OnWords

Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

OnWords: Is Childhood Innocence Only For Grown-Ups?

Credit jeevan jose / Wikimedia Commons

Innocence is much more about a grown-up sense of loss than a precious quality of childhood. At best, our ideas about innocence evoke a pining sort of regret; at worst, they're used to make nostalgia a form of tyranny.

After all, it's a child's job to grow up, and so he's active every day trying to lose that innocence that he sees as keeping him away from adult freedom and power. Our attempts to preserve that child's innocence just reinforce his sense of powerlessness. This only serves to exacerbate his little rebellions, his need to prove how grown up he is.

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

OnWords: Jargon Is Sometimes Necessary, Sometimes Annoying

Credit Gavin Llewellyn / flickr Creative Commons

Even if we can agree that jargon is absolutely necessary, we still can't help but be annoyed by it.

Every profession has jargon: specialties and sub-specialties are shot-through with special terms like “endoplasmic reticulum” or “moment of inertia” particular to them.

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Commentary
11:42 am
Tue May 7, 2013

OnWords: The Real Cost Of Austerity

Credit Alex Proimos / Wikimedia Commons

When we say something is austere, we evoke everything from an image of monastic poverty to the stark beauty of Modernist design. Because of this, “austerity” as a fiscal policy brings with it the suggestion of a deliberate and disciplined approach to a nation's economy.

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Mon April 29, 2013

The Human Factor: The Real Danger Of Cell Phones

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Many states have either outlawed or about to outlaw the use of cell phones while driving. But the real dangers of cell phone use while driving are not as obvious as they may seem.

The real danger lies in how the human mind functions.

Oftentimes individuals will explain that they use a “hands-free” headset or in car Bluetooth system. Many times people think that this resolves distraction issues because they believe that it’s the physical interaction with the device itself that causes the problem.

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue April 23, 2013

OnWords: Do You Have A Sense Of Entitlement?

Calling Social Security an entitlement program implies that those who receive the benefits do not deserve them. - Lael Ewy

The recent history of the word “entitlement” shows how a word’s connotation can take over its existence and taint everything it touches.

As opposed to its denotation, or dictionary definition, a word’s connotation is about the associations we have with a word. In the case of the word entitlement, it’s almost all negative.

The phrase “sense of entitlement” is at fault for this negative connotation.

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue April 9, 2013

OnWords: That's So Meta

Andy Warhol presented pop culture as fine art, turning meta-art into an act of meta-art appreciation.
Credit _rockinfree / flickr Creative Commons

Formerly a prefix, “meta” has now taken on a life of its own, indicating works that are self-consciously self-referential. Ben Zimmer, writing in the Boston Globe in 2012, notes examples in the tech field going as far back as the 1970s.

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue March 26, 2013

OnWords: The Contradiction Of Myths

James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.
Credit RottenTomatoes.com

We use the word “myth” in at least two almost contradictory ways. Most commonly, we use myth to mean falsehood, a hoax without the intention to deceive.

This is the myth sites like snopes.com and shows like Mythbusters serve to dispel. It is also a product of the Age of Enlightenment, when a seemingly rational universe called not for myth but for measurement.

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Commentary
12:17 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

OnWords: Functions Of Lying

Credit Wikimedia Commons

The most powerful lies aren’t the day-to-day, so-called white lies--that we’re ”fine” or that we genuinely care if complete strangers “have a good one.” These are, in fact, sometimes important parts of being polite.

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Commentary
12:00 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

OnWords: Ideology, Love It Or Hate It?

Credit Alyson_H / flickr Creative Commons

The conflicted and often contradictory ways Americans use the word “ideology” reveals the conflicted and often contradictory ways we view ourselves.

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

OnWords: Disorder Is Often Quite Orderly

"Brain Art"
Credit Betty Lee/Ars Electronica / flickr

The word “disorder” gets thrown around a lot in diagnostic circles, but it rarely accurately describes what's going on.

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