Skepticism

Skepchick Quickies, 8.5

Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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36 Comments

  1. Apologies for being a little off topic, but were the results for the Great Tang Contest officially lost in Vegas? Are the remaining details too seamy to post here? Was Tang the reason for Rebecca and Sid’s surprise wedding? I gots ta know!

  2. @davew: I heard that the original recordings of the contest were accidentally taped over with episodes of “The Big Bang Theory”. ILM is currently working on restoring a third-generation copy. Rumor has it that it’ll be altered so that Greedo took the first body shot.

  3. The study on big word use is interesting.

    I remember from a long time ago a study that appeared to show that despite their claim that simpler writing was better, teachers tend to grade papers with more complex wording higher than those expressed clearly.

  4. @davew: I too would like to know the Tang-y results. We brought a Tang drink to the TAM party, but it was too late to be in the judging (maybe TAM8?).

    However, all the Skepchicks who tried it liked it.

    Back on topic: Hovind’s predicament is the gift that keeps on giving.

    It seems like the YECs & neocons are falling like dominoes these days. Maybe we can collect all the accounts of right-wing misdeeds each week, and make a drinking game out of them for Saturday night.

  5. My crap detector immediately kicks in when I see the source is the Huffington Post, World News Daily, or Wikipedia. Huffington Post, IMHO, has not earned any credability yet. WND is slanted, and Wiki can be manipulated.

  6. Heh. An old, good friend of mine is very, very, smart. Rocket scientist/nuclear smart – always has been, always will be. I’m not QUITE as smart as he is, but I can usually hold up my end of the conversation with him or his colleagues .

    And I remember a conversation in high school where he noticed that even though we were both “pretty damn smart” (as in top of the class), I wasn’t as universally reviled as he was. I pointed out to him that despite having a substantial vocabulary (both from formal education and because my parents encouraged my huge love of reading), I didn’t actually *use* that vocabulary in general conversation.

    I never thought it made me look smarter to use big words just because I could. I did know that it made me look like a [email protected] with the teachers, or just an @ss in general with the other kids.

    I saved my vocab knowledge for things like the SAT’s and kicking butt in my family’s games of “Dictionary” (a favorite in my household, where books are a way of life). And as I got older, I used it to get through T.C. Boyle books with a minimum of diving for a dictionary.

  7. @TheCzech: I think a lot of it has to do with how the “big words” are used. If you just use a thesaurus to substitute longer words for shorter words, sure, people will catch on and think you’re not too bright.

    But different terms for the same things exist for a reason; some are often more contextually appropriate then others.

  8. @autobahn:

    I think a big part of it is that they have giant gaps in big-picture stuff. They just don’t understand that paying their taxes not only benefits society, but also benefits them personally both directly and indirectly. They don’t realize that money for education, military, police, and roads has to come from somewhere. These are the kind of people will stand in a public park and complain about paying taxes. They just don’t see the connection between taxes and public services, the same way they don’t see the connection between genetic mutations, selective pressures, and evolution of new species. I think they also have a real problem with long-term thinking. Of course this is obvious on the evolution-denial side, but as for taxes, they don’t understand that paying taxes now can make society better in 5 years or even 50 years, so the just don’t see the point.

  9. I think one problem with using big words that was not even addresses in the study is that many people use them incorrectly. I remember a cartoon where a token brainiac character used the word “superlative” simply to mean “really super”. But “superlative” is a noun and not an adjective, which the producers/writers of the cartoon failed to realize. It made me think much of less of them.

  10. @DataJack:

    Precisely.

    Though even intellectuals and academics can flow counter-fusty when people start overdoing it with diction.

    Context is important too.

    There is, as the verse goes, a time and a place for everything, including excessive, verbose, intellectualism.

  11. I first heard about Hovind when a family member sent us his DVDs and workbooks as a gift one year. My wife and I laughed for hours when we found out that this nutcase was in jail.

  12. I think the relationship with very extreme Christians and taxes is pretty easy to work out. If your an extreme form of Christian you invariably believe that the end of the earth is coming literally within your lifetime. You feel that any government that isn’t outwardly and explicitly Christian is an evil government. Moreover, through your lens you feel that the United States was at one time this sort of outwardly Christian nation. Between the eminent coming of Jesus and the sins of the state as you see them you feel no association with your country’s government or the other people in your community at large. Combine this with a lack of skepticism about wild notions of why you don’t have to pay taxes and you have a pretty easy to understand picture of why this can happen so much.

    At least, this is the way I see it.

  13. @DataJack: But in the older study, it didn’t have anything to do with using big word appropriately. Teachers graded papers that were worded unclearly superior to those that did not. I do think that there is a tendency to think that if I don’t understand something, it must be brilliant. Peddlers of woo make excellent use of this tendency.

  14. @DataJack:

    Hovind’s predicament is the gift that keeps on giving.

    It seems like the YECs & neocons are falling like dominoes these days.

    Don’t count on it lasting. The idiots are still out there, and they breed faster than we do. The Democratic victory last fall doesn’t really mean that much–between the housing crisis, the economic collapse and McCain choosing Palin as a running mate, Don Knotts probably could have been elected president if he had run on the Democratic ticket. But if you recall, even Watergate only bought the Democrats one presidential term.

    It is nice that neocons keep shooting themselves in the foot, telling the public to boycott GM and Chrysler at a time when a lot of their base are worried about losing more American jobs, but since the success of the neocon agenda has always depended on getting people to support things that hurt them, that matters less than one might hope.

  15. New science stuff says using big words unnecessarily makes you sound stupider.

    I am doomed. Unless the valley girl accent I have in real life cancels out my ridiculous obsession with bombastic vocabulary.

  16. Greedo shot JFK! :-D

    @bug_girl: That’s a dead giveaway in business, woo and government writing, too. Big words = big bullshit. Trying to get people to drop their inflated language is another “push the boulder uphill forever” thing…

    @Anthony: You may have a point there.

  17. @pciszek: To-TUH-ly!

    Perhaps a bit of internet verbosity comes from the lack of inflect or ability to properly tie in emotion. The right words can make your meaning more exact. There is a huge difference between “specious” and “false” or “excessive” and “bombastic.”

    Of course you then need to assume that your intended audience is aware of the difference.

    In other words: Oh mah gawd, you guys. Words are like, so totally weird, and like if people can’t like get you, you know? Like really get it? Than what.ev.er. Imshure.

  18. One of my coworkers uses big words when more common words will suffice. When talking about a program in our schools I stated “That program is for students who have been just been released from the (name of the juvenile jail). It’s a way to help them stay on track with school and their probation programs” and he (talking over me) says “The program is designed for students who have been adjudicated and released from the juvenile detention center. It is intended to reacquaint the students with public schools while keeping them on track with any court ordered monitoring that they must participate in”. To which another coworker whispers in my ear “you just say that, half as long and without the arrogance.”

    We call that guy Dr. Douche. He goes through phases of using different words, my coworkers and I are convinced he might have word of the week toilet paper.

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