James Hyde at the Brooklyn Rail:
In our culture we find “space” everywhere. It is prevalent as a type of background noise in our speech and writing. Space is taught in geometry, physics, architecture, and even in psychology, with terms like “personal space” and “psychological space.” The (often subliminal) purpose of adding space to terms that stand-alone is to make those terms more passive, and to give the term’s user distance from the subject. With the addition of “space” to “psychological,” consider that “psychology” suffices as a term on its own with no inherent need for the addition of space. Combining the terms adds the toughening effect of physics to the softer science of psychology. At the same time, adding space to the monolithic sounding “psychological” makes it warmer and fuzzier. Often the term space is used as an easygoing generality. For example, “narrow gap,” “narrow corridor,” or “narrow room” are all more specific than “narrow space.” With respect to storage, the term “storage space” does little more to describe the location than simply add a syllable. Other than “outer space” or “rental space,” the term is employed more often than necessary—more for effect (or affect) than for precision.
I have long held that artists can whip up a complaint for any occasion—it is perhaps the favorite sport of painters, and we gain mysterious comfort from it. Over the last decade I have become increasingly conscious of the vacuity of the term space.