by Don Aitkin
In Australia, where I live, these weeks lead up to Christmas, and to the start of the summer holidays. The serious side of news lifts a little, and there is a more light-hearted air about many things. In that spirit, I offer the following little collection in the hope that those who read it will laugh a little, and feel prompted to add their own favourites. I’ve tried to be ecumenical in the selection. No single person has been cited more than once, to the best of my knowledge. And I’ve used no names. Here we go.
Those who enter as novices into the debate about climate change will often need some help in deal with new terminology and new arguments, although those who come from the academic world may well have encountered variants before. What follows is a kind of glossary, and additions or other suggestions will be most welcome.
First, let us deal with the journal articles. The novice will encounter a private language here that usually needs a little translation. In what follows, I first set out the characteristic terminology, and then do my best to provide a helpful translation in brackets.
‘It has long been known that …’ (I don’t seem to be able to find the right reference.)
‘It is generally believed that …’ (One of my colleagues agreed with me over coffee that…)
‘While it has not been possible to provide definite answers to the questions we set out …’ (The data don’t really support our hypotheses, but I need a publication out of this…)
‘An adequate theory to account for these findings has yet to be formulated.’ (No one else has been able to do it, and I can’t, either.)
‘It is hoped that this work will stimulate further research in this interesting field.’ (OK, the paper isn’t much good, but neither is anything else in this area.)
‘Only three of these samples were retained for further study’ (I couldn’t make sense of the others, and ignored them.)
‘Results of later analyses will be reported at a later date.’ (I will probably never get around to making sense of this stuff.)
‘Although some detail has been lost in reproduction, it is possible to tell from the original graph …’ (You have to be clairvoyant even to see it in the original.)
‘In this area, the most reliable results are those of Bloggs. ‘ (Bloggs is one of my former students.)
‘It might be argued that …’ (Now, I do have an excellent answer to this one.)
Second, learn to interpret adjectives, which need not to be taken at their face value.
‘The agreement of the observations with the predicted results are…’
‘As good as could be expected given the approximations made in the analysis’ (non- existent)
‘Of great theoretical and practical importance’ (interesting to me)
‘Insightful argument’ (one that agrees with my position)
‘Strained connection’ (one that I don’t like)
Third, become used to the cut and thrust of the blogosphere. Here words don’t always have their common meanings, and while politeness is a key, robust interactions are expected.
‘You have no idea what you are talking about.’ (I disagree.)
‘Your bias shone through loud and clear…’ (I don’t like you.)
‘Please try to keep up.’ (I have superior knowledge to yours.)
‘I’m going to sound like a broken record… (You guys don’t listen to me.)
‘What are you smoking?’ (I think you may well have made an error here.)
‘I’m all for being proved wrong.’ (Though this rarely if ever happens.)
‘Have you read [whatever it is]? (I haven’t either, but I won’t have to show that: the question is directed at you.)
‘Only a rabid conspiracy theorist could believe… ‘ (I feel you may be in error here too.)
‘Good rant.’ (I’d like to have written that, but don’t have quite the nerve.)
‘Amazing.’ (I think I disagree.)
‘Apparently, with your superior intellect…’ (I think you are fundamentally misconceived about this.)
‘I have people telling me…’ (Someone I met in a bar said…)
‘You do not examine your own influences and biases carefully enough.’ (Unlike me — I do this each morning as I brush my teeth.)
‘Contrast a wacko with a pragmatist.’ (I am pretty sure which one I am.)
‘This is ridiculous posturing…’ (I rather think that you are wrong.)
Fourth, assemble a glossary of short-forms. Each time that you work out one correctly, award yourself a glass of good red wine. Try to create new ones whose meaning no one but you knows.
Here is the beginning of a collection.
AFAIK (as far as I know)
IMO (in my opinion)
IMHO (in my humble opinion)
WRT (with respect to)
LOL (laugh out loud, little old ladies, lots of lolly — pick the most useful)
If there is a decent response, I will assemble all the printable contributions and ask Judy to post it on the website as a ‘paper’.
JC note: Don emailed this to me about a week ago. This post represents the views of the author. Don’s previous posts at Climate Etc. are: