Monday, 22 June 2009

Psephological = pretentious political phraseology

Amber Taylor’s word of the day is one I’ve never used and hardly ever encountered. You’d think that was odd, since “psephology” is another name for my field of research, but I doubt most political behavior scholars could define (or even pronounce) the term. From a position of ignorance, I’d probably think it referred to reading bumps on people’s heads or something. (A Google News search suggests the term is reasonably common in India of all places, and gets some play in Britain and Ireland, but is rare elsewhere.)

In short: don’t expect me to order new business cards describing me as a psephologist any time soon.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

QotD, cougar-chasing-actors-are-lame edition

Radley Balko on Ashton Kutcher’s premonition that the founders of Twitter will be remembered with Edison and Marconi:

Twitter is fun. But it isn’t going to revolutionize the way we communicate any more than Ashton Kutcher has revolutionized the way we play practical jokes on one another.

In fairness, Kutcher did help us revolutionize the English language by replacing the letter ‘e’ with an apostrophe in certain, additional situations beyond adding local color to British regional accents. And by “revolutionize” I mean “made more incomprehensible and harder to type.” Call him the anti-Noah Webster.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Screw Lakoff, Orwell is where it's at

Democracy in America ponders Pew’s use of a new term for those whose presence in this country is not permitted by law:

What do you all think of the phrase “unauthorised immigrants”, which is used throughout the Pew report? It is less harsh than “illegal immigrants”, but seems to have the same logical problem, that the actions are illegal/unauthorised, not the people themselves. “Undocumented immigrants” might be better.

I think the term “undocumented” frankly is absurd; it sounds like a bureaucratic mix-up (“oh dear, I lost the title to my car, it’s now undocumented”) rather than the truth, which is that in a vast majority of cases—the unfortunate cases of those with jus soli or jus sanguinis without the proper paperwork aside—the “undocumented” have no legal permission or right to be in the United States, and often have forged (i.e. illegal) paperwork claiming otherwise, hence hardly making them “undocumented” but rather more properly maldocumented, the legal equivalent of a teen with fake ID who certainly isn’t an “undocumented adult.”

All that said, “unauthorized” (or for our Oxford-nonbelieving British cousins “unauthorised”) seems to be a reasonable compromise to me.

(And, for infrequent readers of this blog, I say all of the above as someone who generally advocates an end to immigration restrictions and the national drinking age.)

Friday, 4 April 2008

Term of the day

Choropleth map. Amazing that I got through 32 years of my life without knowing what to call a geographic map that you use to illustrate quantitative data (like this one from the Midwest paper or this one from a few years ago). And, since nobody outside cartography knows what “choropleth” means, I’ll probably never use the term again either.