Words, Words, Words

Words, words, words!
I’m so sick of words
I get words all day through
First from him, now from you
Is that all you blighters can do?
(“Show Me” from My Fair Lady, M/L: Lerner and Loewe)

Words, words, words (and their underlying concepts): we use them everyday, but as they say in The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Here are some articles that have passed through my various RSS feeds and sources of late that relate to words/concepts, and their use/misuse:

  1. Words You May Be Using Wrong. This is an interesting summary of a scientific paper that explores 50 terms that people regularly confuse and use wrong. For example, there is a significant difference between asocial and antisocial, and most people use the latter when they mean the former. Envy and jealousy are similarly confused. Race and ethnicity. Serial killers vs mass murderers. Quite an interesting read.
  2. Lost Words That Deserve a Comeback. Here’s another interesting word list: 30 Lost English Words that Deserve a Comeback. We had a good example of such a word in the last few days: dotard (meaning “an old person, especially one who has become weak or senile”). I’m not sure that’s the word I would have used.  Sillytonian seems better to me (A silly or gullible person, esp. one considered as belonging to a notional sect of such people). In any case, it is worth reading the list.
  3. Open and Closed Minded. Speaking of Sillytonian people, one of the major complaints about that group is that they are so closed minded (but they would say the same about us). But what does it mean to be open or closed mined. Here’s an exploration of 7 significant ways you can tell open from closed minded. For example, closed-minded people don’t want their ideas challenged. They are typically frustrated that they can’t get the other person to agree with them instead of curious as to why the other person disagrees. Where are you on that spectrum?
  4. Infinities of Infinities. Infinity is a concept that has fascinated me since high school. The math surrounding the concept is so weird: ∞ + ∞, for example, equals ∞. The infinity of all even numbers is the same as the infinity of all numbers. However, for the longest time, we have believed that the infinity of all rational numbers (that is, those that can be represented by a fraction of two integers) was actually smaller than the infinity of all numbers including transcendental numbers (i.e., the real numbers like π that can’t be represented by a fraction). It now appears that we were wrong, and all infinities are equal. I expect this is something we’ll keep seeing come back, because it is in someways counter-intuitive, like the ever-present Monty Hall Problem.

Words, words, words!
I’m so sick of words
I get words all day through
First from him, now from you
Is that all you blighters can do?

P.S.: If you like words, here’s a newly discovered Kurt Vonnegut short story.

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