Accuracy is Everything

Accuracy is everything

If you want to become a good debator and an effective communicator, accuracy in your statements is essential. I make a conscious effort to avoid using words such as “really” or “actually” when it adds no meaning to the sentence. Instead of saying “1 + 1 is actually 2” I just say “1 + 1 is 2” because by using “actually” I undermine my sentences without it in, because “actually” acts an an intensifier in boolean statements (where as “very” is used in continuous statements “1 + 1 is very 2” wouldn’t make sense but “the sky is very bright” does make sense because the potential brightnesses take on a continous space) but this makes no sense. A statement is either true or false. It can’t be, no matter how much you want it to be, half true or mostly true.

I am not a pedant, but I am often called it. Another phrase I avoid like the plague is “too”. This word is misused to often. It should only be used for shortening sentences when the long form of the sentence is easily deduced. So the sentence “There is an amount of water being poured into that bucket such that water is flowing out of it and onto the floor” is simplified to “There is too much water being poured into the bucket”. But people rarely think about the long form of the sentence, they use the “too” shorthand so often that they don’t even bother to think about the longer form of the sentence they’re shortening. As a result, in their mind the long form of the sentence evolves to something like “there is an amount of water being poured into that bucket such that something bad is happening” and use too always in this sense, so it becomes meaningless when used in some cases. One example is “Don’t eat too much pie” which is short for “Don’t eat an amount of pie such that something bad will happen”. It’s a barren tautology almost. No one would ever do something that they thought was bad. By saying it, you do nothing to help the person – no information is contained in the sentence.

English is not rigorous but I take pride in meaning everything I say. I don’t use metaphors. I hate them. It’s just butchering my language. Stop it. Don’t make demonstrably false statements and then say “but it’s not false, it’s a metaphor”. Just because a sentence can be constructed without breaking the laws of grammar does not make it coherent. Metaphors are basically art but made it language rather than a paintbrush. I don’t hate analogies that help people understand things more by means of pattern recognition. I do find metaphors that are blatantly false annoying, such as “A lifetime is a day, death is sleep; a lifetime is a year, death is winter”. All of those are false statements.

Here’s an analogy that explains my position. It’s like I’m an air traffic controller and the local radio station decides that it will broadcast songs on the same frequncy I’m on. Sure it sounds great. But people will die as a result. I’m trying to communicate with pilots and you’re making this much more difficult by blasting your art over our communication. It’s sort of muddying the language I’m using. Take your art to another medium – it isn’t suitable to use English in this way. I don’t buy into the hand waving “it’s a metaphor” when I point out that the statement “Death is winter” is false… and neither should you.

“Literally” was a word that used to mean something. Sadly, so many people have begun to attempt to use it an an intensifier that it has started to lost all meaning. “She was literally the hottest girl I’ve ever seen” strictly means that the girl I saw had the highest temperature of all girls I’ve ever seen. It does NOT mean “She was the most attractive girl I’ve ever seen and I’m not lying”. This is basically the path English is going down by having so many people use metaphors. But at least people know when they’re using metaphors. So it doesn’t matter too much. Where as people who use ‘literally’ incorrectly are unaware of their errors.


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