language tagged posts

Science Education Under Attack—The Language Barrier

In my first article in this series, I wrote about how certain groups were attacking evolution and the “big bang” as “only” theories and how the word theory means something different to scientists than to everyone else. But this isn’t the only case where words have different meanings within and outside of science. This time the fault lies within the scientific community, rather than with those who oppose teaching legitimate science to children for allowing the confusion to continue, or for making it worse.

There are two related problems here: technical jargon and unique meanings for common words.

Technical Jargon

Confusion Jargon is a problem in every line of work...

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Critique Technique, Part 32 — %*@!$#^!!!!

Let’s get this out of the way right up front. This post is about the “f-bomb” and various other phrases and four- through fourteen-letter words that are generally not used in polite company: swear words, curse words, obscenities, vulgarities, the whole lot, and the words we sometimes substitute for them. As a matter of convenience, I’ll call everything swearing.

A simulated swear word

I know you’ve all heard the usual advice to writers and their reviewers: if swear words are natural parts of a character’s way of speaking, don’t be shy about using them, even if that’s not the way you speak.

But that’s not really enough advice for a writer, nor is it enough for a critiquer trying to determine if such language is being used as it should. That’s what I want to get into now.


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Critique Technique, Part 31 — The Wrong Words

Authors can and do go wrong with their word choices, or use words the wrong way. This isn’t just a case of not understanding Mark Twain’s definition of the difference between the right word and the almost-right word: the lightning versus the lightning bug. It is that, but it’s much more.

Pencil eraser erasing "wrong word"
Photo by ningmilo via

There are at least half a dozen ways an author can mess things up for herself and her readers when it comes to word choice. They are: using words that are wrong for

  • The story, usually in narrative;
  • The character, usually in dialogue; or
  • The reader, in either one.

Authors can also simply use the wrong word when they don’t know the difference between two or more words or what a word actually means...

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