June 14th, 2005

Fairytale Princess Amy

Pandemic illiteracy

I met an interesting person at lunch yesterday. He's an economic consultant and he believes the world is suffering from pandemic illiteracy. I'd have perhaps been in a better place to argue if I'd remembered what pandemic meant.
Or maybe not. He provided some examples.
"Future plans" as in the sentence, "Our future plans include expansion." - How many people, he asked me rhetorically, make such plans in the past. The sentence should read simply, "Our plans include expansion."
"new experiences" as in "I look forward to the new experiences this job will provide me." Experience is what you have coming out, you do not know going in what you will get. "opportunities" (with or without new, I suspect without would be his preference) you may get, prospects, you certainly may get, challenges, you may get, but experiences, you won't get until you have, they are, of necessity, something you have already, ahem, experienced.
Holocaust is another word which he reserves for scorn. The original meaning refers to a burnt offering which is entirely consumed. Do we mean to say then that the people murdered (I'll cover this one next), were a burnt offering to god? No, I don't really think we do. Of course language does evolve, which language purists hate unless it suits their needs. (I know because I am language purist by inclination.)
The final pet peeve of his, that I choose to document at this time is the way murder and kill are used interchangably. He wrote a letter to a book company specifically arguing their use of the phrase "Thou shalt not kill" for the 10 commandments in place of the more correct "Thou shalt not murder." Since kill could be accidental, and murder never is. [Background information that both of us understood already and therefore was unsaid and undisputed: This commandment clearly doesn't cover accidental deaths since it names sins that are all punishable by death, and if all killings were punishable by death, there would be no call for there to be cities of refuge.]
His point is well taken, and I countered with, "How do they translate 'Thou shalt not steal'?"
"Like that." he said.
I said, "Well, that's wrong too. The correct translation is 'thou shalt not kidnap.'"
"No," says he, "stealing refers to improper dealings with weights and measure, and cheating. The proper translation is 'thou shalt not steal or kidnap.'"
"No," says I, "It's not. All of the 10 commandments refer to capital crimes, crimes punishable by death, fraud is not punishable by death. Kidnapping is."
So he had to concede that point, and I felt very intelligent. Or at least like I can hold my own in intelligent adult conversation. It's nice sometimes.