When is the last time you read a dictionary? Have you ever sat down, and started reading the dictionary at the very beginning? My mind has been melted and reformed. My foundations are shaken, (and stirred.)
Things were defensive from the outset: The literally-first, full sentence I encountered—set off within a box, with a fancy-schmancy Merriam-Webster logo atop—is, “The name Webster alone is no guarantee of excellence.” Followed immediately by the we’re-sick-of-litigating, but-that-isn’t-stopping-us thumb in the eye of, “It is used by a number of publishers and may serve mainly to mislead an unwary buyer.” Considering myself forewarned, and forearmed with a magnifying glass, I pushed forward into the volume set entirely in a font size whose capital letters tower exactly 2 millimeters. Sure, the Preface—a two-column wall of microfiche occupying the totality of page 6a—was winsome, as far as, I assume, dictionary Prefaces go. Pragmatic was the listing upon page 7a of persons comprising the Editorial Staff. However, things became serious, bordering on salacious, with the Explanatory Chart printed, (apparently primarily for practical purposes,) in sprawled repose across pages 8a and 9a as a visual menagerie detailing the architecture and idiosyncrasies of the dictionary’s didactic details. None the less, the degree of magniloquence encountered in the long-form Explanatory Notes for that chart, which begin on page 10a, and which span some 40 columns, is penultimate.
Then it will remain at rest as the comet orbits the sun for hundreds of millions of years. So somewhere in the solar system, where it is safe but hard to reach, a backup sample of human languages is stored, in case we need one.~ Kevin Kelly from, https://blog.longnow.org/02008/08/20/very-long-term-backup/
There are several things about this post from the Long Now Foundation which are exceptionally cool. One aspect of doing backups well is to store at least one copy somewhere “offsite.” That is to say, far enough away from what you are backing up, so that it is unlikely that the original and all of the backup copies can be lost due to the same event. Now, this project is partly, (maybe even “mostly,”) a technology demonstration intended to get us to think longer term. But since they’re backing up all of the human languages where’s a cool spot to put an offsite backup?
On a freakin’ comet! The cherry on this hot fudge sundae of awesome is that they put a copy on a freakin’ comet. Humans are awesome.
If wisdom was as simple to acquire as reading, we’d all be wealthy and happy. Others help you but they can’t do the work for you. Owning wisdom for oneself requires a discipline the promiscuous consumer of it does not share.~ unattributed from, https://fs.blog/2020/07/thinking-for-oneself/
I’m often thinking about the distinction between “consumer” and “producer.” Each of us of course variously take on both roles in our myriad daily activities. But today I want to talk about this—it’s in the above quote—common mistake with the concept of a consumer: Reading does not destroy that which one reads! We are not consumers of media, (books, television, social media, etc..)
Yes, we can get into pragmatic word-play—and I’m pretty durn good at that. But that’s not where I’m going with this thought. I’m fully aware that there’s a softer definition of consumer which colloquially means what one does when aiming one’s retinas at a television. But we have other, and better, words for that. (Such digression being left for another day.) Rather, I want to be specific about the word consumer. Let’s please stop using it in contexts where destruction is in fact not happening. When it’s used specifically, then the word can do more work
Cognitive biases are systematic patterns of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, and are often studied in psychology and behavioral economics.~ List of cognitive biases from, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases
While that may seem blasé, it’s worth a look.
…ok, back? Great.
Now gape dumbfounded at the majesty of a modern image format, SVG mixing a magnificent design, with infinite scalability, dynamic styling and clickable links. Just click on this already:
Hey also, as far as I can tell, the word “blasé” correctly written as a word in English does include the diacritical mark. I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told me there were any properly English words with accents, but it seems that this is now a thing in the last century or so! (to wit, https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-English-words-that-take-an-acute-grave-accent-or-any-other-diacritics-if-you-prefer )
Labor, on the other hand, sets its own pace. We may get paid for it, but it’s harder to quantify… Writing a poem, raising a child, developing a new calculus, resolving a neurosis, invention in all forms — these are labors.
~ Lewis Hyde
I’m alway cautious about reading clever nuances into language. Sure it makes terrific sense to distinguish between, “mindless stuff I do for money”—my phrase, not a quote from Hyde—and “heartfelt stuff I do”. But is that in the semanic definition of the words? …in the common usage of the word?
I’m not certain what to do with this; It simply struck me as worth sharing.
I am tempted to give a talk sometime that consists of nothing but applause lights, and see how long it takes for the audience to start laughing.
~ Eliezer Yudkowsky
This is a short piece which shines some good insight into the darker corners of how people use language.