator (London), 22 March>

<2003 “ . . . [He] was a ‘determined’ croquet player, a keen pianist, and an adept at word games.”—The Independent (London), March>

<2009 “In one of the original stories, we learn that Holmes [Sherlock] is an adept in baritsu, a legendary Asian martial art the author totally made up.”—Boston Globe (Massachusetts), 25 December>

<2013 “The centerpiece of his book is an account of the mysterious Count Cagliostro, an alchemist, an adept at Egyptian magic, and, possibly -- or possibly not -- a consummate charlatan and con artist.”—Washington Post (D. C.), 18 July>
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Ken G – November 4, 2013
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Re: adept (the noun)

Post by Bobinwales » Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:48 pm

I have heard it Ken. I can safely say I have never used it myself, and I get the impression that when I did come across it it had something to do with magic (black magic, sword and sorcery novels).
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Bob in Wales

Re: adept (the noun)

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Nov 05, 2013 1:30 am

aaa
Bob, Thanks for your input. The OED did have a definition that is in line with your experience of a connection to ‘magic.’ I didn’t include it because it didn’t appear in any other dictionaries I checked and I didn’t want to cloud the issue (although the above derivation does mention the original tie to alchemy and the changing of metal into gold).

Here’s the OED’s other definition:

ADEPT noun [1673]: Originally: a person who has attained knowledge of the secrets of alchemy, magic, and the occult, (now especially) an initiate into the secrets of a particular hermetic order or occult organization. In later use also more generally: a person who has been initiated into any system of spiritual knowledge. Cf. adeptus noun

ADEPTUS noun [1650]: Usually in plural [adepti], with the. A person who has attained knowledge of the secrets of alchemy, magic, and the occult, (now especially) an initiate into the secrets of a particular hermetic order or occult organization. Cf. adept noun
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Ken – November 4, 2013
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Re: adept (the noun)

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:50 am

I knew I'd come across it somewhere traceable.

'Lure and Romance of Alchemy' _ C. J. S. Thompson _ 1932 begins (the linked article alters the quote slightly):

'That alchemy has appealed to the imagination of man for centuries is evident from the prominent part it plays in the legends and romances of the past.... At its dawn, alchemy was regarded as a divine and sacred art, enveloped in mystery, that was only to be approached with reverence. Its adepts held its secrets inviolate, enshrouded their operations with symbolism, and gave their materials fantastic names so as to conceal their identity from those outside the mystic cult....'

(And I've probably encountered the nounal usage in historical crime novels too.)

Thompson's book (I naturally have a copy) (it's possibly the forerunner of the 'Concrete-mixers' Gazette') contains fascinating lists of early symbols, sketches of early chemical apparatus (20 types of alembics...) and prints of early labs. It's more scientific than spooky in its treatment.

I've had the connotations of the unnatural if not the occult melding with the more powerful influence of the untainted 'proficient' sense of the adjective, so that 'adept' has virtually become the nounal form of 'autistic' in my mind.
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Re: adept (the noun)

Post by Wizard of Oz » Wed Nov 06, 2013 1:53 pm

Ed said:

I've had the connotations of the unnatural if not the occult melding with the more powerful influence of the untainted 'proficient' sense of the adjective, so that 'adept' has virtually become the nounal form of 'autistic' in my mind.
.. Ed could you expand on this idea please ?? .. I can't see how autism suddenly came into the equation ..

.. Ken I can't say that I have ever used adept as an adjective .. in deed I find it difficult to imagine a sentence with adept as an adjective .. like Bob, I am familiar with adept as a noun ..

WoZ the adaptive adept
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Re: adept (the noun)

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Wed Nov 06, 2013 5:37 pm

Though by no means all those with autism are 'gifted', the ones who are often get a disproportionate amount of attention. Here are some relevant articles:

The gifted student who is also diagnosed with one of the autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has many behaviors, skills, and characteristics that are paradoxical in nature. In other words, there are aspects of these areas that are extraordinarily well developed—especially academically—yet, within the same broad area, there are other aspects that, relative to the academic strength, are significantly weak and may create a situation where the regular classroom setting may not be optimal for learning. Accommodations can be used to ensure that the student’s learning experience is commensurate with his or her ability. (http://www2.education.uiowa.edu/belinblank/pdfs/pip.pdf)

Asperger's Syndrome is a pervasive developmental disorder included in the autism spectrum disorders of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) of the American Psychiatric Association (APA, 1994). Like other pervasive developmental disorders, it is characterized by serious impairment in social interaction skills and repetitive behaviors...
(the monastic / reclusive / alchemical workshop tie-in)

