OnWords

Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

OnWords: Analyze This!

Analysis?
Credit Keith Springer / Flickr / Creative Commons

What passes for political analysis these days is often really just opinion.

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

OnWords: Isn't It Ironic? (No, It's Probably Not)

Credit Inflatable Nerd / Flickr / Creative Commons

The Alanis Morissette song “Ironic” has spoiled the word “irony” for a whole generation. Rather than the mere misfortunes her song depicts, irony is a very powerful device, one with a rich history in literature and entertainment.

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

OnWords: What's Wrong With A Little Professionalism?

Credit ChiaLynn / Flickr / Creative Commons

The word “professionalism” is used in a few distinct ways that are notable in their opposition.

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

OnWords: The Blame Game Known As Accountability

As someone who has long sought to avoid it, I can tell you that accountability has one distinguishing feature: it's almost always for the other guy.

As a word, though, “accountability” allows its users to pass judgment on others while appearing to be concerned about the good of the whole.

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

OnWords: The Tragic Loss Of Supper

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Sometime in my lifetime, we almost completely stopped using the word “supper.”

This is a tragic loss, if for no other reason than it has led to confusion.

Besides “brunch” and “lunch,” the only other post-breakfast word we have is “dinner,” and dinner can alternatively mean a noon meal or an evening meal. Importantly, dinner has a generic root that is still extant: to “dine.”

So while we can “sup,” that would be archaic, and it could create confusion with the common slang contraction for the phrase “what’s up?”

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

OnWords: Behavior, A Product Of Environment Or Evolution?

Credit Wikipedia

When I was a kid, the word “behavior” still had a mostly neutral meaning. You might hear the word when Marlin Perkins on Wild Kingdom described the doings of a parched hippo during the dry season, for example.

But even then another, much more accusatory, meaning of the word behavior was establishing itself. This behavior referred to things kids did that grown-ups didn't like. “You'd better change your behavior, junior!” an evil vice-principal might yell, when we thought we were just having fun.

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

OnWords: The Threat Of Brilliance

Credit Wikimedia Commons

While we throw the word around like it’s a good thing, nothing threatens us quite like brilliance.

At a recent youth leadership conference for kids with psychiatric diagnoses, I met a young man nobody seemed to know what to do with. During breakout sessions, he wrote bizarre responses to the questions we asked and gave similarly inscrutable answers when we reconvened.

When we asked what you do to help yourself feel well, most of the others mentioned normal kid stuff: “Go to my room,” “Play a video game,” “Call a friend.”

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

OnWords: Look Past Numbers, See The People

Credit macrophile, flickr Creative Commons

Stories are quick, powerful ways to present complex, human themes, so why do we often insist on using discrete, numerical approaches to complex, human problems?

A case in point recently aired on NPR's Morning Edition. Shankar Vedantam covered a study in which the techniques of Cognitive Behavior Therapy were used to help at-risk youth think through conflicts in order to prevent violent acts.

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

OnWords: A Racist Linguistic Environment

Image of Paula Deen taken as part of a public relations campaign for the nonprofit group Civitan.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

We shouldn’t be surprised that Paula Deen lost her culinary empire because of racist remarks during an interview. We should, however, be surprised by the media’s reaction.

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Commentary
12:35 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

OnWords: How Much Is Wealth Worth?

Château de Maisons-Laffitte
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Wealth is a social relationship.

For as much as we obsess over the subject, you'd think we'd know this by now.

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