Last week I misused a common phrase I thought I understood. But fortunately David Dawson let me know I was confused. The phrase is, “beg the question.”
Foolishly, I took it to literally mean asks the question or raises the question. But this is not the case. To “beg the question” is to assume what still has to be proved. A statement that “begs the question” is one that based on a questionable assumption. For example the statement, “Fax machines will probably be full color by 2010,” begs the question will fax machine even be in use in 2010?
David, thanks for setting me straight on “begging the question.”
I you are interested in an 800+ word, in depth analysis of “beg the question” check out the Wikipedia entry.
I overheard today’s word around our office drayage. It is a noun and it is the sum paid for use of a dray. Duh. So what is that? A dray is a utility cart used to haul heavy items. They can range in size from a small two wheeled hand cart for moving luggage or barrels to much larger carts pulled by a horse.
Now we don’t use drays at work but the term drayage is used in the shipping world for the freight charge to pickup and deliver an ocean container.
Oh and here is a sentence using drayage, “The cost of shipping from China isn’t that bad. It is the drayage that really pushes the costs up.”
Todays’ podcast is an easter wish from my mother. It is a poem by Langston Hughes
I dream a world where man
No other will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn.
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights the day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And everyone is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head,
And joy, like a pearl,
Attend the needs of all mankind.
Of such I dream for our world!”
Welcome to the 100th Today’s Podcast!
I used to work at AT&T Broadband Labs and one of my favorite saying we had around the office was,“A couple of months in the laboratory can save a couple of hours in the library.”
I love this saying for two reasons one it reminds us that a lot was accomplished before you showed up. Check out the library or the Internet and you can learn a lot from others. The second reason is the statement speaks to a common truth- that people love to find things out for themselves, that many of us willing if not eager to spend in few months or years or decades learning and discovering for ourselves.
Today’s word, literally, is one I have debated including for several months. I wasn’t sure it was an interesting enough word. This week Andrew requested it and that confirmed it was interesting enough for two of us. I hope you enjoy.
What, at least for me and Andrew, makes literally interesting is how frequently it is misused. As Andrew mentioned in his email, not a day goes by that you don’t find someone using literally instead of figuratively.
Litterally is an adverb. It means actually, without exaggeration, word-for-word or in a literal sense. But it is so often used as though it means virtually. As in “Bruce Springsteen literally brought the house down with his encore.” Of course the house was still standing after Bruce’s encore so it didn’t literally come down.
Accroding to the American Heritage Dictionary this common misuse dates back at least a hundred years. Which begs the question how many years does a word have to be misused before it takes on the new meaning? Well according to Merriam-Webster literally has already taken on this misused meaning. A meaning that is quite nearly opposite the truer, more historical meaning.
Another reason I had been hesitant to cover literally in a podcast is because David Cross does a very hilarious bit on the word literally.
Today’s let’s learn about pirate flags. Or at least the most famous, the Jolly Roger.
While piracy on the high seas is still a real threat to mariners the high times (1550 to 1750) of piracy are long gone. What we have left is some fun myths, affectations, and the classic flag- the Jolly Roger.
Yes that is right, flags have names. The classic skull and cross bones pirate the is known as the Jolly Roger. The name is probably an English corruption of the French joli rouge, which means pretty red. Before the infamous Jolly Roger, pirates would signal their intentions by raising a red flag.
Today you can get your hands on a Jolly Roger, a Blackbeard or a Walter Kennedy pirate flag at 826Velencia.org. 826Valencia.org is a pirates supply shop in San Francisco, kind of. In truth it is front for a writing center established by David Eggers to help students, ages 8–18, to develop their writing skills. Egger’s found this location, 826 Valencia, and decided it would be a great location for a tutoring center. But alas the zoning was for retail only. So Eggers opened a pirate supply shop in the front and the writing center in the back. Surprisingly the pirate show now almost completely funds for the writing center. In fact the pirates shop is so incredible David Byrne dryly remarked 826 Valencia is “Definitely one of the top five pirate stores I have been to recently.”
So if you want a pirate flag 826 Valencia is the the best place to shop. Plus your purchase will help the writing center.
Today’s word is a great recommendation from Brian of the MostlyTrivial.com podcast. He came across spoliation in an I, Cringley, Column– Robert Cringley’s column on PBS’s site.
The article is about a recent Microsoft case related to patent law. Cringley uses spoliation, to describe damaged evidence. Spoliation is a noun with two closely related definitions. One, the act of plundering or injuring beyond repair. Two, the state of having been injured or plundered.
I recently had a request for more example suggestions. So here is a Cringley’s sentence. “Microsoft’s immediate motivation to settle was the spoliation hearing that could have exposed the company to older cases being re-opened based on the possibility that Microsoft had deliberately destroyed evidence.” The hearing Cringley is talking about is a hearing to determine if Microsoft destroyed evidence.
Today’s word is one I have learned over and over again. Sadly I forget it over and over again too. This week I was reminded of it again by the TV cartoon The Simpsons. The word is docent.
A docent is a person who lead tours through museums or art galleries. Merriam-Webster also lists a docent as a university lecturer or teacher.
The word is derived from the Latin docere, meaning to teach.
Todays word, synaesthetic, can be found in a recent post a MindHacks.com.
The word synaesthetic is spelled s-y-n-a-e-s-t-h-e-t-i-c and s-y-n-e-s-t-h-e-t-i-c. The first spelling, the one with the a is the British/English style. Synaesthetic is an adjective that describes an experience that involves more than one of the five senses. More specifically it describes an experience when one type of stimulation causes the sensation of another sense.
An example of an synesthetic experience is seeing music in addition to hearing the music. This is the most typical synesthetic sensation but the word describes any experience that involves multiple senses provoke by a single sense stimulus.
A synesthetic description uses words normally associate with one sense to describe an different sense. For example “Her house smells like the color blue.” A visual description. blue, is used to describe a smell.
The Mind Hacks post is about a synesthetic musician who can taste music. She relates specific tastes to specific musical tones.
You can read more about synaesthesia at Univeristy College London Psycology site- . What is Synaesthesia? There they also invite you to tell them about your synaesthesia.
UPDATE (06/14/05): Psyblog has a post about new findings in synaesthesia.
Today we have an enlightening quote from Kelvin Throop III. I have no idea who Throop is. His name and his quotes are all over the net but damned if I can find a biography. I think Throop maybe a pseudonym or nom de plum for a science fiction writer.
Anyway here is a the quote:
“Celestial navigation is based on the premise that the Earth is the center of the universe. The premise is wrong, but the navigation works. An incorrect model can be a useful tool.’
Kelvin Throop III”
I like this quote because it reminds me that just because a model works doesn’t mean it is correct.