'Autistic Man Draws New York City From Memory' [Google]

The autistic savant is one of the most fascinating cognitive phenomena in psychology. "Autistic savant" refers to individuals with autism who have extraordinary skills not exhibited by most persons. Historically, individuals with these exceptional skills were called 'idiot savants,' a French term meaning unlearned (idiot) skill (savant). In a 1978 article in Psychology Today, Dr. Bernard Rimland introduced a more appropriate term 'autistic savant,' which is the current label.
The estimated prevalence of savant abilities in autism is 10%, whereas the prevalence in the non-autistic population, including those with mental retardation, is less than 1%.
There are many forms of savant abilities. The most common forms involve mathematical calculations, memory feats, artistic abilities, and musical abilities. A mathematical ability which many autistic individuals display is calendar memory. They could be asked a question like: 'What day of the week was May 22, 1961? and they can determine the answer within seconds--Monday. Others can multiply and divide large numbers in their head and can also calculate square roots and prime numbers without much hesitation.
Examples of some memory feats include: remembering everything about presidents (birth/death, term in office, names and birth dates of family members, cabinet members, etc.), memorizing the U.S. highway system, and remembering everyone's birth date, even after meeting the person once and not seeing him/her for 20 years.

So, I've formed a 'super-/un-naturally talented / capable' mental image, which fits in with both senses of 'adept'.


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The adjectival usage is certainly more common nowadays, as can be deduced from this rather unusual-looking Ngram.
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Re: adept (the noun)

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Nov 07, 2013 1:29 am

aaa
Edwin, I was amazed that the Ngram (at year 2000) showed such a high proportion of the noun use. I thought that the adjective would swamp the noun many times over – could this be a U.S. thing? – but it looks like it only exceeds it by very small potatoes.

I thought that perhaps you made a mistake by leaving something important out, so I looked for some candidates that might make some difference and came up with the following two possibilities using Ngram (see here)

1) The plural noun: adepts (The adepts filed into the chapel.) [The singular noun ‘an adept at’ (e.g. An adept at fly fishing), lowest on my Ngram, is an example of one that produced negligible results.]

2) The adjective form: an adept (She was an adept violinist.)

I had high hopes for #2. I thought it was fairly common. But neither #1 nor #2 seemed to make a great deal of difference, although they did make some. Very approximately, the ratio of adjective to noun went from about 1.3 to about 1.1 – hardly worth the effort! (>:)
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Ken – November 6, 2013
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Re: adept (the noun)

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Thu Nov 07, 2013 11:40 pm

Hi Ken

I'm far more familiar with (well, say 30 : 3 over the last 30 years) the adjective too, almost always in the expression 'adept at (sewing etc)'. Let's blame the Welsh, the Aussies and all those companies using a capitalised noun form.

Acting on a whim,
I've just discovered these claims for Google hits:

"adept at" : 4 470 000

"adept at" -"an adept at" : 11 600 000

which gives grounds for grave concern over what these figures actually mean (and isn't Ngram from the same stable?)
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Re: adept (the noun)

Post by Wizard of Oz » Fri Nov 08, 2013 6:40 am

.. Ed you can't in mind have a nounal form that only applies to a very, very small percentage of the ASD population .. I also feel it is not in good taste to define persons with autism in this way .. you may wish in future to check that any definitions, with regard to ASD, comply with the DSM5 .. a major overhaul of "autism" was undertaken for inclusion in the DSM5 to more clearly define the diagnostic criteria for ASD .. research over the decades has not fully supported earlier ideas and with brain imaging techniques adding to the corpus of knowledge a clearer idea was presented .. this was made to further reinforce the exclusion of false positives in diagnosing autism .. some older criteria were found to not be diagnostic in separating ASD diagnosis from say RAD or language disorders combined with cognitive disorders ..

.. Ken I have just read the intervening posts and it includes what I had realised in thinking more about adept .. I had realised that I did use the form, "He is very adept at drawing." .. but what I did realise is that I pronounce the noun and adjective differently .. in the sentence i have just written I would pronounce the initial /a/ as a schwa with the stress on /dept/ whereas if I said, "He is an adept" I would stress the initial syllable .. does this fit with what you and ED would do ?? ..

WoZ adepting
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Re: adept (the noun)

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Fri Nov 08, 2013 11:04 am

Savant connotation of autism duly de-emphasised, WiZ.

And yes, pronunciation of the intercategorial polysemes (the adept's) as with you.
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