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I am trying to find a single word or short phrase to fit into the following passage:

Although many similar works were written, none of the others have survived. Its [extant-ness] is undoubtedly one of the main reasons for its influence.

Some things I have considered and rejected already:

  • uniqueness (because the work was not unique, although it is uniquely extant)
  • survival (this is close, but doesn't have quite the right ring to it)

I would really like a noun or short noun phrase that means "the quality of being extant". As far as I know, "extantness" is not a word (and if it is a word, yuck). Suggestions appreciated.

  • 1
    My immediate impulse would be to use extancy, but apparently that is considered obsolete or archaic. I doubt anyone would misunderstand, though: it's a perfectly regular and transparent formation, akin to expectant => expectancy, etc. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 19 '15 at 20:02
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    A million pardons, Your Extancy, but your proposed archaism ignores the fact that "survival" is indeed the term of trade. books.google.com/… – TRomano Aug 19 '15 at 21:37
  • @TimRomano I would be grateful if you could post that as an answer so that I can upvote it. – mweiss Aug 19 '15 at 21:39
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    One could argue that its influence is undoubtedly one of the main reasons for its survival. – TRomano Aug 19 '15 at 21:47
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    If they haven't survived, how do we know about them? If you are talking about 'survival' then that is your word. I think more clarity is needed. – chasly from UK Aug 19 '15 at 22:23
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It seems you are looking for existence.

If you want to emphasize the fact that "just being extant" is in and of itself a main reason for its influence, you could use its mere existence or something of the kind.

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    Maybe. But (to me at least) extant has the connotation not only of "existing" but more specifically "still existing"; i.e. it suggests that something has survived over time. – mweiss Aug 19 '15 at 19:25
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    @mweiss Its continued existence? Otherwise, I doubt anything noun based on to exist carries more of a sense of survival than your own suggestion of survival. But let's see how others prove me wrong :-) – oerkelens Aug 19 '15 at 19:27
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    "Continued existence" may be just what I was looking for. But I am interested in what others offer. – mweiss Aug 19 '15 at 19:28
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Something that would fit that sentence, and your probable meaning since "extant has the connotation not only of 'existing' but more specifically 'still existing'; i.e. it suggests that something has survived over time", is longevity:

long existence or service

Although many similar works were written, none of the others have survived. Its longevity is undoubtedly one of the main reasons for its influence.

  • Implies no other redeeming quality other than oldness, so it fits. +1 – stevesliva Aug 20 '15 at 5:41
11

Persistence?

The fact of continuing in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.

The continued or prolonged existence of something.

Oxford Dictionaries http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/persistence

7

Survival is the term of trade.

1

I would use endurance:

the quality of continuing for a long time

I guess this doesn't necessarily require that the work has endured *all the way to the present day; but that should be obvious from the context of the previous sentence.

1

"Extantness" is used in scholarly work.

It is a word, given its use in published works, but it is at a stage before comprehensive dictionary acceptance.

If it best fits your literary style, and you've perused synonyms, then use "extantness" and cite it's formal use.

Naysayers may naysay below.

https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=extantness&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C14&as_sdtp=&oq=exta

0

I would use 'currency'.

cur·ren·cy (kûr′ən-sē, kŭr′-) n. pl. cur·ren·cies

  1. Money in any form when in actual use as a medium of exchange, especially circulating paper money.
  2. Transmission from person to person as a medium of exchange; circulation: coins now in currency.
  3. General acceptance or use; prevalence: the currency of a slang term.
  4. The state of being current; up-to-dateness: Can you check the currency of this address?

(from The Free Dictionary; bold emphasis mine)

This has the added advantage of being likely to first evoke a sense of value, because the dominant use means money.

If you want to emphasize the enduring aspect of the work's 'currency', you could combine it with another word. 'Continuing currency' is the standard phrase, and the phrasal sense gets a little boost from the alliteration. Heavy-handed? I suppose.

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    Interesting suggestion! But doesn't that imply that the book in question is simply more popular (and thus influential) than the others, whereas the message seems to be that it derives its influence from the fact that it still exist, whereas the others don't anymore? – oerkelens Aug 19 '15 at 20:38
  • @oerkelens, as I understand you, you're thinking that 'currency' (as opposed to 'mere existence') already suggests the "influence" explicit in the rest of the OP's example. Which is to say, it wouldn't be current if it weren't influential, and vice versa. That, from my point of view, depends on context: if the work survived, and the others didn't, because of archaeological accident, for example, the objection you raise doesn't apply. Other similar contexts could also obviate your objection to 'currency'. – JEL Aug 19 '15 at 20:58
  • Currency implies more than survival, it implies popularity and/or existence in (large) numbers. So not just the survival of a single copy, but the fact that there are (or possibly were) many copies - something that is not implied in the OP's example. – oerkelens Aug 19 '15 at 21:04
  • @oerkelens, there again, context is paramount: the work may be very "popular" among the small number of people who are aware of it, use it, etc., and still have currency; "existence in large numbers" is also relative if true at all. I'm generously understanding your "it implies" as referring to connotations, and I don't believe 'currency' connotes existence in large numbers, in either of the two senses highlighted. Existence at the present time is, however, denoted. Looking ahead, "fitness" in another answer is an intriquing idea, and may be altogether more suitable for the OP. – JEL Aug 19 '15 at 21:23
  • Both currency and fitness are different qualities than the simple fact that it managed to stay in existence. If I build five houses, and in the next hundred years four of them collapse, the fifth one survived. It does not mean it was better (fitness) or that if was more popular or appreciated (currency). It simply means it did not collapse. The reason it survived may be fitness or currency, but no reason for the survival has been mentioned by the OP. – oerkelens Aug 19 '15 at 21:26
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Undoubtedly, one of the main reasons for its complete influence on the topic, is that it's the lone survivor of a collection of similar works that were once known to exist.

  • This is a noun describing what the work is, but I was asking for a noun describing the quality that the work has. – mweiss Aug 21 '15 at 0:20
  • @mweiss Your second sentence is superfluous, unless by extant you mean proliferation. I thought the important part was that it is the sole/lone/only one in continued existence. The fact that something would have to exist to have influence is, well, duh. I must admit I'm having trouble comprehending the above comment (and perhaps the entire question). I think Tim's second one nails it, from what I understand: "[its influence is the main reason for its survival]". – Mazura Aug 21 '15 at 1:34
  • No, I think you have it right: the idea is that the work in question would perhaps be less influential if there were others of its kind around, but since it is the only one it has had an influence disproportionate to its quality. "Lone survivor" captures the idea very well; it just doesn't fit the sentence structure of the passage I was trying to fit it into: "It's [lone survivor-ness] is undoubtedly the main reason for its influence." – mweiss Aug 21 '15 at 2:14
  • @mweiss That's why proliferation is in bold ;) I see what you mean though. – Mazura Aug 21 '15 at 2:20
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Fitness

Merriam Webster's definition states:

the capacity of an organism to survive and transmit its genotype to reproductive offspring as compared to competing organisms;

We could use this in a non-organism reference point. This definition captures the idea of long-lasting existence, despite competition of others; others are inferior.

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    But the book didn't survive through creating offspring, nor did it survive because it was better adapted to its surroundings than its competition. – oerkelens Aug 19 '15 at 21:02
  • If you think about it as an idea of the author's, one that probably changed a lot before its writing, then it does seem to fit. It's a more abstract answer, I guess. – Tyler Kropp Aug 19 '15 at 21:18

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