Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Words and Phrases I Wish People Would Stop Confusing

Internet! Internet! Guess what guess what guesswhatguesswhatguesswhat!


While I realize that there's only a narrow percentage of my readership who legitimately cares about this development and of that margin, the percentage who are also excited is likely negligible, I'm still going to gush for about a paragraph because I'm probably the only person I know who asked for a textbook for his birthday twice and was genuinely disappointed when he didn't get it the first time. I started studying Old English by myself a couple years ago during my free time in the library (because yes, I spend my free time in the school library) partly out of idle fascination, and partly because I was a little sick of people erroneously bitching that they didn't understand 'Old English' whilst reading Shakespeare. I've been studying it off and on since then and now I can proudly tell those people "Bicce, þisne ist Eald Englisc!" (Bitch, this is Old English!). I'm still not sure if that's totally grammatically correct, but it'll evolve over time.

There will probably be a SSSBP about it one day. Don't worry though; the history of English is kind of stupidly ridiculous to the point of earnest silliness. That's for another time, however. 

Also; did you know that Atheists can't be elected to any government position in the state of Texas? That seems a bit...discriminationy.

It is appropriate that my book came in when it did though because this week's post is about language. Specifically, language that's kind of annoying. Because what kind of blog would this be if I didn't constantly complain about things that annoyed me?

A good one?
So blah blah blah joke hahaha, I'm funny, let's get on with the show. I have reading to do.

Words and Phrases I Wish People Would Stop Confusing.

Everyone's done it, I am no exception and so try not to hold it against people when they do. Sometimes, despite all your best intentions, you accidentally balls up saying something. Maybe no one thought to correct you, maybe no one else noticed, maybe they just hadn't heard anything like it before, but for whatever reason, now you're saying something silly, have no idea that you are, and are a little offended when people try to correct you.

"What do you mean that never happened? Have you even read the Bible?"
When this happens, it's called a 'Malaprop' which is when you substitute the wrong word or phrase in for a similar sounding one. I find Google's example rather amusing; it's the difference between dancing the Flamenco; a traditional Spanish dance, and dancing a flamingo; a pink water bird known for its awkward face and knobby knees. Below listed are some of the examples of this that stick out to me the most, how I think they came about, and what the best way to handle them probably would be. Obviously scientists are using their advanced lab coats around the clock to come up with new ways to be wrong about stuff, so this list isn't all-inclusive, but these are some pretty big ones and I feel that they're probably the best place to start on such a list.

Dimension--Alternate Reality
I feel it appropriate to start a post that highlights stupid things people mess up with one that ends up making me look stupid. Whenever I'm watching a movie, reading a book, or having a conversation and someone says they're going to an alternate dimension where everything is different and they have blue hair, I have to; I do not want to, but am compelled to; stand up, point at the offender, and declare "Sir, you are incorrect, and I will not STAND for it!" 

To date, this has gotten me kicked out of two movie theatres and a coffee shop and is a source of entertainment for my friends who keep such sound clips at the ready for whenever they get bored. The doctor says it's like a really elaborate tick or something. I don't know. It's a hoot at parties. 

I hate parties.
So here's the skinny; as anyone who lives within a hundred miles of a movie theater and/or knows how to use the internet knows; 3D movies are in vogue right now. 3D movies are called as such because they simulate the third dimension; the one we live in and understand. So if this is what things are like in the third dimension, how are those crazy fuckers in the 1st dimension living it up?

First Dimension; Party City.
Okay, so that's just a line. What about the 2nd dimension? Surely they've got like rayguns or something, right?

Second Dimension; Party Nation
In truth, these crudely drawn pictures are not what the first and second dimensions really look like because the first and second dimensions are not places. At all. You cannot travel to the first and second dimension because they're mathematical abstractions; they're measurements. All the dimensions are, one through ten (eleven, depending on who you ask) are just increasingly theoretical perceptions of our universe and ultimately existence as a whole. You want to know what the fourth dimension is? The third dimension. Over time. 

