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Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Words Only Mean What We Let Them

I love words and phrases.

The power of words, separates us from lower-order species - sure dolphins communicate with sound, but can a dolphin make a good Old Fashion?  No, dolphins cannot make an old fashion, drive a car or hit goofballs on the moon.

Words mean things.

I asked the super-duper AI thing to summarize the meaning of, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

This is what came back: 

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is a proverb that is meant to encourage resilience and to suggest that physical injuries are more significant and lasting than verbal ones. It suggests that people should not be affected by hurtful words and should instead focus on ignoring or brushing against them. The phrase is often used as a way to encourage people to not let insults or verbal abuse get to them and to instead focus on building resilience and inner strength. 

 - Not Bad for an algorithm imitating speech patterns.

Some words fade.  Another query for the Autobot in the sky:

"Tell me why some words are no longer used and give me examples."

There are a number of reasons why words may fall out of use or become obsolete over time. Some possible reasons include:
  1. Changes in language and usage: Words may change in meaning or usage over time, or they may be replaced by newer words that better fit the needs of a particular language or culture. For example, the word "gay" used to mean "happy" or "carefree," but now it is primarily used to refer to someone who is attracted to people of the same gender.
  2. Technological advancements: As new technologies and innovations are developed, words that describe older technologies or practices may become obsolete. For example, words like "telegraph" and "phonograph" are no longer used as commonly as they were in the past, due to the advent of newer forms of communication and entertainment.
  3. Shifts in cultural attitudes: Words may become unpopular or fall out of use due to changes in cultural attitudes or values. For example, words that were once considered acceptable or even fashionable may later become offensive or taboo due to shifts in societal attitudes towards certain groups or concepts.
Some examples of words that are no longer used or have become obsolete include:
  1. "Thou" and "thee," which were used as pronouns in Old English and Middle English, but are no longer used in modern English.
  2. "Lunatic," which used to refer to someone who was thought to be affected by the phases of the moon, but is now considered offensive and is no longer used.
  3. "Typewriter," which was once a common term for a device used for writing, but is now less commonly used due to the widespread adoption of computers and word processing software.
This brings me to Stanford University and its Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative.

Tell me about the university, Stanford.  It's expense, curriculum, reputation and social stance on contemporary issues.

Stanford University is a private research university located in Stanford, California. It is one of the most prestigious and highly ranked universities in the world, known for its strong programs in a wide range of academic fields, including engineering, business, computer science, and the arts and sciences.

In terms of cost, Stanford is considered a highly expensive university. Tuition and fees for the 2021-2022 academic year are $53,529 for undergraduate students, and the total cost of attendance (including tuition, fees, room, and board) is estimated at $76,074 per year. Financial aid is available to help students cover the cost of tuition, and the university has a need-blind admissions policy, meaning that financial need is not considered in the admissions process.

Stanford's curriculum is highly competitive and rigorous, and the university is known for its strong focus on research and innovation. Students at Stanford have access to a wide range of academic programs and opportunities, including internships, study abroad programs, and research projects.

In terms of reputation, Stanford is widely considered to be one of the top universities in the world, consistently ranking among the top ten universities in national and international rankings. It is known for its strong faculty, innovative research, and high levels of student achievement.

Stanford has a strong commitment to social responsibility and has a reputation for being actively engaged in addressing contemporary issues. The university has a number of initiatives and programs focused on issues such as sustainability, social justice, and diversity and inclusion.

Stanford University is expensive and full of smart people, right?  You tell me.  

They have a project, indeed a mission called The Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative.  The goal of the Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative is "to eliminate many forms of harmful language, including racist, violent, and biased (e.g., disability bias, ethnic bias, ethnic slurs, gender bias, implicit bias, sexual bias) language in Stanford websites and code."  

A brave concept and a ballsy move.  When viewing the world through the lens of insecurity, society needs social guru's to act as policemen and policewomen defending all victims of verbal abuse: immigrants, convicts, homeless persons, ladies, gentlemen, freshmen, gray beards just to mention a few.

It's no cakewalk, I imagine members of the Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative tribe risk being blackballed but I submit ignoring a mission like this is stupid.  Call me crazy, and I'm just a man in the middle, but even I can see with the right manpower, this initiative is the seminal motivation for a complete overall of ALL HARMFUL LANGUAGE.  This is no time to circle the wagons.

Most of society is tone-deaf to the issue, for others, the subject of harmful language permeates their existence so much so, mentioning the need for language sanity is beating a dead horse.

Sanity check: We Americans cannot sit in the peanut gallery, and let others abort harmful language.  Saying you have no time is a lame excuse.  Look at it this way, any normal person is fighting the old ways and old words, refusing to be a prisoner of the past - we're not all Karens and thugs.

Fight words with actions, not words.


No horses were harmed, prisoners taken, or wagons circled.

The following words are deemed harmful by Stanford and used in the above tome.  See the entire memo and list, here.

homeless persons
gray beards
man in the middle
circle the wagons
beating a dead horse
sanity check
lame excuse
normal person

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