words

Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Putting Humanity Back In 'The Market'

Credit Gavin Clabaugh / Flickr / Creative Commons

Maybe most remarkable about the term “the market,” is the incredible variety of ideas it invokes.

The market, at its most mundane, conjures an image of a grocery store with its rainbow wash, the visual signatures of myriad brands all competing for our eyes, and for the dollars that follow. We also retain this cultural memory: the market as a place for basket-weavers and growers to hock their wares, for handmade rugs to rub up against stacks of kohlrabi.

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

OnWords: The Mass Production Of 'Product'

Credit Nestle / Flickr / Creative Commons

The word “product” is shifting.

One of my brothers overheard the following at a big-box retailer the other day: “We have various safety devices to keep product from falling on people.”

This use of product as mass noun stands in distinction to the term “a product,” a term identifying something as, well, produced.  

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

OnWords: Finding Meaning In The Grains

Credit angela7dreams / Flickr / Creative Commons

At one time, the word granular was almost always reserved for something physical or technical, for example, as a measure of the resolution of a photographic emulsion, or of how fine the sugar.

But recently, I’ve noticed granular used in office settings to indicate a level of detail that the speaker would rather avoid. It’s generally said with a certain tinge of disdain as well, something like, “Well, we could talk about that some other time, but we don’t want to get into the granular level here.”

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

OnWords: Too Much Drama

Pietro Longhi, 'Fainting'
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The word “drama” has recently gained a new definition.

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Twerk: A Celebration

It's hard to find a family-friendly photo to represent "twerk." Lego, maybe?
Credit Ochre Jelly / Flickr / Creative Commons

As 2013 fades into memory, along with it will probably fade the word “twerk.”

Why bring it up now, you ask, just when we thought we could free ourselves from the image of Miley Cyrus gyrating as if stricken by some heretofore unknown neurological condition?

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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

Credit coach_robbo / Flickr / Creative Commons

I have learned to avoid the word “problem.”

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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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