One-Liner Wednesday: Words

“Words are a path to the mind; poetry is a drug for the soul.” 
– J. T. Carlton

This post is part of Linda’s One-Liner Wednesdays. Come join us! Find out how here:

One-Liner Wednesday: Long Words

Things are so busy right now, I missed doing One-Liner Wednesday this week, so I am sharing one from Mathemagical in honor of my younger daughter T who has long owned a favorite T-shirt with this word. Have fun listening to the companion song!

One-Liner Wednesday: Words

“I am by nature a dealer in words, and words are the most powerful drug known to humanity.”
– Rudyard Kipling

This post is part of Linda’s One-Liner Wednesdays. Join us! Details here:

What I meant to say was…

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride

I try to be clear when I write prose – poetry is not as straightforward by design – but I am running into a problem. I tend to use words assuming readers will apply standard dictionary definitions, but I am finding myself increasingly having to explain at length what I mean by a certain term, so as not to be misinterpreted, as I did in my recent post My (Feminist) Story.

I do understand the difference between connotation and denotation, but it is a pity that many words that usefully describe philosophical or political views have become so skewed from their dictionary definition as to be unusable in practical terms. For example, the words “liberal” and “progressive” are heard more often as epithets than as accurate descriptors of actual policies. Past conservative presidents like Richard Nixon would now be considered liberal, given the positions of those who now describe themselves as conservative.

The word whose misuse most disturbs me is “science.” Science is about data, evidence, observation, reason, leading to conclusions consistent with facts and repeatable by other scientists. In order for papers to be published in scientific journals, they first must be reviewed by peers with knowledge of the field to ensure that the study’s procedures and conclusions meet research standards. Yes, there are studies that later need to be withdrawn when errors are found after publication, but that is rare.

I frequently write comments on news articles about unconventional fossil fuel extraction including “fracking,” renewable energy, and climate change. In my home state of New York, we are in a continuing battle over whether or not high volume hydraulic fracturing will be permitted. The governor has said that science will be the determining factor. The problem is that both sides say they have the science on their side.

The pro-fracking side has industry studies, which are almost never subject to peer review, bold pronouncements from the industry and their allies that fracking is safe, exemptions from key environmental provisions that apply to other industries, gag orders on court settlements of damage claims, and regulatory agencies that are a revolving door to the industry and that use subcontractors that also work with the industry to draft environmental review documents and regulations.

What we on the anti-fracking side have is – well – science. There was a trickle of studies at first, because scientific study takes time with additional time needed for peer review, but there have been more and more studies, especially in the last eighteen months, documenting environmental impacts on air, water, biosphere, climate, and public health. There is a new compendium of research on fracking here. (I can’t resist posting the link to the compendium at every available opportunity.)

Anyone who knows the definition of science should be able to tell which side is using science in their argument. I can understand that some people who are hoping to profit from fracking might delude themselves into believing the industry over the scientists. I don’t understand the press giving equivalency to the remarks of a peer-reviewed independent scientist and an industry spokesperson/propagandist.

The press should be clear with the definition of science. I know it has become common for politicians at all levels of government to say “I am not a scientist” as an excuse not to understand issues such as climate change. Frankly, people do not need to understand all the intricacies of scientific inquiry to believe a strong scientific consensus. They do need to understand the definition of science and to discern what meets the standards of science and what does not.

“The Fault in Our Stars”

While I usually try to read a book before seeing a film adaptation, I did not read “The Fault in Our Stars” before seeing the film earlier this week. The book was written after my daughters were of an age to have read it, so it wasn’t on my radar.

Within the first few minutes, I correctly guessed the final outcome, but that didn’t really matter. The film resonated with me because it re-inforced ideas that I know to be true.

1. Young love is real love. Even without the maturing influence of battling cancer at a young age, young people can be very deeply in love. My husband and I met in our early teen years and have been married for 32 years and friends for 40 years. Obviously, our story is not that common nowadays, but it is a testament to young people being capable of both love and good judgement.

2. Words are powerful. There are many instances in the film where words – spoken, written, emailed, texted – are what drives the plot. A book and its author are a central plot device.

3. Reality trumps fiction. I knew before I saw the film that there was a scene in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam that some people found gratuitous. My reaction was different. The preceding scene dealt with the main characters’ interaction with the author of a work of fiction that was important to them. The viewer expects this to be a breakthrough moment for the two young friends; instead, it is incredibly disappointing. It is a taxing trip through the Anne Frank House, with Anne’s words of hope appearing in writing and speech and the realization that only Anne’s father survived the concentration camps, that leads Hazel to accept Augustus’s desire to be more than platonic friends. I also felt using the Anne Frank story as a plot device made sense, given that the intended audience for the book was young adults, because most US schoolchildren read either Anne’s diary or a play based on it as an early teen, so they would immediately be able to make connections with it.

4. It’s really difficult to be the parent of a sick child. I thank God that I have been spared having a child with cancer. I have had to deal with difficult, long-standing medical issues, though, and could empathize with parents desperately wanting to do everything they can to help, even when they intrude too much on their child in their efforts.

5. Funerals are for the living. A character in the movie says this and it is true. As a music minister, I’ve been to more than the usual number of funerals. While a funeral often reflect the person who has died, its function is more to comfort the living, even when that means avoiding some of the truth about their final days.

6. Don’t wait to be kind, loving, authentic, and open. None of us have a guarantee as to how long we have here.