Words Matter – 7 Takeaways for July 11, 2021

Words Matter

1. “Words matter”

How to Think like Shakespeare – Scott Newstok – (ebook)

If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.

I love this sequence. I love that it dates back to Confucious*.

Do this: Watch your language. Literally.

2. “The truth is often too complicated to fit into a 30-second soundbite.”

Does Authenticity Still Mean Anything? – Philip S. Naudus –  (Medium)

People are lazy. That includes readers, who are unwilling to take the time and energy to question what they read, and writers, who are unwilling to invest the time and effort to make sure their content is actually accurate. The truth is no longer an incentive.

The number of “likes” an article can receive is now the golden standard for credibility.

What’s really meant here, I think is “success”, not necessarily credibility. “Likes” (and clicks and shares and other metrics) simply pay better than the truth. Bonus: sidestepping accuracy is also much easier, allowing you to be even more productive generating more content. Accuracy be damned.

Do this: insist on accuracy and true credibility in what you choose to read, and always be open to alternatives that might be more correct than what you would prefer to believe.

3. “Pics or it didn’t happen”

Is Internet Receipt Culture Our Undoing? – Fadeke Adegbuyi – (Cybernaut newsletter)

Using examples mostly coming from political and entertainment circles, Adegbuyi explores what’s apparently “receipt culture”. A person says they said or did one thing, and then others provide proof (aka “receipts”) that show otherwise. These can be video clips, screenshots, or just about anything that can be captured and saved digitally.

One might think that this would be a good thing, being evidence-based and all. The problem is twofold: digital receipts are easy to fake, eroding trust in evidence overall, and some will simply never believe even the most solid forms of evidence if it counters their deeply held notions.

It’s a fascinating conundrum.

Do this: Consider carefully what you accept as “proof”, and why.

4. “It’s okay to slow down.”

90 Days of Daily Creative Motivation – Todd Brison – (ebook)

The full quote:

It’s okay to slow down. It’s okay to stop. You can pick up where you left off, really. If you need a break, take it.

Odds are, each person in your life will thank you for doing so.

Timely, since I basically took the last week off from “work”, and went on a road trip to visit a friend in Colorado. It’s been nice to take a break.

Do this: Take a break when you need to. (And you probably need to.)

5. “The wind gets all the attention.”

The current and the wind – Seth Goden – (blog)

Godin uses an interesting metaphor to differentiate between long-term trends and the headline-grabbing news of the day.

On a river, it’s the current that will move the canoe far more than the wind will. But the wind distracts us.

The difficulty I see is distinguishing between the two and focussing on the right things. We get most of our news and information via the wind, but only some of it is relevant to the current, with its slow, steady, and persistent effects. The challenge is paying attention to the right things.

Do this: try to distinguish the fleeting, and often irrelevant news of the day from the that with longer-term implications and impact.

6. “33 percent rent increases”

Rent prices are soaring as Americans flock back to cities – Heather Long – (Washington Post)

If a renter is not willing to pay the higher rate, landlords are confident they can find someone else — or sell the property.

This, plus the upcoming end of the eviction moratorium, has me deeply concerned. I’m afraid that as housing costs go up, so will the number of homeless across the country. It’s a looming problem that I’m not sure is getting the attention it deserves. (Another article on the moratorium, also from the Post: FAQ: The CDC’s final eviction moratorium expires July 31.)

Do this: educate yourself on the issue, and consider if there’s a way you can help, or support those who can.

7. “Has your B.S. detector gotten rusty?”

Your B.S. Detector Is Rusty. Time to Sharpen It. – Elizabeth Bernstein – (The Wall Street Journal)

Apparently, things are likely to get worse before they get better.

Was my statement B.S.? While I’ve long advocated critical thinking and skepticism in general, this article highlights that our ability to detect B.S. has gotten worse during the pandemic. (I might claim it started further back.) As its title suggests, we need to get better at identifying it.

The article discusses exactly what it defines as B.S., why it exists, the role it plays in relationships, what do to detect it, and how best to “call B.S.” if you suspect you’re seeing it. I found it eductational.

Do this: sharpen your B.S. detector.

What I’m Reading

In progress (also on GoodReads):



Footnotes? Yep. Footnotes.

*) I ended up diving into a bit of a research thread about the quote in item number one. It cites the passage as:

Analects (13.3), as paraphrased by Erich Heller, in “Satirist in the Modern World,” Times Literary Supplement, May 8, 1953.

Making it a paraphrase of a translation of a collection of his follower’s notes. An “original” from one of the translations:

If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.

When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.

Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.”

TL;DR: Words matter. Smile

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