Clear as mud


With full understanding that one is likely being judged for relying upon the antiquated form of an actual dictionary for information rather than asking Siri, I must begin by noting that recently I pulled a dusty book from the shelf, and with great intention split the tome seeking a greater understanding of a single word. It is true, much of our comprehension comes from the context in which a word is expressed but, if words matter, shouldn’t we make them as precise as our meager abilities might allow them to be?

On this particular occasion, a commentator on the BBC world radio station was, as British commentators on the BBC world radio station often do, making use of the English language in a way that exceeded my ability to keep up. The words he deployed, while no doubt entertaining, struck the listener as if designed to intentionally obfuscate the matter at hand. Perhaps, the point was clear but an incomplete command of the vernacular was the problem. So with the dictionary retrieved and a quick perusal accomplished, I discovered that the tone of the smooth-tongued journalist indeed was inconsistent with what he was actually saying!

Words like Quantitative Easing – now shortened in some circles to simply QE – often intentionally belie the intention of the ones behind the fancy phraseology. What is the Defense of Marriage Act designed to defend? Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act? TARP? (Which, by the way, is Troubled Asset Recovery Act). These are all very nice words. How can these not be good things? We like “care” and “defend” and “asset.” Listening is an action. Our duty is to treat it that way.