Magic Sexy words designed to befuddle are red flags that scream out “bullshit”


YM-Jargon_1008292cThere is an old story about a candidate up for election to the US senate who would tour the rural areas in the south and deliver a redneck speech in which he would run down his opponent as follows

Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, he has a brother who is a known homo sapiens, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage, habitually practiced celibacy.

So yes indeed, by playing with words to befuddle those that might not have been too familiar with the precise meaning of such terms, he apparently managed to get successfully re-elected every time he played this card. To be honest, even though this was reported in Time at the time (yes, pun intended), I’m not sure it is actually true, but it does illustrate the topic I’m actually writing about here quite nicely.

So does stuff like this happen?

Actually yes it does, it is sadly a rather common practise to dress up rather dull and quite frankly daft claims with sexy sciency sounding words in order to befuddle and so sell an idea or belief. As an example, Megachurch pastor Wallace Henley, recently wrote a recent article in which he asserted  …

..the appreciation for infinite transcendent lift is never felt more urgently than when we feel the imprisonment of the finite immanent.

Or to translate that … he believes in heaven and hell, but instead of saying that, he instead deploys vague impressive sexy sounding words that craft the illusion of knowledge, but in fact just describe a claim that we are all quite familiar with by utilising fancy sounding words and has exactly zero evidence.

There are in fact various words that quite often pop up outside of their normal contextual usage, and so when you spot them, then you can save yourself a considerable degree of hassle by appreciating that these are simply indicators that announce “here be bullshit”. I’m not aware of any definitive list of such words, and I also doubt that there ever could be one because it would need to be constantly refined, but what many skeptics do is gain with experience is an almost instinctive recognition for them.

Here are a couple of rather common examples …

energy” – This is a word that is normally used to describe measurable well understood physical things such as sound, light, heat and electricity. Usage beyond that is an abuse of the word. Terms such as negative energy, chi energy, aura, psi or just a plain old energy-field do not describe anything real or measurable and have no meaning. Such usage is most commonly found within the context of the paranormal or alternative medicine, and when detected should set your bullshit meter buzzing, so keep an eye out for this one.

quantum” – Unless you happen to be engaged in a conversation with a theoretical physicist, then hearing this associated with some claim should put you on an immediate bullshit alert. Its usage outside its normal habitat is reason enough to be extremely wary, and is in fact it is very popular at the moment; Google it and you get over 42 million hits including “quantum health”, “quantum-Touch Energy healing”, “Quantum Consciousness”, “quantum business school”, etc… It might sound impressive, but when used like this, it usually relates to some form of woo that you should consider being more than a little bit wary of.

natural” – Now this one has been rattling about for a few decades; but what does it actually mean? As a bit of marketing hype it sounds great. The thought of selecting a natural offering in contrast to a chemically saturated substitute would lead you to think that the “natural” choice is a superior healthier offering. However, before you make that assumption, consider this. Substances that are “natural” include mercury, arsenic, plague, MRSA, the flu virus and many other similar quite deadly alternatives. On the other hand, engineered compounds have been designed to be effective, safe, and have been clinically tested to prove that they will do you no harm. In other words, a “natural” branding is just marketing hype. While it might imply a healthier option, it does not in any way state that it actually is good for you.

Organic” – Very much in vogue and marketed as a superior, more expensive, and far healthier alternative.

Why?

The nutritional value within a plant is determined by its genetic structure. Plants gain what they need from the soil and any fertilizer given. If what it needs is missing, it does not grow. Using natural manure or an artificial fertilizer makes no difference, it grows just the same with perhaps slight variances in its mineral content. Pesticide residue is harmless and is not a health risk. Organic is not safer or more nutritious, its just more expensive, that’s all.

“Consumers may choose to buy organic fruit, vegetables and meat because they believe them to be more nutritious than other food. However, the balance of current scientific evidence does not support this view” – UK Food Standards Agency – [http://www.food.gov.uk/foodindustry/farmingfood/organicfood/]

The above is just a small sample, there are many more. You can no doubt quickly come up with your own additions, and so over time it can be built up into a quite comprehensive bullshit alarm system.

Here are a few more suggestions. Be wary of “Western Medicine” being used as a derogatory term and also the phrase “Alternative Medicine” should set alarm bells ringing in your mind. As observed by many, the correct term for “Alternative Medicine” that actually works is “Medicine”.

How about “detoxify”, “crystal healing” and “vibrations”. Sigh! yes sadly it just goes on and on, and is perhaps a truly endless list that retains the common underlying intent of befuddling you with meaningless sound bites, so be wary …

… because if you don’t watch out then the quantum energy vibrations might infuse with your aura and so you would fail to detoxify the clarity of your ability to transcend the infinite.

… oh wait … that last sentence was bullshit, but if you had already worked that out then well done, your bullshit detector is fully functional.

 

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