Wednesday, March 30, 2016

This Week: "When Is a Rose Not a Rose?" on the podcast + biceps

A biceps is a single muscle with two attaching tendons at one end. Although “bicep” without the S is often used in casual speech, this spelling is frowned on in medical and anatomical contexts.


This week on the podcast Paul Brians delivers a very lovely lecture.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

This Week: Even more non-errors on the podcast + beginning of time

beginning of time
Stephen Hawking writes about the beginning of time, but few other people do. People who write “from the beginning of time” or “since time began” are usually being lazy. Their grasp of history is vague, so they resort to these broad, sweeping phrases. Almost never is this usage literally accurate: people have not fallen in love since time began, for instance, because people arrived relatively late on the scene in the cosmic scheme of things. When I visited Ferrara several years ago I was interested to see that the whole population of the old city seemed to use bicycles for transportation, cars being banned from the central area. I asked how long this had been the custom and was told “We’ve ridden bicycles for centuries.” Since the bicycle was invented only in the 1890s, I strongly doubted this (no, Leonardo da Vinci did not invent the bicycle—he just drew a picture of what one might look like—and some people think that picture is a modern forgery). If you really don’t know the appropriate period from which your subject dates, you could substitute a less silly but still vague phrase such as “for many years,” or “for centuries”; but it’s better simply to avoid historical statements if you don’t know your history.

This week on the podcast we discuss even more non-errors.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

This Week: More non-errors on the podcast + Canadian geese/Canada geese

Canadian geese/Canada geese
“Canadian geese” would be any old geese that happen to be in Canada. What people usually mean to refer to when they use this phrase is the specific species properly called “Canada geese.”

This week on the podcast we discuss more non-errors.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

This Week: Non-Errors on the podcast + octopi/octopuses + A new blog post

“Octopi” is a slangy plural form of “octopus,” but it’s not the form used by marine biologists. Although some prefer “octopodes,” this form is rare. The standard plural form is “octopuses.”

Last week on the podcast we discussed antiheroes; this week you could say we discuss anti-errors.
Paul Brians’ latest blog post talks about another non-error.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

This Week: "We Could Be Antiheroes" on the podcast + agnostic/atheist + Bonus cartoon!

Both agnostics and atheists are regularly criticized as illogical by people who don’t understand the meaning of these terms. An agnostic is a person who believes that the existence of a god or gods cannot be proven or known. Agnosticism is a statement about the limits of human knowledge. It is an error to suppose that agnostics perpetually hesitate between faith and doubt: they are confident they cannot know the ultimate truth. Similarly, atheists believe there are no gods. Atheists need not be able to disprove the existence of gods to be consistent just as believers do not need to be able to prove that gods do exist in order to be regarded as religious. Both attitudes have to do with beliefs, not knowledge.

“Agnostic” is often used metaphorically of any refusal to make a judgment, usually on the basis of a lack of evidence; people can be agnostic about acupuncture, for instance, if they believe there is not enough evidence one way or another to decide its effectiveness.

This week on the podcast we discuss some literary terms: “We Could Be Antiheroes.”

Bonus cartoon this week: