« Reaping what we have sown | Main | Singularity? What’s that? (w/appendix) »

09 April 2010


bill tozer

George, what is up with all these crises? Every time the wind blows there is another crisis. Crisis in confidence in our government, banking crisis, foreclosure crisis, unemployment crisis, teen cyber-bullying crisis, energy crisis, global warming crisis, education crisis, obesity crisis, ADD crisis, teen pregnancy crisis, and just being rude crisis. Sure, the Cuban Missile Crisis was a crisis, but not getting the latest flu shot is not a crisis.

Michael Anderson


This is provocative for sure. Let's work with your thesis for a moment.

I have been following this subject for a number of decades and I believe we are progressing and growing with language, rather than regressing. The problems you describe are ones of nuance. Yes, they can cause discomfort. Nonetheless, when we inculcate nuance and play with language, we are the richer.

I know you seek absolutes; we all do. But I think the human brain is gray, not black or white.

I like this reference: http://bit.ly/dePu97


George Rebane

Bill - agreed, 'crisis' is another word that has been diluted out of its original meaning and impact.

Michael - Not disputing the coloration of the brain, however, the problem that I describe is definitely NOT a matter of "nuance". As technician, you know how the technical language is vigorously and unabashedly grown by the workers in the various fields. (We have adopeted many of its terms and concepts into common usage.) And that growth makes communication efficient and supports further growth of the involved technologies.

In our daily round the (formal) information carrying capacity of English is simply decreasing due to PC and the declines in our public education that are reducing the vocabulary available. In journalism and literature, 'don't use a big word when four or five small ones will do'. Advancing civilizations have had a common attribute, their language has expanded in syntax and semantics to support and reflect their advance.

The author you reference addresses other 'nuances' related to language evolution.

RL Crabb

As a cartoonist, I have been taken to task many times over the years for language and imagry. I spent many years doing underground comics, which was akin to the first amendment on steroids. We used racial and ethnic stereotypes, not to be mean but to get at a larger truth. Sometimes it would backfire on us.

One such case was a story done by underground icon Robert Crumb. He did a satirical piece called "When the N****** take over America." His intent was to ridicule derogatory images of black people, but the story was pirated and used by skinhead Aryans as a recruiting tool.

Language is a powerful weapon. You have to be careful where you aim it. The trick is to find a balance that doesn't reduce its potency to that of a squirt gun.

Mikey McD

Obama's just this a.m.: From the AP- "No one I've met is looking for a HANDOUT. And that's not what these tax cuts are," Obama said. "Instead, they're TARGETED RELIEF..."

The use of "WAR" comes to mind in conjunction with Tozer's comments...
"WAR on Drugs"- "WAR on illiteracy"- "WAR on terrorism"- "WAR on hunger"- etc.

The Good Book highlights the power of our tongues. Old Testament and New Testament warns us of our own tongue and the tongues of others.

I find it more difficult to stick my foot in my mouth when my mouth is closed.

The comments to this entry are closed.