Over on Skeptics, Laurel found some partial information in a quote from Mathematics as a culture clue and other essays:

I once quoted that mot to a poet, and got the quick response: "Poetry is the art of giving different names to the same thing."

Do we know which poet?

The mot was made by mathematician Poincaré: "Mathematics is the art of giving the same name to different things."
Follow up: Is poetry the art of giving different names to the same thing?

  • 1
    I suspect that the second one was made up by somebody after the fact. The original Poincare quote doesn't imply (to me) that that's what he had in mind. He was speaking somewhat technically on the nature of how mathematical reasoning works. It's serious, not self-deprecating. And it's a poor description of poetry. Which makes me think that somebody was inspired by the Poincare quote and used it to derive a disparaging statement about poetry. Dec 26 '17 at 17:30
  • Maybe he just picked that idea in his article to form the quote, or simply forgot the second one? And what's the better description of poetry?
    – Ooker
    Dec 27 '17 at 3:14
  • See also this answer on Math Overflow (and the comment on it). @JoshuaEngel It's a poor description of mathematics, as well as a poor description of poetry :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Dec 27 '17 at 18:30
  • @Randal'Thor can you explain why it's a poor description on math and poetry?
    – Ooker
    Jun 30 '18 at 4:47
  • @Ooker There's a lot more to poetry than giving different names to the same thing, and there's a lot more to mathematics than giving the same name to different things. In fact, giving the same name to different things is bad mathematics (abuse of notation/terminology).
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 2 '18 at 6:36

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