ForumsWEPRWater is Wet

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lozerfac3
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Do we all agree that water IS wet? It's obvious. Water is wet because it's what causes wetness. Not very political, but I've gotten into some heated debates with my friends about this.

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HahiHa
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You would have to establish a precise definition of what 'wet' means. Most definitions I've found while browsing for 'wet' actually would say no, like this one from Cambridge Dictionary:

covered in water or another liquid

or the one from dictionary.com which is a little more exhaustive:
moistened, covered, or soaked with water or some other liquid

According to these definitions, water is the condition for wetness but not included in the definition itself. The only definition I've found that would include it is the one from Merriam-Webster, which reads:
consisting of, containing, covered with, or soaked with liquid (such as water)

The important part here is "consisting of", which would mean that 'consisting of water' would meet the definition of wet, contrary to the other definitions.

Personally I would argue for the position that water itself is not wet. Water is liquid, but not wet; it is the inclusion of a liquid (such as water) that makes something wet.

Or consider this: wet and dry are potential conditions. Something may be wet, even if it normally isn't. It also exists in different levels; something can be more or less wet (damp or soaked) depending on how much water there is. Water, on the other hand, is liquid by nature and cannot be more or less liquid; a cup is just as 'wet' as the ocean. Which is why I think this is a case where the cause itself is not part of the condition it induces.

Fun fact: in German, the adjective 'wet' translates to 'nass'; but it also exists as a noun, 'Nass', which is basically a (little used) synonym for 'a liquid' (Flüssigkeit).
lozerfac3
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Water is liquid, but not wet; it is the inclusion of a liquid (such as water) that makes something wet.

So the rebuttal I've heard against the dictionary definitions argument is that water can be considered "covered in water" because there are water molecules surrounding other water molecules unless you can isolate a single molecule. Water includes water.

Or consider this: wet and dry are potential conditions. Something may be wet, even if it normally isn't. It also exists in different levels; something can be more or less wet (damp or soaked) depending on how much water there is. Water, on the other hand, is liquid by nature and cannot be more or less liquid; a cup is just as 'wet' as the ocean. Which is why I think this is a case where the cause itself is not part of the condition it induces.

Let me rephrase your argument as a syllogism to see if I understand it accurately. Wetness is an analog property (meaning it can be represented by a continuous variable) determined by the amount of water on the surface of or embedded in an object. Adding water to the surface of water does not make water more wet. Therefore, water cannot be defined as wet.

But just because water can't be considered wet like other objects can, doesn't mean that water can't be considered wet in its own way. What if we said that water is different from other objects because the wetness of water is a digital property (yes it's wet or no it's not wet) rather than analog? I believe entries of 'wet' in dictionaries are lacking an important use of the word in everyday language. Imagine you dunk your shirt in water. You would say your shirt is wet, not because of the existence of water on your shirt, but because of the properties of your shirt. It's darker, it perhaps feels cooler, it's heavier... However, we intuitively say water is wet because it feels wet. It's wet because it has innate properties that separate it from other objects that we call dry. It's always wet. To drill in my point, just because some things have a state that can be switched on and off doesn't mean that other things aren't always in that state. For example, most objects in your room can either be on fire or not on fire. But a star wouldn't be a star anymore if it wasn't on fire.

Granted in everyday language, we wouldn't really say a pool is wet or any other body of water is wet. There is never a situation where I would have to say "be careful, the pool is wet" because you will never slip and fall on a pool. However, let's say you have a box of water with a hole at the top. Without knowing what's in the box, you put your hand into the box to feel what's inside. When someone asks you to describe the physical sensation you felt without naming what's in the box, what would you say? You would say it was wet. Or you might say it was cold and slightly more resistant to push around than air.

Now that I think of it, that's a very specific scenario and I really just tailored that question to fit my agenda lol.

But going back to your argument, if the wetness of water is measured in analog along with everything else, I would still argue that water is at the very end of the spectrum of wetness. Water has a constant wetness property of 100%. This means that water can become more dry. Think about adding sand to water. The water becomes less watery and more muddy. If you add enough sand, the water will become dry with a wetness property of 0%.

HahiHa
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Let me rephrase your argument as a syllogism to see if I understand it accurately. Wetness is an analog property (meaning it can be represented by a continuous variable) determined by the amount of water on the surface of or embedded in an object. Adding water to the surface of water does not make water more wet. Therefore, water cannot be defined as wet.

Hmm, kind of yes, kinda not quite? I have adapted my definition of wet a bit while attempting to answer to your reply, though. I'll see if I can find a good way to formulate and defend it, so more on that later.

So the rebuttal I've heard against the dictionary definitions argument is that water can be considered "covered in water" because there are water molecules surrounding other water molecules unless you can isolate a single molecule. Water includes water.

I'm starting to agree that none of the dictionary definitions at hand is really satisfying...
Consider an object with a perfectly hydrophobic/waterproof surface. Immerse it in water, and it will be covered in water as well as surrounded by it; but is it wet?
We are constantly surrounded by water through the humidity in the air, but does that make us wet?
My skin includes water, via cells and tissue; but is it wet, even when I dried it and haven't washed it recently?

