Is there a word that means "knowing something solely by references to it?"
February 2, 2008 8:06 PM   Subscribe

Is there a word that means "knowing something solely by references to it?"

I've never seen an episode of Star Trek nor any of the movies. I haven't seen Spinal Tap nor 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, I know so much of what happens and the basic facts of each that I could fake it well -- I bet that there's at least one comparable thing in pop culture for every MeFite.

I've used the slightly-awkward portmanteau 'recumference' for this sort of thing for a while now, but I've always wanted to know if there's an actual word for this.
posted by flatluigi to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Knowing it through context?
posted by Doohickie at 8:07 PM on February 2, 2008

bluffing is false knowledge, and intuition is knowledge without reasoning. The gist of something is its essence, perhaps stated through bluffing or intuition.
posted by about_time at 8:20 PM on February 2, 2008

For indirect knowledge that you've picked up without really trying, you can say you know about something "by osmosis."
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:21 PM on February 2, 2008

Best answer: I've always called it "cultural osmosis."
posted by librarina at 8:22 PM on February 2, 2008

Best answer: I've called it cultural osmosis, but you might have to explain what you mean by that.
posted by amethysts at 8:25 PM on February 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

"by reputation" would work.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:29 PM on February 2, 2008

It could also be a form of B.S. Artistry (that is what I call it when I'm pretending to know something I don't, but have just enough info by proxy to pull off a convincing aknowledgement...sparing myself from having someone else explain it to me full detail)
posted by samsara at 8:32 PM on February 2, 2008

Best answer: Last time I asked, I got "cultural osmosis", and "The Weird Al effect".
posted by zamboni at 8:33 PM on February 2, 2008

Woah, no one's mentioned Simulacrum yet? You people are off the ball. What you're talking about in the MI matches the definition pretty closely.
posted by delmoi at 8:33 PM on February 2, 2008

I've always called that type of knowledge the effect of being "culturally literate."
posted by samthemander at 8:35 PM on February 2, 2008

pop kultura
posted by hapax_legomenon at 8:38 PM on February 2, 2008

(hmm, reading the wikipedia article, it seems like my understanding of the word "simulacrum" is a little off)

The way I had heard it described was that in Baudrillard's work was that a simulacrum was a reference to a reference a reference and so on to the point that the original meaning was lost, but it looks like the word is also used for other things as well. It's something I'm only familiar through cultural osmosis. :P
posted by delmoi at 8:39 PM on February 2, 2008

osmosis is perfect.

osmosis is the passive transport of water through microscopic channels from an area of higher concentration to lower concentration, essentially the environment one is in pushing into you over time.

It implies an indirect exposure -- ah, indirect knowledge might also work for you.
posted by panamax at 8:44 PM on February 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

knowing it second-hand (if someone who saw it describes it to you)
knowing it third-hand (if someone who has heard it described, describes it to you)

general knowledge, cultural literacy, background knowledge?
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:46 PM on February 2, 2008

Response by poster: "Cultural osmosis" definitely seems to be what I'm looking for, thanks.
posted by flatluigi at 8:56 PM on February 2, 2008

Response by poster: For future readers: This and especially this from zamboni's link above helped.
posted by flatluigi at 8:59 PM on February 2, 2008

"Hearsay acquaintance" would seem to fit too, in a mildly pejorative sense.
posted by Abiezer at 10:58 PM on February 2, 2008

It could be assimilated to a term used in cognitiv psychology, called "metaconscience", or.. being aware you know i, somewhere, yes, by reference
posted by Jireel at 11:41 PM on February 2, 2008

Best answer: the slightly-awkward portmanteau 'recumference'


Italo Calvino has a chapter on this sort of thing in If On a Winter's Night A Traveler...., in which he talks about The Books He Has Read, The Books He Will Never Read, The Books He Does Not Need to Buy Because All His Friends Have Been Talking About It All Year. That sort of thing.

You should probably know that the scholarly term for this is "mediated experience", and is very central to postmodern conception of the world. The media, don't forget, are literally in the middle and both pitching their own narrative to you as you are trying to see through and catch one. It's looking at an event in the real world and saying "We've got to get home and see this on TV." Internet memes are an extreme example in a lot of ways, as individuals filter and interpret and reinterpret something like a guy playing with a fake lightsaber into different contexts. If you want, you could really do a lot of reading along these lines.
posted by dhartung at 2:26 AM on February 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

posted by mbrubeck at 6:04 AM on February 3, 2008

fwiw, i thought mediated by thomas de zengotita was pretty good... btw, i think a lot of the idea of plucking things out of stuff floating around in the aether noosphere can be traced back to carl jung and his concept of synchronicity, e.g. the independent development of the calculus by leibniz and newton :P

posted by kliuless at 7:11 AM on February 4, 2008

« Older Show me the money!   |   Is hunting good for animal populations? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.