This is often confused with "Alternate Reality" because when you get high enough up the dimension ladder, alternate realities get included in the measurement. This does not, however, make the alternate reality a new dimension. That's like measuring a coffee table with a ruler then getting confused about why your art book keeps falling off of your ruler

I honestly don't know the best way to correct someone on this because every time I've tried, their eyes just glaze over. My advice would be to just tell them they goofed and link them the Wikipedia article. If that doesn't work, try bludgeoning them to death with a tire iron. The gene pool will not miss them.
Much like the difference between "Schizophrenia" and  "Multiple Personality Disorder" we can blame this confusion largely on movies. We see some guy in a messed-up Captain Kirk mask with a machete and a thirst for horny teen blood who mumbles something about his mother telling him to and we immediately declare "That guy's a Psychopath!"

And that's wrong. Shame on you. That man has a condition and it's not psychopathy. Almost/Being murdered is no excuse for stereotyping. 

These two words do get a lot of mileage out of being interchangable though, especially when they get truncated to just "Psycho" The Novel/Movie American Psycho actually helped this idea along a lot, though arguably that was part of the point, depending on how you interpret it.

Narrowly-aimed references! YAY!
In truth, psychopaths are relatively stable people. I say relatively because they still do have a personality disorder that makes them self-important, manipulative, shallow, pathological liars, impulsive, among other things, but there are many many psychopaths out there who are not deranged serial killers. Granted, when a psychopath does decide to start icing people, they're usually very good at it, but that doesn't make every psychopath into Jason Voorhees. 

Psychosis on the other hand is quite a bit closer to what we imagine Jason to be like. In truth, the exact defination of Psychotic is a bit debatable but it's generally agreed to be more of a symptom than a direct disorder. The DSM-IV-R (also know as the big book of headcases) defines psychosis as being comprised of "deluions, prominent hallucinations, disorganized speech...[and]catatonic behavior" and is included in such disorders as Schizophrenia and Dilusional disorder.

So what do you do to correct someone who keeps getting this wrong? The best way would probably be to just politely explain that the two words are not synonymous and, in fact, exemplify to different sectrums of psychological disorders. If that doesn't work and they insist you're full of it, try clubbing them to death with a tire iron. The gene pool will not miss them. Further, you could turn it into a learning experience for everyone by screaming "THIS. IS PSYCHOTIC. BEHAVIOR. IRRATIONAL. AND. VIOLENT. WHY. WON'T. YOU. LEARN."
Onlookers may have nightmares for the years, but they will never make the mistake again.

This is one I see a lot in debates about Evolution. Whoever is trying to explain evolution will do their very best to be as factual as possible, outlining how we've come to the conclusions we have and the person on the other side will snarkily say "Well it's not like you know; it's only a theory."

Not to imply that it only happens in that direction...
This has always angered me. Not just because it spits in the face of intelligent conversation to repeat a meme as a defense of your belief system but because it is inherently, unabashedly, stupidly wrong. Really, I could let this lie if it was right because then it'd just be more white noise. But it's not. It's wrong.

A hypothesis is an idea, a proposed result. A good example of one would be "If I brain you with a tire iron, you'll crumple to the ground like a slaughtered cow" Then we test the hypothesis by applying the tire iron thusly and once you die, we develop a theory. "When I brain people with a tire iron, they usually die."

In short; a Hypothesis is an untested idea, a theory is a proven idea as based on those tests. It's not just a science thing, either. You've got mathematical theory, musical theory, acting theory, literature theory, defense against the dark arts theory (Not nearly as useful as practical defense, but you get what you get) all of which are standardized ideas and methods based on tested hypotheses. 

So where does this come from? It's hard for me to say, actually. If I had to guess, I'd say it came from the fact that theories are not impervious from being disproven; they're not laws, simply the best we've come up with so far. Because theories aren't always perfect, they often get improved on over time or even, in the case of a big discovery, totally invalidated. Also I think part of it is from people just calling their hypotheses "Theories" for instant credibility because testing is hard.

