Monday, October 19, 2015

Say it loudly? Be bold?

The long presidential campaign season is now well underway.  It has already been noisy, and it will only get worse.

It is a shout-fest out there, it seems.  What's the deal, right?  The loud ones are not necessary the correct ones.  We have various expressions from the past, like "empty vessels make noise."

The explanation comes from centuries before modern communication technologies were even invented!
उच्चैरुच्चरितव्यं यत्किंचिदजानतापि पुरुषेण ।
मूर्खा बहु मन्यन्ते विदुषामपि संशयो भवति ॥
- सुभाषितसुधानिधि
One must talk loudly even when talking about whatever little you know.
Fools will think you are right and the wise may also be put in doubt.
- Subhashitasudhanidhi

I like how the couplet notes that "the wise may also be put in doubt."  While I am far from being one of the wise, I can certainly relate to being put in doubt. A few years ago, The Atlantic had a regular column about words and grammar.  The editor/columnist, Barbara Walraff  featured an interesting question from a reader who was at a loss for words that could best describe the situation that the reader was in.  All the words in the dictionary didn't work and a word had to be invented.

I was terribly excited when they ran my question (thanks to "googling" myself, I found out that mine has even made it to the book--it is there in the collection that Barbara Walraff has put together):
“I wonder if there is a word for what happens when teachers, like me, grade papers at the end of terms: the incorrect information in students’ papers makes me begin to question my own knowledge. For instance, after grading quite a few papers I begin to ask myself if it is effect or affect; does Switzerland really border a sea? Is there a word to describe this acute sense of ‘unlearning’?”
—Sriram Khe, Eugene, Ore.
It really doesn't take much to get me all excited about life!  As if my question featuring there wasn't enough excitement for me, they also mailed me four books autographed by the respective authors!  Hey, I might not have accomplished much in my career, but there has been enough and more excitement to make it more than a pedestrian existence ;)

The structure was that readers sent in their creative solutions to the grammar/word question, and the editor then published the best:
Temporary inanity is what college English teacher Laura Zlogar, of River Falls, Wis., calls the malady. Deborah Carter, of Walkersville, Md., wrote, “I’m a teacher too, and I’ve always thought of this phenomenon as wisdumb.”
Various people suggested factigue, examnesia, and misleducation— also amissgivings (Anutosh Moitra, of Sammamish, Wash.), bogmindling (Eunice Van Loon, of Biloxi, Miss.), contaminotion (Jim Lemon, of Gladesville, of New South Wales, Australia), errattled (Lisa Bergtraum, of New York City), nonsensery overload (C. Bernard Bar-foot, of Alexandria, Va.), numbleminded (Doug and Kay Overbey, of Maryville, Tenn.), and righter’s block (Carol DeMoranville, of Steward, Ill.).
Tom Dorman, of Sedro-Woolley, Wash., had yet another idea, and he knows whereof he speaks. He wrote: “As a high school teacher, I can sympathize. My ninth-graders have recently convinced me that the Norman Conquest took place in 1951, that Samson and Goliath had a torrid affair (don’t tell the school board), and that car pedium means ‘seize your movement.’ Correct tests like this late into the night to meet your grade deadline and you, too, will feel doubt-witted by your students.”
Be confident. Be bold. Say it like you believe you know it well. Let the others sink in their doubt.


What we need is "the courage to admit one's own ignorance."  Easier said than done, eh! :(


Ramesh said...

Of course Switzerland borders the sea.

Americas Cup is the greatest yachting race in the world.
You obviously race in the sea
The holder of the Cup gets the right to stage it on home territory
The Swiss Yacht Alinghi won the Americas Cup in 2007 and again in 2010
QED - Switzerland borders the sea.

Anne in Salem said...

Bravo for the neologists who read Atlantic. Well done.

Sounds like some of the students have forgotten their Bible lessons, updated by President Lincoln: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

Sriram Khé said...

Thanks for the clarification, Ramesh ;)

That was the Atlantic of the old ... while I continue to read it, the magazine looks a little too glitzy these days :(

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