Friday, April 28, 2017


A good friend advised me several years ago to "Think in different terms".  That is change the words and maybe the conception, the picture, the connotations associated with the words.  Poets know the power of a different way of thinking: Your cheeks are like roses.  No, your skin is cream.  Maybe, your face invades my thoughts.  

There are a few words that I think need some work.  As a general rule, if you saying the same thing over and over, you may want to think of a different way of putting the message. Take "Lifelong learner" for instance.  This term is overused in explaining and promoting activities associated with lectures and trips that are planned to be of interest to those who have retired or reached an older age, such as 65 or 70.  In most Learning in Retirement organizations, there are low fees and no tests or homework.  The activity might be better described as knowledge exploration or hearing about the world.  It is the sort of thing that attracts the curious but maybe it is not that much "learning".  On the other hand, maybe more is learned (whatever that means) in such more relaxed settings.  And there is always the possibility that older minds make more connections with new information and actually retain quite a lot.

"Political money" and "redistricting" could also use some work.  There may actually be such a thing as buying an election but generally decrying the influence of money is aimed at the greater publicity that more ads, more pamphlets and more "events" produce. It is the use of the money to spread a candidate's face and message that is mostly being talked about, I think.  So, I suggest less use of the word "money" and more use of "publicity."

"Redistricting" is also overused in my opinion and also lacks juice.  If we draw the voting districts so that all of our opponent's supporters are in one district and we create many districts of our guy's supporters, we might win.  To do that, we might have to create some funny looking districts, maybe one that looks like Donald Duck or something.  But the term "redistricting" and the slightly more colorful word Gerrymandering are both too obscure and too clinical to express the seriousness of the problem and the power to be had by district manipulation.

The Harvard psychologist Ellen J. Langer has shown the power of the words and accompanying images words and terms can have.  Her book "Counterclockwise" shows what can happen when elderly men are housed in surroundings highly reminiscent of their youth and hotel maids are persuaded to think of their daily routine as "exercise" instead of "work."

The background of a term can have a strong influence in the real world.

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