Thursday, September 27, 2001


In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences.
-Robert Green Ingersoll, lawyer and orator (1833-1899)

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Words in the News

You have seen a number of references in this blog to A Word A Day. Learn more about it in this editorial review in the Wall Street Journal. -- From the Archives

Friday, September 21, 2001

The Tyranny of Words

Taken from A.Word.A.Day Mail Issue 48
From: Roland Killick (
Subject: Words or Propaganda

,,,perhaps a more relevant use of AWAD would be to watch how words are used in the media to create certain feelings. Here are four examples, (my quotes):

(1) During the first couple of days TV coverage I saw here in Sydney, the subtitle couplet read:
"search" for survivors
"hunt" for terrorists

(2) Initially the innocents who died were victims of a "criminal attack". Later they became victims of a "war", presumably having the same status as the future "collateral damage" in Afghanistan or Iraq as a consequence of the retaliation / vengeance.

(3) I just saw a reporter who couldn't have been more that 30 years old comparing the WTC scene with "Dresden" and "WW2" rather than with "Kabul" or

(4) This crime is described as "sophisticated", when security personnel fear that it is frighteningly straightforward.

If we keep our eyes open, I'm sure we will find more interesting examples of words chosen for their reactive power. And perhaps this is necessary to align world citizens to a common political position. Or perhaps it is jingoism or propaganda. Or perhaps the choice of these words depends on the reaction one wishes to provoke in the reader.

Thursday, September 20, 2001

Quoted by Bill Moyer

Forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past. Alexa Young

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

The Word is Not the Thing

Does the country's intelligence community suffer from confusion of abstractions?

From the Associated Press: "Experts say a current emphasis on technology over human intelligence-gathering, a funding shortage and an information overload may help explain U.S. intelligence agencies' failure to forestall the worst terror attack on American soil."
Read the rest of the story...

Monday, September 17, 2001


If I understand what Gandhi is saying, nonviolence requires something far more difficult than merely turning the other cheek; it requires empathizing with the fears and other feelings that provide that impetus for people to attack us. Being aware of these feelings we have no desire to attack back because we can see the human ignorance leading others to attack us; instead, our goal becomes to provide the education for our attackers which will enable them to transcend their violence and engage in cooperative relationships with us.
- Marshall Rosenberg PhD, creator of Center for Nonviolent Communication

The appropriately beautiful or ugly sound of any word is an illusion wrought on us by what the word connotes.
-Max Beerbohm, writer, critic, and caricaturist (1872-1956)

Thursday, September 13, 2001

Decision Making

Here's the dilemma: A runaway train will kill five people unless you flip a switch sending it onto another track where it will kill only one. Most people say flipping the switch is moral.

But what if the only way to stop the train is to push a passer-by onto the track? You still save a net of four lives, but most people say that's not moral.

Why people have such different reactions to the same end has long puzzled philosophers. Now Princeton University researchers have scanned volunteers' brains while they pondered similar ethical dilemmas and found that a key to tough moral judgments is emotion, not logical or analytical reasoning.

Read the rest of this story from the Associated Press....
Brain scanning shows emotion key in how people make tough moral decisions

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

What people do with signs and symbols

Size Survey
Buttons popping, waistband binds? What size clothes do you really wear? Lots of people are going to find out in Britain, where major retailers are conducting a computer-assisted survey of the changing British form. Ten thousand volunteers of both sexes and every size will bare nearly all to create a blueprint of the changing form of the country. It's the first project of its kind since 1951. A project helper says what people think they are as a size is very different than what they really are. She says one woman thought she was a size 12, maybe a 14, but she was more of a size 16. (From ABC News in San Francisco)

More from ITN in Britain