Oh for the love of…
The Thrill Of Word-Policing
Come, dear reader. Let us visit the publication now laughingly referred to as Scientific American. In particular, an “analysis” piece by Juan P Madrid, in which we’re told,
Dr Madrid, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, begins his attempt to persuade with a tale of poetic drama:
This summer, a team of students and I were enjoying breathtaking views of the night sky while we collected data using telescopes at the McDonald Observatory in West Texas. One night, when we were outside on a telescope catwalk…one of my students amazed me with her interpretation of the fate of Andromeda, the galaxy closest to our Milky Way. In describing how these two galaxies will merge a few billion years from now, she said they will experience “a giant galactic hug.”
I know. The very stuff of amazement. Brings a tear to the eye.
The kindness, but also the accuracy, of the language my student used was in sharp contrast to the standard description we use in astronomy to explain the final destiny of Andromeda and the Milky Way: “a collision.”
Apparently, the word collision is, for Dr Madrid, much too brutal and masculine when referring to the unstoppable convergence of two galaxies, and the subsequent merging of the supermassive black holes at their centres – an event that will entail the sling-shotting of countless stars and their orbiting planets, and which may release energy equivalent to around 100 million supernova explosions, and subsequently be detectable halfway across the universe.
A mere hug, you see. All that kindness.
A galactic hug is scientifically truthful, and it’s led me to believe that astronomers should reconsider the language we use.
Here, Dr Madrid’s own use of language – specifically, the word reconsider – is somewhat misleading and just a little coy. The reconsidering he has in mind would of course be enforced by those suitably enlightened, much like the author himself – as hinted at with enthusiasm later in the piece:
Referees, editors, and editorial boards can step up to…stop the use of violent, misogynistic language that is now pervasive.
So, not so much a reconsidering, then, as a coerced neuroticism. A mandatory affectation, on which career progress may very much depend. But hey, where’s the fun in being a pretentious and neurotic scold if you don’t have the power to make others jump through hoops?
Jeez-O-PETE, but what a fucking loony-toony-maroony. Improbable as it may seem, these self-styled SooperDooperGenii© never cease to amaze: forever coming up with new ways of bringing saner, more sensible sorts to a dead screeching halt, scratching their heads in awed stupefaction at yet another wondrous exhibition of rampant, pointless imbecility. No matter how extreme, how over-the-top SPECTACULAR the previous ludicrous record-setter was, they nevertheless contrive to raise the bar of Teh Schtoopid with each successive outing. It’s damned nigh miraculous, really.
And to think: within about a week, no more, another Halfwit Hall O’ Fame hopeful will come staggering along to make this week’s tromping of one’s own dick nonpareil look like weak beer in comparison.
Dr Madrid being an astronomer and college prof and all, you’d think a well-above-average level of intelligence would surely have been required just to land the job at all, much less keep it for more than, say, three or four hours. And yet.