Years ago I remember my grandmother looking at a jar of jam, and noting the phrase “best before end” with an illegible smudge after it where the manufacturer had attempted to print the date. Her response: “of course it’s best before the end; otherwise, it wouldn’t be the end, would it?”.
Archive for December, 2010
Here is an interesting duality – the challenges faced by a single parent parenting several children are similar to the challenges faced by an only child who has to look after two aging parents.
From time to time I wake up in the morning (or in the middle of the night) convinced that I have, either in some dream or in some hypnopompic reverie, come up with a really hilarious joke. In the cold light of 20 minutes later, they reveal themselves to be utterly un-hilarious but nonetheless having some joke-like structure.
Here is the latest example: “I hear that the Gibb brothers, Geri Halliwell and Mel B. are going on tour? What’s the name of the band? The Spice Gees.”
They have the flavour of the computer-generated jokes found in Graeme Ritchie’s work (except that the jokes generated by his system are actually funny!).
There seem to be two meanings to the word “confident” in English. The first is the idea of confidence as a generic motivational aspect; we should learn to put aside our inhibitions and then we can tackle a problem with confidence. Call this motivational confidence.
The second is the feeling that you have been able to calibrate your actions against experience. this is the kind of confidence where you know, and know you know, when you have got something correct. Perhaps we can call this calibrational confidence.
It seems that we confuse the two fairly readily. When I say that I am not a confident singer (which is true), I am saying that I cannot calibrate my attempts at singing against the world. I don’t feel that I am singing wrongly, but I wouldn’t bet any amount that I am not awful. When I try to correct this, I am frequently told that I should be more confident; this is clearly a references to motivational confidence, as this can be summoned by willpower, whereas calibrational confidence can only be gained by skill and knowledge. However hard I might say that I am going to sing out with confidence, if I am unable to calibrate my efforts then I am not going to improve—by contrast, I’ll be like one of those godawful people at karaoke who belt out a song with great will but little skill.
I wonder why these two contrasting concepts have the same word? And, why many people conflate the two, and believe that the second will follow automatically from the exercise of the first? Clearly they are not entirely unrelated; but the link is fairly slim.
Is it the case the people who habitually begin sentences with “Honestly speaking…” and similar phrases are usually lying/manipulating what they say – and expect that everyone else is doing the same?
Smartphone gloves: all fingers are covered except for an index finger (and perhaps a thumb) which are left open like on the fingerless gloves that market traders and the like wear so that you can operate your capacitive sensing-based screen without taking your gloves off.
Whilst sitting in a café at St. Pancras this evening, I noticed that a couple of seats down from me there was a half-open messenger bag. This is precisely the sort of thing that the security announcements are urging us to report. However, before I could do anything about this, the following thought sprung fully-formed into my mind: “I can see a MacBook Pro sticking out of the bag; surely, an Apple user wouldn’t be a terrorist”. Fortunately, a few seconds later the owner of the bag came along, thus relieving me of the tension between my seemingly limbic Apple-fanboyism and my sense of duty that I should report this “suspicious package”.
I think the subtle politeness of this description of a radio interviewer’s booboo is an exemplary example of polite delicacy (quote from BBC News):
Naughtie inadvertently used the first letter of the Culture Secretary’s title to replace the ‘H’ in Mr Hunt’s surname.