Pictured: A credible scientist.
I'm going to take the hypothetical handling of this from the above scenario because that's really mostly where I've seen this come up. The best way, the way I generally deal with it, would be to explain that if we did not, at some point, base the workings of our daily lives on theories, then we wouldn't have electricity, computers, an understanding of physics or mathematics, or language. If that doesn't work, bludgeon them to death with a tire iron. The gene pool will not miss them.

Moot Point--Mute Point
This is a sneaky one. Not only do the two versions sound the same, but the two definitions are vaguely similar. A moot point is something that doesn't need to be deliberated or decided on because circumstances have changed in such a way to make the question irrelevant. Trying to decide what kind of milk you want to get is kind of a moot point when you're being bludgeoned to death with a tire iron.

To a point, I try especially hard not to hold this one against people due to how tricky it is. On top of sounding similar, I can genuinely see the thought process; if something is a mute point then obviously it's not worth discussing because its been muted. Right? Makes perfect sense. 

Worse than that even is the fact that the use of the word "moot" there doesn't even make any goddamn sense. When something is moot, it is "Debatable, subject to dispute or uncertainty and typically not admitting of a final decision" so that's pretty much the exact opposite of what the idiom means. Basically, this is English practicing its time-honored tradition of messing with people's heads as a way of venting because its parents didn't get along when it was growing up.

Now that I think about it, the English language is a lot like an angsty teenager.
So why is it on this list if I can totally understand why people get it wrong? Simple; it sounds stupid. I can't explain exactly what it is, but something about the way the words form when someone says "mute point" just makes me cringe. That being said, I think the best way to help someone who's gotten it wrong would be to not bludgeon them to death this time. It's an honest mistake. If they insist at keeping at it though, give them a taste of their own medicine by saying "moist" over and over again. That should unsettle them enough to make them consider their mistake.

Case in Point--Point in Case

This one is, I think, the sneakiest of them all. It's got all the same words and it doesn't even sound wrong like "Mute point;" it's just as snappy as its reverse. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that if "mute point" was Bizarro Superman; stupid sounding and inherently off-kilter; then "Point in Case" is Black Suit Spiderman; just as slick and cool as the original, despite being wrong and evil

More narrow-band references! YAY!
My problem with this one isn't phonological or even lexicological it's just logical.

Here's the beef: when you say "case in point" you've got a case that supports your point. Example; I'm kind of psychotic. Case in point; I find it perfectly normal to carry a heavily worn tire iron with me everywhere I go and hit people I don't like with it.

It doesn't really work that way in reverse though. When I say point in case, I've got a...point that supports my case? I guess that does technically work but I mean if you don't have any points then you've got a sorry case indeed. I think points are kind of implied.

That aside, the idiom comes from old Anglo-Norman à point meaning to point or literally, something relative to the point. As English evolved, so did the idiom to mean "A case which is relavant to my point"

While its clear where the gaff originates, arguing it can prove problematic because it's just so similar. I have had people actually whip out their phones to show me how wrong I was only to swear loudly at it just a momemt later. The best way to handle it is probably just to let this play out and maybe whip out your own phone in preparation for the post-wrong-proving swearathon, depending on how much your friend likes to be right. If that doesn't work, try posting the video on YouTube. Nothing is quite as sobering to one's opinions than sixty pages of angry YouTube comments.

Yeah that...That's pretty standard fair.

And hopefully that will be enough to tide over my fellow language nitpickers for the next while. It is worth noting that while all of these definitions and explanations are, to the best of my knowledge, correct, they are by no means definitive or permanent. English is a living language and for all I know; these malaprops could very well become the entirely correct norm. Until, and perhaps for a while after then, I will continue to pick nits because if I don't OH MY GOD GUYS LANGUAGE WILL DIE.

Just remember; trolling is a art.

Thank you, Goodnight.

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