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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘blogging

[FORUM] What do you think about ridiculously misused language?

with 2 comments

Back in October of 2005, Livejournaler Heather Cooze posted in the Toronto Livejournal community a complaint about the steeped tea sold by Canada-founded chain Tim Horton’s. This post has since been revised, apparently in response to criticism the author received, but in the original version she said that the decision of Tim Horton’s to sell tea without including teabags–an option added, it should be noted, alongside their–was like rape. Also, it was something that the Nazis would have done.

The post got quite a lot of criticism. A petition that Cooze had started was taken down, as she complained people were taking her choice of language too seriously. A common opinion in the Toronto community, and in my Livejournal as well, was that the language she used was irresponsible. How, exactly, is selling steeped tea like rape? Why would it be something that the Nazis would do? The language used, evoking violence and even genocide, was ridiculously at odds with the actual subject matter. The people who said that a person who had only this to complain about was lucky were right.

I’ve been thinking of this misguided post more and more recently, as I’ve seen language get misused in similar ways in online forums and mainstream journalism and public life generally. Too often, words are used without regard to their actual meaning. “Colonialism” describes a specific set of circumstances, say, as does “fascism”, as does “racism”. Using terms like these as catch-all phrases to describe situations that a speaker does not like, without providing actual evidence for these terms’ real-world relevance, conveys only that the speaker does not like a situation. That’s it.

What do we lose through the misuse of the language? We lose an ability to actually understand what is going on. (Greece in 2015, for all of its travails, is going through nothing like Haiti’s experience of slavery-driven colonialism.) We certainly demonstrate our profound lack of understanding of the situation that has been mistaken to provide the incendiary analogy. (The sale of steeped tea is nothing like sexual assault.) Ultimately, we lose an ability to actually talk about things. How can we, if words with established meanings are taken to mean anything at all?

What do you think about this? Is there any way we can fight against this misuse? (Fighting against specific examples of misuse, perhaps?)


Written by Randy McDonald

July 19, 2015 at 3:56 am

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • James Bow, in the Kitchener-Waterloo area in southwestern Ontario, reports on what the recession looks like in his part of the world. So far things aren’t too bad.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a study on exoplanets looking for binary star companions.
  • The Frailest Thing’s Michael Sacasas bids farewell to his blog for now.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw describes the competitive portrait scene in Australia.
  • pollotenchegg looks to the 1926 Soviet census to see what it has to say on ethnicity in Ukraine’s mixed Donbas region.
  • Torontoist looks at the city’s floating houseboats.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy analyzes to death the false allegations of a positive link between immigration and crime.
  • Window on Eurasia notes nationality policy in Russia’s regions.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • blogTO notes a house on downtown Toronto’s Jersey Avenue, a near-laneway, that is on the market at nearly eight hundred thousand dollars.
  • Centauri Dreams warns that with the passage of Dawn and New Horizons and Cassini, an era of unmanned space exploration will come to an end.
  • Crooked Timber’s Belle Waring considers Western/Asian cultural differences on gender.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to one paper seeking to detect exoplanet rotation rates and other data via eclipses, and links to another noting the discovery of N2H in a ring around TW Hydrae.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the results of a genetic analysis of the dwarf mammoths of Wrangel Island.
  • A Fistful of Euros looks at how the Second World War started Ireland’s break from the Sterling zone.
  • The Frailest Thing considers the good of tech criticism.
  • Joe. My. God. celebrates a decade of same-sex marriage in Spain.
  • Language Hat looks at how promoters of a literature or a work can get things they champion translate.
  • The Planetary Society Blog has two posts celebrating its role in the New Horizons probe.
  • Towleroad notes that YouTube star Shane Dawson has just come out as bisexual.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at an incipient Cossack separatism.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • The Big Picture shares photos from post-referendum Greece.
  • blogTO looks at a recent live-tweeting of a bad date.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the recovery of New Horizons.
  • The Dragons’ Gaze notes a new estimate for terrestrial exoplanets suggesting that every Sun-like star should at least have one.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper suggesting that salt in the waters of Uranus and Neptune plays a critical role in determining their internal structure.
  • Geocurrents looks at Dhofar.
  • Language Hat notes that Stalin was quite multilingual.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the way the language used by women is policed.
  • The Map Room’s Jonathan Crowe links to an interview with fantasy map designer Robert Lazzaretti.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw reflects on Australia’s experience in the Great Depression, noting that it was a time when states were powerful.
  • pollotenchegg notes post-Second World War fertility in Ukraine.
  • Savage Minds has a roundup of links to various anthropology and social sciences blogs.
  • Speed River Journal’s Van Waffle shares photos from St. Jacob’s Farmers market.
  • Torontoist looks at a BDSM sex dungeon.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that Iceland has repealed its blasphemy law in direct reaction to the Charlie Hebdo murders.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at Russia’s historical singularity and recent evolution.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • blogTO notes that John Tory supports the decriminalization of marijuana.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze considers if there might be a hot Jupiter orbiting a pulsating star.
  • The Dragon’s Tales wonders if multicellularity in cyanobacteria three billion years ago helped drive the Great Oxidation Event.
  • Far Outliers notes the 1878 introduction of football to Burma.
  • A Fistful of Euros notes that Europe is muddling through in the Mediterranean versus migrants and observes that even the optimistic scenarios for economic growth in Greece are dire.
  • The Frailest Thing considers the idea of a technological history of modernity.
  • Language Log notes an example of multiscript graffiti in Berlin.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes how the Confederate cause won the Civil War despite losing the battles.
  • Marginal Revolution argues that default will do nothing to make the underlying issues of Greece business-wise better.
  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at the intriguing geology of Ceres.
  • Peter Rukavina shows the Raspberry Pi computer he built into a Red Rocket tea tin.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog links to a paper studying Russian patriarchy and misogyny in public health.
  • Spacing Toronto looks at the genesis of the Bloor Viaduct’s Luminous Veil.
  • Towleroad examines the Texan pastor who threatened to set himself on fire over same-sex marriage.
  • Une heure de peine celebrates its eighth birthday.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy reacts to the Michael Oren controversy over American ties with Israel.
  • Window on Eurasia warns that Putin’s system in Chechnya is not viable, predicts a worsening of the Russian HIV/AIDS epidemic, and notes that Jewish emigration from Russia has taken off again.

[META] What other blogs do you read?

What other blogs do you read?

I’m curious, and also hungry for new blogs to add to my blogroll.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 13, 2015 at 3:59 am

Posted in Meta, Popular Culture

Tagged with , ,

[META] What do you want out of a blog?

The question in the subject line of the post is it. Do you want more original comment? Do you want more links? Do you want something else?

Please, discuss and suggest away.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 4, 2015 at 7:10 pm

Posted in Meta, Writing

Tagged with ,


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