Imagine you dunk your shirt in water. You would say your shirt is wet, not because of the existence of water on your shirt, but because of the properties of your shirt. It's darker, it perhaps feels cooler, it's heavier... However, we intuitively say water is wet because it feels wet. It's wet because it has innate properties that separate it from other objects that we call dry.

Aha, but isn't that (the fact that it's not the water itself, but how it alters the properties of the shirt) a solid argument against your position?
As for the second part, I think it's our intuition playing us a trick. Water feels wet because it wets our skin when we touch it. I would actually go as far as to posit that being completely immersed in water, such as when diving, feels less wet than being on land and wearing wet clothes, simply by contrast, even though more water should actually feel more wet.
That innate property you mention is liquidity, not wetness. Consider ice, by contrast: ice has the same composition as water, but the molecules form stable bonds in a particular arrangement, and that is enough to make it feel dry.
lozerfac3
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I'm a firm believer in descriptive definitions, meaning I believe that dictionaries should provide definitions that reflect the usage of a word as opposed to definitions that try to impose a certain usage of a word. So, my goal of this debate is to see whether the word 'wet' is an appropriate way to describe the word 'water' based on the way we say 'wet' and 'water' in our language.

Aha, but isn't that (the fact that it's not the water itself, but how it alters the properties of the shirt) a solid argument against your position?

Yes, I mean to say that the existence of water is not what defines what is wet, but I was responding to your quote, "Water is liquid, but not wet; it is the inclusion of a liquid (such as water) that makes something wet." It isn't an argument against my position because we are talking about the properties of objects; the shirt is either wet or not wet depending on its physical properties, and water is either wet or not wet depending on its physical properties.

As for the second part, I think it's our intuition playing us a trick. Water feels wet because it wets our skin when we touch it. I would actually go as far as to posit that being completely immersed in water, such as when diving, feels less wet than being on land and wearing wet clothes, simply by contrast, even though more water should actually feel more wet.
That innate property you mention is liquidity, not wetness.

Hmm maybe you're right. I like what you said about liquidity being the appropriate descriptor for water. I am now reconsidering my stance because in what circumstances would we ever need to say that water is wet? We say water and juice and oil are liquid because they flow, but we never really say they are wet because it's not useful to call them wet. The word 'wet' is only ever useful when we want to describe when something is in a certain state.

I'm still not completely convinced that we can't call water wet. For one, liquids have some level of wetness. For example, alcohol is more wet than water because of its ability to stick to surfaces. Similarly, water is more wet than mercury because mercury doesn't stick to surfaces at all really.

I'm gonna stray away from the science of water and instead talk about the organization of water in English. There's something different about water that separates it from other liquids. Now this is kinda weird, but I would say that these characteristics that make water water can be summed up in one word. WET. This definition of 'wet' is completely different from the definition that we used earlier to describe solids in certain state. Water is wet not because it conforms to the earlier definition, but because it just is. Think about it. If water was not wet, then is it even water?

But you might ask, why would we even need this second definition of the word 'wet'? At the beginning of this post, I said that definitions should reflect the way we use words in real communication. When do we ever use this definition of wet in our language?

To be honest, I don't have a good answer to these specific questions. But I can still point to an analogy. When we say "no ones perfect" or "we are all human", we use human as an adjective. If it were a noun, we would say "we are all humans". We say humans are human because we embody what it means to be human, so why can't we say that water is wet?

I would even add that to an etymologist, water is wet. If dry means "without water", and wet is the opposite of dry, then water is wet. Water and wet have roots in the same Old English language.

To sum it up, water is wet both scientifically and linguistically. Although water cannot get wet like solids do, water is a liquid which has its own level of wetness compared to other liquids. And because 'water' and 'wet' are so connected within English, we can easily say that water is wet.

Sorry if this is all over the place. I started writing this around 2am lol

Neffarmor
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I say that a better definition of wetness is 'to be saturated by a liquid' as in meaning that the object in question has to be able to absorb the liquid to some degree. This would mean that hydrophobic substances can not be considered wet even if the are surrounded by water and/r covered by it. This would also imply that water is not wet because water doesn't absorb itself.

lozerfac3
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lozerfac3
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Yeah that's a pretty good definition.

HahiHa
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To sum it up, water is wet both scientifically and linguistically.

I offer a compromise: it is wet linguistically, but not scientifically.

Scientifically, Neffarmor said all that had to be said, really. It also tracks with the phenomenon of wetting, which I didn't know was an actual term before this discussion, heh.

Etymologically, you've already pointed out their common root, and language does shape how we express concepts and ideas...

Personally I'm still of the opinion that water makes wet, but is not wet, though :P

lozerfac3
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Ahh too much physics in that wetting article. But it's pretty interesting just skimming through it lol

Also I appreciate the willingness to compromise. Let me modify my opinion in your terms to see if we can come up with a *slightly* more accurate description scientifically.

I agree that "water makes wet, but is not wet". According to the science of surfaces, it cannot be called wet because... it's not a surface; it cannot be "saturated by a liquid". But I also proposed that water is wet according to the science of liquids. Water is technically wet only because 'wet' is the word that some scientists happened to use to describe liquids that have the ability to

make wet
. It's just not how we would use the word typically.

Taken to its bare essentials, water is not wet. In particular descriptive spaces, it is.

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