The Colbert Suffix -iness rises again, this time in the title of Charles Seife's latest book, Proofiness, subtitled The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception (Viking, officially to be released next week). I read a brief review by Janet Maslin in the NYT on Thursday, and now Steven Strogatz has done a more substantial review for tomorrow's Book Review (on-line here). Strogatz (a professor of applied mathematics at Cornell) on the truthiness-proofiness connection:
The numerical cousin of truthiness is proofiness: “the art of using bogus mathematical arguments to prove something that you know in your heart is true — even when it’s not.”
Strogatz's summary of the book:
A few other recent books have explored how easily we can be deceived — or deceive ourselves — with numbers. But “Proofiness” reveals the truly corrosive effects on a society awash in numerical mendacity. This is more than a math book; it’s an eye-opening civics lesson.
This is Language Log, so I'm going to focus on the word proofiness. But first a punning illustration (by Leonardo Sonnoli) from Strogatz's review:
It all started with Stephen Colbert's truthiness, which then begat faminess, referenciness, and justiciness. The history on Language Log: