A week of new words - 4. geophantasmogram

(from Selley, 1978)

A York man in new English

Phil Thompson told me
Weren't wholly untrue


"I think a Canadian (or something similar) coined it," says the source of my explanation, but the cited book (in which geophantasmogram appears eight times) is by Dick Selley, a sedimentologist from Imperial College London.  To be honest, it always sounded like the sort of word an old-school British geologist would come up with.

There doesn't appear to be a proper definition, so I will attempt one.

geophantasmogram, n.

geo-, comb. form (prefix) Relating to the Earth;
phantasmo- (from the French, phantasme) A thing which exists but is not real; an apparition;
-gram, comb. form (suffix) Something written.

1. A diagram used in a geological study to summarize visually the author's preferred interpretation of the rocks under discussion.  Often drawn as a three-dimensional block (see image above), with proximal-distal variations shown along the x-axis, temporal changes along the y-axis, and lateral variations along the z-axis.  Used in sedimentology as a means of reconstructing past environments, the phantasm part of the word refers to the diagram being grounded only partly in the reality of cold, hard data.


I can't remember when I first heard the word, but I remember it being used with particular fondness by my friend Phil during his Ph.D. work on the turbidites of the Baja California, Mexico.  He had lots of data from some areas, and less from others: a geophantasmogrammatic approach was occasionally necessary to bring it all together.

Inspired by Phil's example, I produced one to explain the depositional history of the Upper Jurassic Helmsdale Boulder Beds of north-east Scotland.

The dinosaurs are inferred.

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