Word for the Day

by Henry on August 2, 2009

From the _Shorter Oxford_ (old edition),

bq. _Corsned_ – in Old English law, the morsel of trial, a piece of bread consecrated by exorcism ( _panis conjuratus_ ) which an accused person was required to swallow as a trial of his guilt or innocence.

Consider this an open thread for the nomination of other words similarly obscure in usage and unusual in meaning that you’ve come across.


by John Holbo on August 2, 2009

Lemme horn in on Quiggin territory here. I just flew home to Singapore from New York and read about a third of Justin Fox’s The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street [amazon] on the flight. (You can view my takeoff here.) Verdict: it’s good! Chapter 1 contains a lively portrait of Irving Fisher. He was, I have learned, a boldly quantitative economic pioneer who pronounced in print just before the crash of ’29 “stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” He lost his personal fortune in the Great Depression. (So he’s a nice emblem for Fox’s book – quants come to practical grief when reality neglects to live up to ideal model standards.)

For his doctoral thesis [completed in 1893] he devised the most sophisticated mathematical treatment yet of economic equilibrium, and he also designed and built a contraption of interconnected water-filled cisterns that he described as “the physical analogue of the ideal economic market.” Many decades later, economist Paul Samuelson judged this work to be “the greatest doctoral dissertation in economics ever writter.” It launched Fisher into a leading role among the world’s still-sparse ranks of mathematical economists. (10)

I want to hear more about his bold, pre-20th Century design for a compucistern system. [click to continue…]

The Price is Right?

by John Quiggin on August 2, 2009

In my discussion of the efficient markets hypothesis, I’ve asserted at various times that if (strong or semi-strong) EMH holds, then the market price of an asset “the best possible estimate of the value of the asset” or, more simply, the “right” price. Quite a few commenters asked me to spell out what this means, and there was some useful discussion. This really is the central issue in evaluating the EMH, so I want both to get it right and to express myself as clearly as possible for non-specialist readers. There’s a draft over the fold. I await your brickbats and (hopefully) bouquets.

[click to continue…]