Fascinating article that delves into the role of language and its effect on our understanding of history as well as the present. How is our collective memory shaped by the words we use to describe the past?
“Landis goes on to suggest that we call plantations what they really were—slave labor camps; and drop the use of the term, “the Union.” A common usage in the 19th century to be sure, but now one we only use “the Union” in reference to the Civil War and on the day of the State of the Union address. A better way to speak of the nation during the war, he argues, is to use its name, the United States.”
“As Douglass was already concerned that the victors were losing the war of historical memory to the supposedly vanquished, I am not sure that he would have been surprised that not far from where he stood at the national cemetery—often considered the nation’s most hallowed ground—a Confederate memorial would be built in the early 20th century to the insurgents he felt “struck at the nation’s life.”
“Douglass knew, day-by-day, after the shooting stopped, a history war was playing out. It is clearly not over yet. Words, though they do not stand as marble and bronze memorials in parks and in front of buildings or fly on flagpoles, are perhaps even more powerful and pernicious. The monuments we’ve built with language may, in fact, be even more difficult to tear down.”
This is an interesting case of how numbers get reported and what they mean. Often the numbers that get reported reflect a desire to grab people’s attentions or simply to tell the story the media outlet wants to tell. If you report 26% or 3% neither one is necessarily lying though the two numbers are referring to two different things. (Here is a link to an earlier post about how an Illinois tax increase was reported)
12% of respondents to a recent survey said they watched fewer NFL games and of those 26% said that the main reason was Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem. How should that get reported? And what impression gets left in people’s minds based on the wording?
Another way to think about it is this: 12% of the 26% who watched fewer games comes out to about 3% of the total number of people who watched football. Hmm. That leaves a very different impression than 26%.
Here is the original, misleading ESPN article whose headline has since changed I believe.
“National anthem protests were the top reason that NFL fans watched fewer games last season, according to a new survey released by J.D. Power.
“The pollster said it asked more than 9,200 people who attended either one football, basketball or hockey game whether they tuned into fewer games and why. Twenty-six percent of those who watched fewer games last season said that national anthem protests, some of which were led by Colin Kaepernick, were the reason.”
And here is a link to a Huffington Post article discussing the issue with how the numbers are reported:
“The idea of reappropriation isn’t new. The process of turning negative words, symbols or ideas into positive parts of our own identity can involve repurposing a racial epithet or taking on a stereotype for sociopolitical empowerment. But reappropriation can be confusing. Sometimes people can’t figure out the nuances of why something is or isn’t offensive — government bureaucrats in particular.”
Interesting discussion on the difference between “monuments” and “memorials” and how that distinction plays out with the contemporary controversy around the removal of Confederate Civil War statues.
“The debate around these monuments — Should they be destroyed, maintained or removed elsewhere? — has been heated and, I believe, misguided. We should be asking other questions instead: Are these statues really “monuments” by our present standards? Or are they rather “memorials”? Are we misled by the avenue’s name? Do we need to rename the avenue itself as we attempt to remedy our deferred maintenance of history?”
“An Arizona biologist believes that their sounds should be considered
language — and that someday we’ll understand what they have to say.”
Some interesting insights in this short video.
What is the purpose of a dictionary?
What are the criteria a word must meet to be included in a dictionary?
How is language like a child?
What is the difference between a prescriptivist and a descriptivist approach to language?
How does this visual representation give us a different sense of meaning than a traditional map?
“This linguistic map paints an alternative map of Europe, displaying the language families that populate the continent, and the lexical distance between the languages. The closer that distance, the more words they have in common. The further the distance, the harder the mutual comprehension.
“The map shows the language families that cover the continent: large, familiar ones like Germanic, Italic-Romance and Slavic; smaller ones like Celtic, Baltic and Uralic; outliers like Semitic and Turkic; and isolates – orphan languages, without a family: Albanian and Greek.”
Here is a site with some additional posts and discussions of related issues by the creator of this image.
Part of an interesting video series, Do You See What I See. The first part of this link shows an African tribe, the Himba, whose language and environment differ so much from ours that they are able to distinguish different shades very differently from us. The link below is for the part that shows the Himba tribe. At the bottom of the video player are links for the rest of that show.
Here an article about how those same people are able to discern optical illusions better than people who live in modern societies.
The Astonishing Vision of Namibia’s Nomads
“The Himba people of Namibia can see fine details and ignore distraction much better than most other human beings – a finding that may reflect the many ways that modern life is changing our minds and abilities.”
The debate about whether Pluto is or is not a planet is an interesting one in that it highlights many interesting aspects of what we study in TOK.
Pluto itself did not change but the definitions we use to define what comprises our solar system did change. When we only knew of 9 objects of a particular size orbiting the sun, the inclusion of Pluto as a planet was not controversial but as new objects were added to the list, scientists needed to come up with a definition that either excluded Pluto or added many more objects to our list of planets.
It’s important to remember that like most definitions and language, meaning is based on agreement and man made rules. There is no “cosmic” definition of a planet. This article discusses this concept to some degree.
“For years, astronomers, planetary scientists and other space researchers have fought about what to call the small, icy world at the edge of our solar system. Is it a planet, as scientists believed for nearly seven decades? Or must a planet be something bigger, something more dominant, as was decided by vote at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 2006?
“The issue can bring conversations to a screeching halt, or turn them into shouting matches. “Sometimes,” Runyon said, “it’s just easier not to bring it up.””
Here are some interesting comments from the article as well. They illustrate some of the interesting aspects of the “debate” where people can get very emotional about the issue, as illustrated by the first comment below. But the second comment raises an interesting question about whether we would care as much if we hadn’t discovered Pluto almost a hundred years ago.
“AMERICANS BORN IN the United States are more murderous than undocumented immigrants. Fighting words, I know. But why? After all, that’s just what the numbers say.
“Still, be honest: you wouldn’t linger over a story with that headline. It’s “dog bites man.” It’s the norm. And norms aren’t news. Instead, you’ll see two dozen reporters flock to a single burning trash can during an Inauguration protest. The aberrant occurrence is the story you’ll read and the picture you’ll see. It’s news because it’s new.