Sticks and Stones and “Dotards”

Re the sticks-and-stones contest, following the old adage that “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”      Remember when some kid would spew off a string of bad words and mean but innocuous insults, and Mom or Grandma would sooth hurt feelings with the little rhyme…which in effect meant “if some kid hits you let me know, but if he calls you a bad name just laugh it off.”   Now like as not she might look around for someone to sue.

The North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il  has resurrected a good old  English word to toss at Donald Trump in insult: “dotard,” an Old-English word from the 14th Century. This cool new word, according to the excited media,  spurred linguists and English teachers all over the world to research the word—dotard.

Not that the word “dotard” is especially archaic, not to disappoint media writers that want to insinuate that Kim Jong-Il may be more knowledgeable than Donald Trump.  Within arms reach I find a variety of dictionaries, including a nifty little volume called New Oxford Spelling Dictionary:  The Writers’ and Editors’ Guide to Spelling and Word Division.  Edited by Maurice Waite, published by Oxford University Press, 2014.*

There, right in alphabetical order between the words “dotage” and “dot-com” is— “dotard,”   pronounced to rhyme with soldered, watered.    The etymology is from the same as:  doting,  one-who-dotes…as in a doting-grandfather.

It was a fun image to imagine the North Korean leader poring over his archaic English dictionaries searching for insults.

  • The most recent Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2004) also features the word “dotard” right in proper order.



What is a Fallacy?

[What is a Fallacy?  This is the question for Writing 101-Poetry course.]  Here’s the list I prepared to use as my outline for writing the post:

What is a fallacy?
Something widely believed but false.
No basis in fact
Cut from whole cloth
A rumor
An old wives’ tale
A lie?
Stretch of the imagination
Mistaken notion
History is full of fallacies.

Christopher Columbus Discovered America.
He didn’t — but most think he did.
Children learn this “fact” early in school
and it is never corrected
fallacies can’t be “unlearned.”
The best verification : “My teacher told me.”

SO…continuing with the writing prompt for today… I read some of the great entries of my classmates.  They were all correct, of course, but the definitions were ringing a bell in my head.  (whatever…lots of bells.)

So did a search of the word, and read theWikipedia definition and some others…which seemed close, but well, incomplete.  When I couldn’t find my hard-back dictionary I went on a search for it.

Went looking for my dictionary
heart-pounding, breath imprisoned,
silent voice whispering “Websters”
in plaintive and slightly panicky tones–
Where could it be?   Where has it gone?

Sorry to break the anticipation and tension, but I’ll cut to the chase.  Went downstairs to my “old” work station and (still holding my breath) spied my Random House Webster’s College Dictionary stacked unceremoniously in a pile with my well-beaten-up and strapping-taped paperback copy of the University of Chicago Spanish Dictionary, and a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style.    There was a pang of nostalgia from seeing these old pals sitting there all dusty, mixed up with umpteen drafts of my unfinished dissertation.

Any way,  <sniff>, back to the future here… I  find with relief that my definition of Fallacy is still accurate and current.  My faith in my spelling prowess is resored!    Apparently the definitions in the online-dictionary have just been updated to include numerous other shades of meanings–all of them correct, I hasten to add.

At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur tapping away at a stone tablet with a chisel…I will offer my definition (which, not coincidentally, is the same as Webster’s.)    Simply put:

When a falsehood  is accepted as truth,
it follows that any subsequent argument
or opinion based on it is rendered void.
This =  a Fallacy.

If someone tells a deliberate lie,
and others believe the lie and
and proceed to repeat and elaborate on it–
the result is: a Fallacy.
Any embellishment or embroidery of the
information, no matter if the re-teller
believes he is repeating the truth,
based on the original falsehood…
it remains false: a Fallacy.






How Did We Live Without our Cell Phones?

I have five great-grandchildren, and they all have tablets and cell phones…albeit the cell phones are under supervision.  They range from 10 to 2 1/2, and the older four are proficient in computer skills (at least on a basic level, two of the kids are seven years old.)     The youngest, for obvious reasons does not have a tablet, or access to cell phone use.

Their parents are my grandchildren, all in their 30s.  I have a photo of the oldest, at five years, sitting at my good old KayPro II (my first computer) typing away.

No, this isn’t me bragging about my grandkids…it is a treatise on Children and Computers in general.   I’m not trying to say that ALL kids everywhere have their own tablets, or even access to them…not even at school.    The point I am trying to make is that although it is still the dawning (or maybe the sunrise) of the digital age– and certainly children in certain world societies and/or economic levels have greater exposure to technological break-throughs than others–kids do have access to computers and methods of learning and teaching have changed drastically since “WE” (whoever we are) were kids.

In fact, if I may state the obvious, there are areas in the world that still do not have running water, inside toilets, or electricity.  I won’t even go into the issues of politics, availability of education, nor launch into a discussion of poverty-vs-wealth.

There is much discussion about the extent to which children who are not exposed to technological gadgets are deprived.

I will be the first person to admit that the internet is…well, GREAT (to lack a more expansive superlative) and agree that everything anyone could ever possibly want to know is available online.   This is excellent.  Research possibilities for students of all ages are phenomenal…just enter a key word, and PRESTO! there is a wealth of information.  The downside to this is that although there are internet bibliographies, endless links to endless sites, one of the negative aspects is that there is no extraneous information to “discover” along the way of the search.

A good example is The Dictionary.  Remember the clunky old book we dragged around, and laboriously searched the pages for a certain vocabulary word.  Sure, the word was there (usually, if we had a clue about how to spell it,) but half the fun…or torture…of searching for our destination word, was the bonus appearance of other words popping up during the search.

Unfortunately, now that they have the internet dictionary…the paper dictionaries are becoming obsolete in some places.   Please excuse me for being an old-fashion English teacher–which I’m not, exactly….but I maintain that the old dictionaries, and other research tomes, and the endless reference books on the library shelves can’t be replaced with a quickie visit to a site.

But, having said that, I admit to being something of a luddite, (one of those guys that smashed up the new machines because they saw them as taking away jobs) and its quite possible that I don’t know everything about the subject. (Quite likely in fact.)

One more thing…sobering, and widely believed to be impossible, or at least improbable, is that an artificial storage method can fail…power sources can fail.  That’s a worst case scenario, of course, but we all know Murphy’s Law: that anything that can go wrong…will.   I think that it is risky to try to put all of human knowledge online, at the mercy of  cyberspace a la 2001 Space Odyssey.

At the risk of being annoying, I did not know how to spell Odyssey, and didn’t want to leave the post I’m writing and go to a dictionary site…so I used a Latin dictionary.   I’m not sure what the point of this paragraph is, except that it illustrates my insecurities about online-posting…it is too easy to lose a post when I leave to snoop around online.  That wouldn’t happen with a paper dictionary, except that I can’t find mine.

Sigh… the moral here is the old saw: “…don’t do as I do, do as I say.”