The Merger

Posted on April 1, 2012. Filed under: History, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The rise of the experts (specialists in a given field) was important in the progress of human social evolutions.  This focus on specific areas allowed improvements (fine tuning) to innovations in every field, including medicine, engineering, navigation, transportation…   and even blog comment spamming.

Traveling circuses and carnivals of yore used an advance man to stir public interest ahead of their arrival at the next stop on their tour.  Experts, climbing higher and higher in their ivory towers, and, their views experiencing unfamiliar competition from an expanding Smart Dude membership base, found that staying on top wasn’t easy.  Protecting the purity of their intellectual turf required frequent and wide distribution of their assertions.  What they needed was a Gatling gun approach to information dissemination, and, that Gutenberg innovation, attended by a retinue of neophytes, should be compliant enough to fulfill that need for publicity.   …Maybe I should say “public authentication.”

The printing business was meandering along, searching for its identity, and the needs of the Great Learned provided a focus for their efforts.  So, between the story of a bar fight over in Shadyville and the fashion highlights of the attendees at the Grand Opera (strictly an upper-class affair), they could now slip in Sir Isaac Newton’s great revelation that things over you head could fall on your head, given the right circumstances.  It is incredible that mankind had mucked along for thousands of millenia unaware of such a thing.  But, like Al Gore’s invention of the internet, Newton’s invention of gravity opened brave new worlds everywhere.  Chalk 2 up for the Great Learned Experts.

As a union, this merger was not destined to last.  On one side, the individuals comprising the Great Learned camp had turf issues (“My idea is better than you idea any day of the week and twice on Sunday.  Besides, you don’t even know what you are talking about.”  That kind of professional objectiveness.)  On the other side, veracity seemed to be an issue; actually, a non-issue with some segments who felt a story ought to be just a story, not necessarily an accurate account of anything;  it’s all about sales.  In street jargon, many of these inkers were just sluts for a scoop.  And, never, never forget they had the big P.  Since, for ink fodder, anything with letters or illustrations could be printed, and business was booming through the industrial revolution, the experts needed the grown-up printing industry more than printers needed the experts.  The apprentice became the master.  Information disseminators were now the experts.

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Words: We Live By Them

Posted on February 23, 2012. Filed under: language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

It is spoken and written languages (at least those we humans can understand) that puts us in a group apart from other life forms on this planet.  They enable us to communicate every nuance of our lives — every mood, emotion, urge, musing, hurt, injustice…   you get the idea.  An abundance of social websites confirms this need to share the most trivial incidents in the human experience.  It is this apparent need that impels us to create better and faster devices to speed the process (e.g., those marvelous texting machines that allow drivers to text, tweet and LOL their way blithely to the very next convenient accident site up the road).  Wakes, funerals, and viewings are other social forums for connecting with each other — at least for the survivors.

All to often, the communicator fails to communicate as intended.  In a language filled with double-entendres, there is ample opportunity to “step into something” while strolling happily through the verdant fields of modern communication; ask any politician who has spoken to one audience unaware that another audience was listening (and, if not an audience, a blabber-mouth “journalist” who can’t wait to be the first one to spread the gaff.  They call that a “scoop” don’t they?  Sounds apt, like a tool you carry while following your pet yapper in the park.) Words misused (or, unfortunately highlighted by a contrasting situation) provide a vast amount of targets upon which hunters of mangled-verbage can place their sights.

Unfortunately (for my ego), there are times I look up a word to confirm my superior knowledge only to discover the writer/user was…  (gasp)…   correct (Here, insert much growling and gnashing of teeth.)  Grudgingly, I add this knowledge to my own, but not without hidden grievances.  After all, there had to be good reasons for me to get it wrong.  It’s not my fault!

Crosswords puzzles are a good source of vocabulary enrichment.  On the down side, they can be a source of double aggravation:  (1) you can learn that you have misunderstood and misused certain words all your life, and, (2) there is no way the word they want matches the clue they’ve given.  Both of those are sore points with me.

Words reflect the boundaries of our personal existences.  What others (including Miriam-Webster, et al) think a word means is of no consequence to what you heard.  If the speaker referred to someone as a “thespian” and you heard “lesbian,” your concept of the individual is set in your mind, and, it is that concept — not the dictionary definition — that will direct your thinking. 

Next up:  LIARS

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