This is the way to deal with frightened passengers

By now pretty much everyone must have heard about the academic who was taken off a plane and questioned by authorities because the passenger seated next to him while the plane was waiting to be cleared for takeoff had alerted the authorities that he was behaving suspiciously, concentrating on writing strange symbols on a piece of paper and rebuffing her attempts at conversation as she tried to find out what he was up to. It did not help that he was youngish, swarthy looking, and bearded.
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Misusing misnomer

I have recently encountered many instances of people on the radio and on TV using the word ‘misnomer’ (which has a dictionary definition of “a name that is wrong or not proper or appropriate”) when they seem to mean ‘misconception’ or ‘misunderstanding’. This interview on NPR with an Indiana congressman provides an example of this increasingly common usage. He uses the word at the 2:33 mark in response to a question that begins at around 2:00.
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Demanding too much of dancers

The heavy toll that American football takes on players leading to long-term brain damage has been much in the news recently. It has led to some reforms especially among the younger age groups but not enough. People have been more focused on the bone-crunching tackles by large players in college and professional football while the cumulative effect of many small collisions over a long time has still not been widely recognized.
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The challenge of eating perfectly ethically

I am neither a vegan nor a vegetarian. But I think that vegans definitely have the higher moral ground when it comes to ethical behavior, followed closely by vegetarians since they include all animals in the circle of compassion. But for some reason, some people take aim at them, trying to find areas in which they are not ‘pure’ in their avoidance of animal suffering and using that to accuse them of hypocrisy.
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Who wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare?

The 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death on April 23rd has brought to the fore once again the question of whether the man identified as the author actually wrote the plays. Over 3,000 people, some of them quite eminent, have signed on to a document titled Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare that examines the case for and against him. Two eminent Shakespearean actors Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance have added their voices to the list of skeptics.
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The Spelling Bee gets even worse

I simply do not understand the attraction of the Scripps Spelling Bee competition. It now results in young people spending an extraordinary amount of time memorizing the spelling of words so esoteric that one is never likely to use or hear them except in highly technical contexts. In its early years the winning words were blackguard, conflagration, concede, litigation, breach, saxophone, license, and primarily. In recent years they were appoggiatura, Ursprache, serrefine, guerdon, Laodicean, stromuhr, cymotrichous, guetapens, knaidel, stichomythia, and feuilleton. (See here and here for my earlier posts and in particular read the comments to those posts by readers who added interesting information and insights.)
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Phone menus mainly waste your time

My heart sinks when I call a company and get the beginnings of a phone menu that requires a series of voice responses or punching in numbers on the keyboard. The reason is that when I call, it is usually because the problem I have cannot be answered by an automated system and requires a human, so I do whatever it takes to short-circuit the system to get one. There is even a website that tells you how to do it for many companies.
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