OnWords

Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

OnWords: Because Science!

Credit The Rocketeer / Flickr / Creative Commons

Those of us tuned in to social media have probably run across someone using a term like “because science” to explain something factual or amazing or both.

But “science” is often used when we really mean “technology.”

To see the difference, look at your cell phone. It’s a neat little bit of technology, but how often do we think about the science behind it? More to the point, how many of us really care?

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

OnWords: "Studies Show" We're Afraid Of Uncertainty

Credit Scientific Studies / Flickr / Creative Commons

Journalists and bloggers, teachers and everybody on Facebook love to use the phrase “studies show.”

I love it, too.

“Studies show” tickles the part of us that asserts a superior sort of rationality and an up-to-date command of the facts. It makes us feel smart, particularly when the study we cite is surprising or new, but especially when it reinforces what we already believe.

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

OnWords: Freedom!

Credit U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region / Flickr / Creative Commons

The word “freedom” is both dear to the American heart and almost never well defined.

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

OnWords: Houston, We Have A Problem

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I have learned to avoid the word “problem.”

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

OnWords: A Job Of Work

Credit philcampbell / Flickr / Creative Commons

It might be helpful to view the word “work” in comparison to the word “job.” The archaic phrase “job of work” suggests that we did not always use these words interchangeably.

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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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