Etymology and bats

 I wondered today about the origin of the term, “fired” (a.k.a. laid off). So I looked it up, and according to an online eytmology dictionary , it is a play on the word “discharge” which means both to dismiss from a job and to fire a gun. In my brief search of the Internet, I found a number of other more colorful theories and was reminded that nonsense information and rampant speculation spread like wildfire, but facts — not so much. For example, no matter how many times it shows up on a little known facts list, it is NOT true that a duck’s quack does not echo.
However, it apparently is true that bats always turn left when exiting a cave. This is a useful bit of information, if you’re like me and want to know which way the bats are going – so you can run screaming in the other direction. It’s hard to find a legitimate source for why bats do this, but I’ll subscribe to the explanation that it’s just an evolved instinct to avoid the colony ending up in a concussed heap at the mouth of the cave.  (Also, in defense of the creatures, I learned that vampire bats adopt orphans. That’s nice.)

Finding legitimate sources on the web seems to be getting harder and harder.  (Yes, I know my mind is wandering today. But I did include a disclaimer in my very first post that there wasn’t always going to be a point…) The Georgetown University library has a useful checklist to help evaluate the fact-worthiness of an Internet source:  http://library.georgetown.edu/internet/eval.htm.

  

I think it would be useful to have a checklist for evaluating the bias vs. news factor as well — for any news, online, televised, or print. I’d like to see a system that encouraged a return to basic, informative journalism. (See previous posts…)  For example, if it starts with “so and so says…”, it’s likely full of cherry-picked quotes, so it would have high bias value. If the article contains more than 3 words with strong connotations and poetic value, it’s low news value as well. But if an article is old school and answers the questions of who, what, when and where in the first paragraph and leaves why for the editorial page, then it should get the highest rating for news content.  Other suggestions?

Published by kristalynn

I am Krista Tibbs, the author of ""Uncertainty Principles", "The Neurology of Angels" and "Reflections and Tails". My heart smiles at informed opinions, belief in human potential, advances in neurology, True North, clever ideas, and kittens.

2 thoughts on “Etymology and bats

  1. I’ve learned and accepted that there is no black and white, even with many so-called facts. Everything is biased in some way cuz that’s the nature of our interaction with the world. Yes, there are a few basic things that can be commonly agreed on, like the President being sworn in at so-and-so time, a bill getting passed according to a #-# vote, someone winning a contest, etc. But deciding which collection of facts is really the most relevant already introduces bias, in my mind. Knowing a little bit more or less of the relevant facts kind of colors the story. For example, if a journalist needs to report on a murder, are the police and coroner’s reports the only reliable sources of info? Is it important to know what the neighbor saw? What the perp knows? And you know that those stories won’t all be the same… And that’s just the beginning of how biases can factor in.

    Just a thought.

  2. I absolutely agree. I was talking about the crude categorization of things that are blatantly agenda-driven or loose in the fact department. Everything you’ve described is the next step in the bias filter, and as you’ve pointed out, it’s much subtler. That’s where respected news organizations have a scary influence, because it’s more subliminal. I haven’t fleshed it out yet, but I have a thought about defining a priori what information and how much (i.e., number of robberies) will be reported on, so that we can strip out false heuristics and undue influence during crucial political times. But that is a subject for another post, I guess. =)

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