Tag Archives: Lawyers

Less Than Perfect

The following is a post from an earlier blog of mine, The Cranky Curmudgeon. It was posted on February 27, 2006.

Why do people, perfectly rational in other ways, defend the indefensible? Why do they continue along a path that is demonstrably wrong and easily abandoned? I’m not talking about the barbarous torture being carried out in our name, with our money, by our government. I’m talking about the indefensible butchering of the English language by educated, enlightened people.

I’m talking about people who are scientists, who make their living off understanding and precisely defining physical properties of phenomena in order to reshape the world and our relationship to it. People who demand, and thrive off of, minutiae – accurate minutiae.

I heard three words in a meeting the other day that just drove me crazy. These three words were:

  • Libary (for library)
  • Ec Cetera (for et cetera), and
  • Hierarchial (for Hierarchical)

Hearing these words butchered gives me the chills, but I learned a long time ago not to question an Engineer’s pronunciation of any word, lest one wishes to be the recipient of a surprised, somewhat pained expression followed by a derisive comment on one’s propensity for detail. Something like “Well. You knew what I meant. What are you? A Lawyer?”.

Well. Maybe. Maybe I knew what you meant and maybe I am a Lawyer. The latter part of the question is of no real consequence, and can be safely ignored as the silly attack it is, but the former isn’t necessarily all that clear. I knew what you meant? Could I be certain?

One of the simpler equations in physics is f = ma (force = mass x acceleration). Would an Engineer complain if I expressed it as f = na in a paper or in an analysis of a design or test results? Would it be OK if I said “Well, it’s only off by one letter and, after all, you know what I meant” (hee hee)?

I suppose, to be fair, there is the tongue twist factor to take into consideration. After all, library, et cetera, and hierarchical take a bit of concentration and practice to say properly. But here’s the real issue. Language is used to – now get this – communicate. Good, accurate, complete communication requires precision. It ain’t horse shoes or hand grenades.

So here’s what I have to say to those sloppy speakers who complain about merely being asked to correct their butchered pronunciations and complain they’re close enough to being “there”.

They’re ain’t no there their. You’re turn to figure out where your going (sic.)


Concentrating on the Border | The Weekly Sift

Testing a bit of WordPress’s functionality; in this case, the “Press This” widget I installed in Firefox that allows me to share just about anything. Here’s a blog post shared by a friend of mine on Facebook, whose judgment I trust more than most. At least, in terms of her politics, historical and contextual understanding, and her humanity.

With respect to historical and contextual understanding, as well as (perhaps, most especially wrt) humanity, I would argue the Trump administration possesses none of these admirable qualities.

Additionally, what comes across loud and clear is that most of the media is fucking clueless. Their quest for clicks and profit has made it impossible for the majority of them to pay attention to what’s really happening or to help do something about atrocities such as this. Link to the full post at the bottom.

This week America’s talking heads argued about a label: Should the places where the Trump administration is detaining immigrants be called “concentration camps”? Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used the term (she wasn’t the first), and then pundits inside the Fox News bubble began demanding she apologize: to Trump, to Jews, to history, and so on.

As so often happens, the perpetrator became the victim. The media hasn’t devoted nearly as much time to the real victims — the immigrants (many of them asylum-seekers who have followed the law and done nothing wrong) being herded into camps of dubious safety and hygiene — as they have to the Trumpists howling with outrage. Instead of “What is happening on the border?” our focus has been on “Is it fair to call them concentration camps?”

I will not get snarky about this, because Alexandra Petri has already done that very well. (“If we do not use the right words for this, we might think that something terrible was happening.”) But I will point out that we had a very similar debate (including some of the same people, i.e., Liz Cheney) during the Bush administration: Should “enhanced interrogation” techniques (water-boarding, beatings, stress positions, sleep deprivation, extreme heat and cold — sometimes resulting in death) count as torture. Instead of discussing exactly what our country was doing to people we had captured, we argued about a word. Those who felt injured by that word often got more sympathy than the people they were (or were not) torturing.

Source: Concentrating on the Border | The Weekly Sift


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