Words Fail

Notes on semantic deconversion

It’s difficult to study words, because words are hard to see. Words are tools used in communication, and when communication is working, they disappear into invisibility. 

One way to see words is to make a word jail: a list of problematic words ripped out of their contexts, so that they may be seen for themselves instead of hiding behind meanings. 

Another way to see words freshly, to experience them as broken and therefore present, is to enter a new domain with its own unfamiliar jargon. Military basic training, rock climbing, sailing (whether Melville-era or contemporary), and weaving all require that novices take on a new jargon in order to get a grip on a new domain. The jargon enables the initiates to pick out important aspects of the world (in their bodies, in the natural environment, in the technology). With new words, they learn to identify newly-salient aspects of reality and communicate with others about them.  Continue reading “Words Fail”

The Extended Sniff Test

A literal banana has published a method for volunteer investigators of suspicious science, this month in the Journal of Lexical Crime. From the abstract:

Fact checking of scientific claims by lay volunteers, also known as recreational hostile fact checking or community-based science policing, is a growing hobby. A method for the evaluation of scientific claims by scientifically literate non-expert investigators is presented. The Extended Sniff Test, performed after an initial sniff test, uses the methods of Double Contextualization, Noun Abuse Assessment, and lay literature review, in addition to traditional literature review. As a case study, a suspicious paper is subjected to the Extended Sniff Test, and fails. A quick guide to the Extended Sniff Test is provided.

The paper is available here:

The Extended Sniff Test: A Method for Recreational Hostile Fact Checking

The paper’s “quick guide:”