RE: Pet Peeves

Subject: RE: Pet Peeves
From: Kevin McLauchlan <kmclauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2007 11:16:56 -0400

Ned Bedinger wondered:

> You can symbolically refuse recognition to the group and
> their cause by
> not allowing their symbol into your collection of signs. But
> that seems
> to me to be a disproportionately heavy thing to do when the
> group adopts
> a minor colloquial phrase as a token of their activism
> against domestic
> violence. For pity's sake, if you've ever dropped the change from a
> dollar in a jar at the checkout register, you could donate
> your phrase
> "rule of thumb" without any greater pain of amputation.

The tie-in to techwriting is:

When you get something wrong that's obvious, pervasive, and
has been a useful part of the vernacular of dozens of countries
for hundreds of years, people wonder what else you got wrong
that wasn't so straightforward. They lose - or never gain -
trust for your pronouncements.

When your usefulness to your audience is undermined (by your
own errors or, once notified, continuing willful disregard),
then it's not long before your usefulness to your
organization is gone.

(Generic 'you' that is)

Once again, no less an authority than the Oxford Dictionary
says that "rule of thumb" means: a rule for general guidance,
based on experience of practice rather than theory.
That's the ONLY definition they provide in a book that is
positively replete with words having multiple definitions
(on the same page they've got the beginning of the entry for
"run" which goes into 35 meanings for the verb and 21 for
the noun).

The implication is clear. Everybody knows "rule of thumb" to
have one meaning. Only. That's its hono[u]red place in the language.

If some fool of a judge once made up a story (or repeated one
that he'd heard from obviously questionable sources), and
some small pack of idiots has tried to perpetuate that bogus
story, it is not in our interest to dignify their malicious
or misguided efforts.

Yes, it sometimes happens that words get taken over by idiots
and the new meaning (that began as a mistake or somebody's lame
idea of a joke) becomes the accepted usage. But it takes a LOT
of idiots. Let's not be them, and let's not collude with them
in further eroding our language.

The very next time I see an opportunity to use "rule of thumb"
in any of my docs, I intend to use it.

On that other matter, having grown up in a small town in
eastern Canada, <mumbledy> years ago, I _have_ seen dog and
pony shows, in person.

I don't expect to encounter any opportunities to use that phrase
in technical documentation, however. Elsewhere, I consider it
fair game.

If you choose to respond to me, please do so without the use
of pronouns. Due to recent overexposure, I am beginning to find
them offensive.


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