Tag Archives: Exaggeration

Singular Or Plural

Words, dude.

Words fascinate me. I love to learn new words, to revel in the onomatopoeia of certain words like tintinnabulation or bark. I love to learn the history of words as well, to see where we’ve come and possibly guess where we’re going.

I love words.

All of which goes to say that I’ll be talking about words today. More specifically, the use of is and are. Don’t worry, though, it’s not going to be boring. Promise.

Here’s my question: When did the United States become a singular noun, instead of a plural one? I mean, think about it. There are 50 states comprising the United States. Notice the s there on the end of State? That’s to indicate that there are more than one state involved in the whole enterprise.

Which should mean that, in discussing the aggregate, we should be saying “The United States are going to welcome people from other nations.” Instead, what we hear these days is, in fact, singular: “The United States is going to welcome people from other nations.”

The even more intriguing thing is that, in the beginning? When the nation first pulled itself out of the chaos surrounding English occupation? We referred to the country in the plural: The United States are. . .

In an interesting bit of internet detective-izing, a redditor poster LeftHandedMasterRace, aka Kyle, decided to investigate a rather old quote that purported to answer the questin of the pluralized singularity. The quote is this: “There was a time a few years ago when the United States was spoken of in the plural number,”reads an article published April 24th, 1887, in The Washington Post. “Men said ‘the United States are’ — ‘the United States have’ — ‘the United States were.’ But the war changed all that.”

Was this really the case? LeftHandedMasterRace decided to find out. So he went digging using some actual Google tools actually designed for this sort of thing and found, oddly, that the quote wasn’t really an exaggeration. It wasn’t a piece of fluff designed to make something sound even better than it was.w680

He set up a program to check the use of “the United States are” and “the United States is” between 1760 and 2008. What he found was almost perfect backing for the Washington Post quote.

Although the plural usage continued well into the 20th century, it was on a quick trend downward toward zero. The reforging of the union following the Civil War really did seem to put the United States into the singular feeling.

We became a nation, holding states, rather than many states that stood together to form a nation. It’s a subtle difference, but one that says a lot about how we look at ourselves and our country.

A hat tip to Robert T. Gonzalez at io9.com for bringing this up.

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Who Needs A Psychiatrist When You’ve Got An iPhone?

Okay, sure the headline might have been a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s a (somewhat) serious question.

Here’s why.

Despite how amazingly complex is our brain function, it can be easily fooled and made to go along with the plans of others. For instance, if you smile at someone, odds are that that person will smile back. If you smile, you will feel better.

It should be the other way around. That is, if you feel good, you smile. And that’s true. You do. But it seems as if the mere physical act of twitching a few facial muscles is enough to fool the brain into thinking that, “If I’m smiling, I must be happy so I’d better start the happy time now.”

Which is the thinking behind MoodTune. According to the developer, Harvard psychiatrist Diego Pizzagalli, if you turn on MoodTune for about 15 minutes a day, play some games in the app, it’s possible you can lift yourself out of depression. It’s possible, Pizzagalli said, this app could be all the treatment a depressed person needs. No meds. No talk therapy. Just an iPhone app.

Pizzagalli started working on depression in 1999 and released some of his most important papers in 2001. The papers focused on “biomarkers,” signals of response in the brain to antidepressants and psychotherapy. Take a peek inside the brain, and you can see areas light up–or fail to light up–in response to treatments. Whether an area lights up or not predicts, with considerable accuracy, whether a treatment works, he says.

So, the thinking goes, what we if we illuminate those regions another way? The brain could readjust appropriately without the need for a pill. The anterior cingulate cortex is associated with depression and also works when snap decisions need to be made, Pizzagalli says, so perhaps having someone make snap decisions would help treat depression. He developed desktop software in his lab to test it out and was happy enough with the results to delve deeper into the technology.

And there’s the whole thing with the physical act of smiling making us feel happy. The thinking here is that it doesn’t matter what causes these specific areas of the brain to light up. If they light up, you feel less depressed.

I don’t know about you dudes, but I find that idea rather fascinating. It speaks to a sort of hacker mentality, but working in neurons instead of silicon chips. I think it’s sort of like an extension of behaviorist approaches to therapy. Behaviorists don’t care why you do something if the thing is what you want to stop. They just work on stopping the behavior and feel like that will take care of the underlying problem as well. In a nutshell. Generally speaking.

This is some really strange, but very cool stuff, very next-level thinking. My concern, though, arises from an analogy. If you’ve got a car tire that keeps going flat, you go out and get a new tire. Problem solved. You don’t care why it went flat because you’ve got a new tire and all is good. But what if the reason your tire kept going flat was because you kept parking next to a sharp bit of curb and it would scrape against the tire, causing it to gradually lose air. Pretty soon, you’re going to need another new tire because the underlying problem is still there.

Think of that like the brain. You’re seriously depressed. You treat this by tricking your brain into lighting up some key anti-depression areas by playing some games. You feel better. But the root cause still is there, yeah? Won’t the depression come back? Keep coming back?

I guess that’s why they research these things. We keep asking questions and they keep trying to find the answers.

I picked this information up from an interesting article at Popular Science. You might want to go over there and read the whole thing. It’s really absorbing. I know I learned some things, and that’s always good.

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The Dreaded Date Of Doom Is Upon Us!

by Richard

It’s a date we’ve always feared, even while we always knew it would arrive.

Welcome to June 13, 2012. Welcome to the 13th birthday of Hyper Lad. Welcome to having three teenaged dudes in the same family, at the same time, under the same roof.

Welcome to hell.

All right, that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration. Hard to believe, I know. I mean, if I’m not known for anything, it’s not staying away from exaggeration. Or being direct. Or something.


Even though this will be Hyper Lad’s entry into teenage dude-dom, it’s not like we’ve not had experience with it. With his two older brothers, Zippy the Monkey Boy and Sarcasmo, being around, Hyper Lad has thought he was five years older than he really was since he was 10 or so. So he’s been acting like a teenager for a while.

Of course, now he’ll be acting like a teenager, but with the added benefit of having that witch’s brew of toxic hormones and emotions running riot inside his tiny, underdeveloped brain. Just like every other teenager.

We’re not that worried, though.

Hyper Lad really is a good kid. Not only is he smart and definitely takes after his mother’s side of the family when it comes to looks, but he’s also the most sociable of the young Jones dudes.

While Zippy the Monkey Boy and Sarcasmo struggled through middle school, Hyper Lad is skating through with a smile on his face and many phone numbers belonging to girls on his phone’s contact list. He’s enjoying the heck out of middle school and that, dudes, requires an amazing amount of grace and social skill.

He’s also darn funny.

Beyond the goofing around and being silly that is the hallmark of every young teen and tween, he says the most amazingly astute and hilarious things. I won’t push those on you because, unlike most parents, I know with funny kid sayings, you really did have to be there. Context matters. And in the context of our house, that young dude is hilarious.

Hyper Lad, in addition to all those good points, is just a good kid. When he reads about something bad happening in the newspaper (he reads the newspaper! Wow! [Okay, mostly for the comics, but it still counts.]), he actually thinks about it and offers a sympathetic comment and evinces a desire to help.

I’m a lucky dad in this one important way, Hyper Lad is just plain nice to be around. That’s pretty good news, considering he’ll still be around for the next five years.

Of course, all that could change with the flick of a hormone receptor, turning Hyper Lad into Screaming Rage Man. Still, on this sort of day, I think we’ll come down on the optimistic side and expect the best.

Happy birthday, Hyper Lad!

Here’s hoping we let you make it to the next one.

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