Thursday, August 23, 2012

Stand BACK! I have a loaded word and I am not afraid to use it

How much did you earn this year?  Whatever answer you gave is arbitrary.
How much did you make?  Unless you are working on an assembly line and giving production numbers, it's also arbitrary.

We use these words to talk about income.  We shouldn't.  They make it difficult to talk about anything that influences income, such as taxes and salary limits.  After all, if you earned your salary then you're justified in being resistant to any questions about it.  What if instead you just got your salary?  Maybe you earned it, maybe not.  This word choice is neutral and therefore allows us to talk about income without a heavy bias toward the status quo.

Similarly, companies are eager to use the words theft and piracy when talking about intellectual property.  These aren't merely biased words, they're blatantly inaccurate.  If I stole your car I'd have a car but you would no longer have a car.  It is a zero-sum game (assuming I didn't damage anything to get it).  If I copied your music collection I'd have a music collection, and so would you.  It is a positive-sum game.

Both of these ignore the long-term effects, and those are why I'm not a fan of excessive copywrite violation.  In the long term too much copying without payment means reduced incentive to develop new ideas, new designs, and new art.  However this is a different problem than theft, in which one person is directly and immediately deprived of wealth.  They are different problems and require different solutions.  To treat them as similar only makes it harder to fix the problem.

Add these to the pile of words that have been changed so much as to barely resemble their original meanings.  The result is that in the crossfire of political exchanges everyone is missing, and all the onlookers are being slaughtered.

No comments: