Recently I was listening to some pundits on the radio, arguing about something or other. Amid the usual “The fact of the matter is…” and “At the end of the day…” and “Some people say…” and a host of other worn-out conversational crutches, I heard one that was a fine example of “Citation Laundering”; the repetition of a “fact” until it becomes accepted as true.
To underline her point that an issue had a number of elements, the pundit used this simile: “It’s like all the words Eskimos have for snow.”
Yet another one of those things that “everybody knows.” And, yet again, turns out everybody’s wrong. In fact, Eskimo-Aleut languages have about the same number of words for snow as English does.
Another of my favorite “citation launderings” is divorce statistics. The most commonly quoted stat is that 50% of marriages end in divorce. Experts disagree on the actual number. Veteran pollster Louis Harris says that only about 11 or 12 percent of people who have ever been married have ever divorced. Researcher George Barna did a professional survey which was designed to reflect the nation as a whole. He found that 24 percent of adults who had ever been married had experienced divorce.
But clearly it’s nowhere near 50%.
Just because we repeat something and everyone nods in agreement does not make it true. No matter how many believe it, you don’t have to wait an hour after eating to go swimming. And we use more than 10% of our brains; almost 100% actually. Well, most of us, anyway.
Toilet water doesn’t consistently rotate differently in Australia than it does in North America. And bulls are color blind, so seeing red means nothing to them.
I don’t know why I am so intent on correcting errors lately. Perhaps it’s now out of my system. Or not.
We shall see.
Today’s Fact Cetera
In an average year, 13 Americans are killed by vending machines that fall on them.