Monday, November 23, 2009

Oh!, the Megacity of It All!

The OED and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) both list megacity, defined by MW as a megalopolis. The OED doesn't define it--it just lists it among a bunch of words that begin with mega-. As noted in the "about me" thing in the left-hand margin, I sometimes have opinions about stuff nobody cares about. And this is one of those times. To me, megacity looks like it should be pronounced /mɜg'æsəɾi/ (I based this on the OED's pronunciation for mendacity, except that OED uses a /d/ instead of a /ɾ/; I guess nobody ever told them about postalveolar flaps). So what? So I think it should be hyphenated (mega-city) for the sake of clarity, that's what.

We could force the issue by making up and popularizing a word megacity that rhymes with mendacity.

Thank you for your attention.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cognitive whateverism

Important reminder: this blog has no opinions on anything controversial.

The New Republic carries this article by James Kirchick, titled "Tom Coburn: Unwitting Cog of the Gay Agenda," which ends thus:

If the President of the United States can "engage" with all manner of tyrants and petty thugs, then surely a small group of enterprising homocons [gay conservatives] can co-sign an op-ed with a conservative Senator from Oklahoma who, not so long ago, was railing against the "gay agenda." What Coburn may or may not realize is that he's just become an unwitting cog in it.

Two questions. Do agendas have cogs? More importantly, how can you realize that you're an unwitting cog?

Thank you to Digital Roberts for sending us this item.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Chicago Public Radio reporter Mark Rivera quotes Sarah Mendez, the coordinator of bilingual education in Evanston:

And it’s 96 point something, its close to 97 percent meets and exceeds on the ISAT [Illinois Standards Achievement Tests] test. Which means, they are not only doing well, they are soaring.

Let's assume that 97 percent of the students in the program meet or exceed standards, and let's assume these children are soaring (hope it's true; although in keeping with blog policy I have no opinion on bilingual education, I only wish these students well). Even if both of these assumptions are true, it is not true that the 97 percent success rate implies that the students are soaring. If all those students met standards by one point, they wouldn't be soaring, but the 97 percent statement would be true. Of course, this depends on how you define "soaring." You could reasonably say that a student who meets standards in a once-unfamiliar language is soaring compared to what some may expect. But that clearly isn't how Mendez was using the word; as she said, "they are not only doing well, they are soaring."

It might be safe to say that Mendez's program is soaring with such a high achievement rate, and I hope that the students are soaring as well. My point is that we need to be careful when evaluating numbers and the claims about them.