A Reference Point

imagesIt is a Quixotic quest to find trusted sources that remain unimpeachable.  Police officers and clergy perform laudable work on a daily basis yet such positive actions are regularly overshadowed by the controversies of the few repugnant members of these professions.  The nightly news was a trusted source for decades but the editorial spin imposed by supposed news anchors, along with myriad, omnipresent outlets of information, the folks can no longer rely on Cronkite, Brokaw and Jennings to present the facts.  There remains(ed) one source that from toddlerhood has always seemed to be a bedrock of consistently reliable information.  Always honest, never biased, simply the facts.  Alas, it appears this referential resource is just as susceptible to the twists of subjectivity as every other opinion laden news outlet:

The Dictionary

To state the obvious, reference material like dictionaries, encyclopedias and the World Almanac, are composed by human beings; because humans are inherently biased creatures, the reference material is inherently biased as well.  While there are means to limit bias, such as removing the editorializing opinion, overseers of reference material possess an arrogant confidence that certain beliefs are universal and that the truth knows no bias.  It is true, objective reality does exist.  However, the truth is removed from objective reality in that human beings have consistently added perspective to reality in order to create “the truth” or more aptly, “the truth as we see it”.

Any personal bias is composed of a dash of survival instinct, a dollop of self-interest and two-thirds cup personal preference and prejudice that makes one view better than another.  Bias plays a part in the most minute aspects our lives.  Are you an artsy free spirit or a grounded entrepreneur?  Are they laid back hippies or bums?  Is the music too loud?  Can you even call that music?

Everything around us is a reflection of someone’s opinion.  The colored street signs and billboards were crafted based upon a decision by someone, somewhere, at some point in time.  The same is true for the most rudimentary life basics such as language and definitions. Someone decided that a particular collection of words would constitute the meaning of other words and phrases.  I believe that most people take such definitions for granted, never realizing that there exists an ever-so-subtle means to manipulate the way by which the members of a society think.  Academia, journalism and Hollywood are dominated by folks with a particular agenda crafted from views that generally fall between left-of-center and falling off the edge, radical left-wing.  These views influence the “objective” reality of life in these circles.  The stories they tell in books, television and movies, created for the world to absorb, reflect life within a cocoon of progressive reinforcement where the dominant ideas never face an iota of scrutiny.  Challengers to such ideology are written off as unenlightened bigots and then portrayed as uncultured simpletons in the next episode, article or broadcast.  Even the dictionary is not immune to this influence.  After all, someone must write it… and that someone or those someones have views to share.

These are some examples of the established pattern of biased facts based upon the dominant ideology:

from Dictionary.com: 

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lunatic%20fringe?s=t

LUNATIC FRINGE

noun

1.

members on the periphery of any group, especially political, social, or religious, who hold extreme or fanatical views.

Examples from the web for Lunatic Fringe

-Today, many would dismiss such crudely racist views as belonging to a tiny right-wing lunatic fringe.

-There is a lunatic fringe out there that is confused by reality.

Climate deniers are on the lunatic fringe of science and they can find plenty of company there.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/progressive?s=t

(Notice the positive connotations)

PROGRESSIVE

adjective

1.

favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are, especially in political matters:

a progressive mayor.

2.

making progress toward better conditions; employing or advocating more enlightened or liberal ideas, new or experimental methods, etc.:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/conservative?s=t

CONSERVATIVE

adjective
1.

disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or torestore traditional ones, and to limit change.
2.

cautiously moderate or purposefully low:

a conservative estimate.
3.

traditional in style or manner; avoiding novelty or showiness:

conservative suit.
4.

(often initial capital letterof or pertaining to the Conservative party.
5.

(initial capital letterof, pertaining to, or characteristic of Conservative Jews or Conservative Judaism.
6.

having the power or tendency to conserve or preserve.
7.

Mathematics. (of a vector or vector function) having curl equal tozero; irrotational; lamellar.
noun
8.

a person who is conservative in principles, actions, habits, etc.
9.

a supporter of conservative political policies.
10.

(initial capital lettera member of a conservative political party,especially the Conservative party in Great Britain.
11.

a preservative.

(notice the negative connotations)

-In the parodies, his vice president is fellow conservative pundit ann coulter.

-The bill was defeated and lord derby formed a minority conservative administration.

-The main opposition party, the conservative party, are opposed to membership.

-Several conservative mps voted against the major government and the vote was lost.

-Hence it is rational to be cautious and conservative about proposed changes.

The conservative government fell and a minority labour government was elected.

-As a result she was forced to resign as leader of the conservative party by her own mps.

-By this period though the influences had become regressive and conservative.

-Indeed he is widely praised by his successors, both labour and conservative.

From the Look Up option on my MacBook Pro…

VIRULENT

adjective

1

 (of a disease or poison) extremely severe or harmful in its effects.

• (of a pathogen, esp. a virus) highly infective.

bitterly hostile: a virulent attack on liberalism.

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2 thoughts on “A Reference Point

  1. I enjoy any look at reference books, so I liked reading this. I would add a clarification however. I took several Library Science courses in college. Not all dictionaries are created equal. For example, as my professor put it – “Webster’s is the People Magazine of dictionaries.” It’s intentionally dumbed-down to reach a wider readership. I suspect this is also true of internet-only dictionaries.

    On the other end of the spectrum, for English anyway, is the OED. It’s important to be able to trace changes in word origin and usage over time. Words switch from compliments to pejoratives, and even the meaning of nouns changes with cultural evolution. Most dictionaries don’t provide that level of context.

    Like

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