Monday, January 2, 2023

news of the year

It's a new year, and time for some news.

1. Reading about the impact of Pope Benedict emphasizes just how arbitrary it is to evaluate such things on the occasion of a person's death. It has in this case the advantage over doing so at the time of his retirement that it gives us more time perspective, but there's no other reason that now is better than a little earlier or later. His legacy is an important topic: if he hadn't died, would we still not be discussing it?

2. Much fuss about a Stanford "Harmful Language" word usage guide. Please note that this sort of thing is not new. In 1990, the University of Missouri School of Journalism released a list of words for journalists to avoid. One of the slighted terms was "fried chicken." Which caused Mike Royko to famously write, "Fried chicken, fried chicken, fried chicken. I said it and I'm glad."
My take on lists like Stanford's is that most of the entries are actually good advice. But most of the ones cited by those shocked over this are not actually harmful (there's no argument over the harmful ones), just at worst slightly bumptious. What makes this sort of list toxic is the imputation of imposition, that obloquy will ensue if you don't follow the precise rules. Can we relax over this a little? By the same token, nobody who says "Happy Holidays" is actually trying to ban Christmas.

3. The Mineta San Jose International Airport has decided to rename itself the San Jose Mineta International Airport. Apparently if the eponym is used as an infix, it's harder to leave it out. Okay ...

4. Lots of rain locally this week. A little flooding, too.

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