A Rant About Words (And Banning Them)

December 17, 2017

Warning: I got my dander up. If you’re not up for a rant, feel free to skip this week.

You’ve likely heard about Seth Godin, super smart marketer and prolific blogger. He did a piece recently called Different people hear differently, which included this:

What you say is not nearly as important as what we hear.

Which means that the words matter, and so does the way we say them. And how we say them. And what we do after we say them.

And:

It takes two to be understood. Not just speaking clearly, but speaking in a way that you can be understood.

I came across this today, the same day that a certain dumpster fire’s administration issued the CDC a list of seven forbidden words. To wit:

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden terms at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden terms are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or ­“evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.

Holy guacamole, this made me livid. For one, I agree with what Gruber said. For another, this sort of thing is the stuff of authoritarianism. It comes on top of the Environmental Protection Agency being forced to remove from its website resources for local governments relating to climate change.

All of this is unacceptable. Completely.

Now, my life is words. I put them together in ways people can understand and (I hope) enjoy to make my living. I believe, as Godin says, words matter—the ones we choose, how we say them, and who we say them to. How we choose to talk to our neighbours, our children, and our animals shapes the world we live in. Our words give us a chance to make things better, if we choose well.

I think that’s why the CDC thing plugged me in so much. That sort of anti-science, anti-reason, artificial restriction does not move us all forward as a society, expand our knowledge, or bring us together as people. It tries to perpetuate a close-minded point of view that would hold all of us back.

What we think of words changes over time. Remember George Carlin’s Seven words you can’t say on TV? (Needless to say, that link is NSFW.) (Also, embedded below.) When Carlin did that routine several decades ago, it was cutting edge stuff. These days, you hear most of them on TV all the time, certainly if you’re a streamer with Netflix and the like. Agree with that change or not, that change has happened.

Do I think all words are appropriate in all situations? Of course not. I didn’t swear in front of my grandma, and still wouldn’t. Learning when words are and are not appropriate in social settings is an important skill for our young’uns to learn.

But that’s all different. That’s about respect, appropriate usage in setting, and learning to get along with people.

The actions of the dumpster fire’s administration? That’s about repression.

Well, stuff that. I sincerely hope that at every public appearance from here on, all of the people behind this decision are faced with placards proclaiming those words loudly and boldly.

Because words matter. And so do actions.

(Separately: congrats Aussie legislators for finally doing what they should have done months and years ago, and passing marriage equality laws. About effing time.)

Sometimes a Smile is Enough

October 29, 2017

Rather than words for you this week, I thought I’d try to bring a smile to your face by sharing a few YouTube videos that have brought smiles to mine. Some of these are pretty old, but well worth it. Instead of setting them up, I’m just going to put the links here and let them be a surprise for you (note: all are safe for work). (Or, just scroll down. I’ve embedded them.)

https://youtu.be/BZnDt2wEFjk

https://youtu.be/U9t-slLl30E

https://youtu.be/tLt5rBfNucc

https://youtu.be/GyV_UG60dD4

https://youtu.be/M1F0lBnsnkE

https://youtu.be/vNrVppkmzBc

Do you have a favourite video that brings a smile? Leave a comment and let me know about it. If I get some good ones, I do a follow-up.

 

Predictions

November 9, 2016

Predictions:

  • Somewhere around March (perhaps sooner), there will be a great deal of buyer’s remorse.
  • He will be a one-term president.
  • He will run his time in office in the same way he ran his campaign, and his businesses before that. His time in office will reflect his values.
  • The “burn it down,” isolationist, take it back from “them” mentality that created Brexit and a Trump presidency will increase, not decrease. Except, now those on the left will join in more than ever.
  • It will be a good time to be a comedian.
  • It will be a good time to be in armaments.
  • As cronies are rewarded, we will find the calibre of those he surrounds himself with will not elevate the office.
  • With control of both houses and Trump as president, the right will run so hard and so fast, it will knock your breath out. It will be their undoing.
  • It will be a good time to be in marajuana.
  • The sun will continue to rise, but the earth will continue to heat.
  • He will continue to be distractible and thin-skinned. Unexpected people will suffer from that.
  • Animals may not come out ahead when the head of state has a fur-loving, hunting family.
  • Trump’s business interests will prosper disproportionately.
  • There will be so much scandal, it will affect the functioning of government.

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I will be.

I normally console myself in times of political disappointment by saying, “They are never as good as you hope, nor as bad as you fear.” Let’s hope that is the case here.

Jason Alexander on Banning Assault-Style Weapon

Former Seinfeld (Amazon) actor Jason Alexander has written a cogent argument against owning assault-style weapons.

Then I get messages from seemingly decent and intelligent people who offer things like: @BrooklynAvi: Guns should only be banned if violent crimes committed with tomatoes means we should ban tomatoes. OR @nysportsguys1: Drunk drivers kill, should we ban fast cars?

I’m hoping that right after they hit send, they take a deep breath and realize that those arguments are completely specious. I believe tomatoes and cars have purposes other than killing. What purpose does an AR-15 serve to a sportsman that a more standard hunting rifle does not serve? Let’s see – does it fire more rounds without reload? Yes. Does it fire farther and more accurately? Yes. Does it accommodate a more lethal payload? Yes. So basically, the purpose of an assault style weapon is to kill more stuff, more fully, faster and from further away. To achieve maximum lethality. Hardly the primary purpose of tomatoes and sports cars.

And:

There is no excuse for the propagation of these weapons. They are not guaranteed or protected by our constitution. If they were, then we could all run out and purchase a tank, a grenade launcher, a bazooka, a SCUD missile and a nuclear warhead. We could stockpile napalm and chemical weapons and bomb-making materials in our cellars under our guise of being a militia.

These weapons are military weapons. They belong in accountable hands, controlled hands and trained hands. They should not be in the hands of private citizens to be used against police, neighborhood intruders or people who don’t agree with you. These are the weapons that maniacs acquire to wreak murder and mayhem on innocents. They are not the same as handguns to help homeowners protect themselves from intruders. They are not the same as hunting rifles or sporting rifles. These weapons are designed for harm and death on big scales.

Yep.

Roger Ebert on the Aurora Killings

The very smart Roger Ebert writing in the New York Times:

That James Holmes is insane, few may doubt. Our gun laws are also insane, but many refuse to make the connection. The United States is one of few developed nations that accepts the notion of firearms in public hands. In theory, the citizenry needs to defend itself. Not a single person at the Aurora, Colo., theater shot back, but the theory will still be defended.

 And:

This would be an excellent time for our political parties to join together in calling for restrictions on the sale and possession of deadly weapons. That is unlikely, because the issue has become so closely linked to paranoid fantasies about a federal takeover of personal liberties that many politicians feel they cannot afford to advocate gun control.

Indeed.

. . . . . .