Tuesday, December 8, 2015

You Say ISIS, I Say ISIL, Let's Call the Whole Thing Off


A rose by any other name is still a rose, but is the same true of the terror world’s latest scourge, ISIS? Or ISIL? Or ISI? Or IS? Or DAESH? What’s in a name?

The winning appellation thus far has been ISIS, an acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (which is popularly understood by Americans to be Syria). Its predecessor, which called itself ISI (Islamic State of Iraq) grew from an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the Mujahedeen in Iraq, and a fun bunch of guys called Soldiers of the Prophet’s Companions.

By 2010, Jabhat Al-Nusra, a large Syrian opposition militia group, collapsed into ISI and the “S” was added for al-Sham. For Westerners, the last “S” in ISIS stands for Syria just fine with our usage and understanding. The more austere and stately IS stands for Islamic State, and while it sounds like the place where the B-student terrorists go to college, it is as acceptable in usage as ISIS, but for eyeball-grabbin’ newsertainment, ISIS has been the popular expression.

So why does President Obama insist on using ISIL in his addresses? ISIL is an acronym for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The Levant refers to all of the countries that border the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, which would additionally include Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and Jordan, and in the administration’s view, more accurately reflects the ambitions of Al-Baghdadi’s militia, as well as the nations that are most immediately vulnerable to its threat. Some component of the pundit class sees the president’s use of ISIL as unnecessarily obtuse.

Your final option is DAESH, which I understand is a real stinker as far as DAESH members are concerned. Secretary of State John Kerry prefers calling it DAESH, as it carries with it a very nasty dig. It too is an acronym, but for an Arabic phrase that is pronounced “al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa ash-Sham.” The actual meaning of the words are, “The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham,” which is fine on paper, but when spoken, apparently DAESH sounds like the words that mean “the sowers of discord (Dahes),” or "one who crushes underfoot (Daes).”

A sower of discord can include a thief, an adulterer, or worst of all, an apostate, and apparently it drives these indiscriminate murderers wild with hatred and rage, but hey, what doesn’t? A DAESH spokesperson communicated through the AP in 2014 that they would, "cut the tongue of anyone who publicly used the acronym DAESH.”

So take your pick. Go full John Kerry-style and give a Wahaabist mullah the finger by using DAESH, or  follow the president’s lead and use the conspicuously contrarian ISIL. Perhaps you’d prefer to keep it short and sweet with IS, or stick with the popularly preferred ISIS. A rose by any other name is still a rose, and it is likewise so with deluded zealot assassins, so in my opinion, it matters not a fig.

As long as we are naming things properly, this is the real Isis.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Words That Ought to be Obsolete, But Aren't

Digital technology has made a lot of words obsolete, but perhaps even more interesting than those cluttering the digital dustbin are the words that despite their illogic persist in current parlance. Two that come to mind are taping and filming.

Not much is taped or filmed these days. Even major Hollywood studios have switched largely to digital formats, though a good bit of 35mm filming continues. Film provides a warmth and color range that many directors believe digital cannot quite deliver. Nonetheless, expense and convenience rule the day and film is in the preponderate minority.

Likewise in audio recording there exists a school of thought that 2” magnetic tape, notably for drums, delivers a natural compression that can only be captured on analog media. Even so, most recordings released these days are recorded in digital formats.


With common popular recording, on cell phones or using contemporary recording devices, almost no one is filming to videotape or recording to audiotape. Yet, the process of digital audio and video capture is quite commonly referred to as taping or filming. Other such misnomers include dialing a phone number and doing paperwork in your office that never ends up on paper. Can you think of any others?


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Regime and Regimen, a Brief Reminder


Just a quickie: regime and regimen. Confusing the two is a rookie mistake, which is all the more reason not to make it. While both regimes and regimens can be cruel and brutal, one is a routine undertaken at regular intervals and the other is a structure of authoritative governance that controls a group of people.

A good way to remember the distinction is that you would not likely say Kim Jong Un’s regimen is strict, as he is rather a portly little butterball these days. Regimens often refer to exercise schedules, though not necessarily. They can be regular, repeated routines in any category, often in pursuance of personal betterment, for instance academics, musical instrument prowess or learning Korean.
 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Psychopath versus Sociopath: Is There a Difference?


There were two school shootings on John Lennon’s 75th birthday. All you need is love, right? And a nice stash of high-powered firearms, a lifetime of discontent and a dose of sociopathy, or is it psychopathy? You hear the terms tossed about pretty liberally by armchair psychiatrists in the wake of such incidents, the words often being used interchangeably, when in fact, psychopaths and sociopaths differ in significant ways.

Psychopaths are Lady Gaga fans, not because her music is in any way insane, but rather because of her huge hit, “Born This Way.” Psychopaths are hardwired for their mischief. They have lived a disturbed life since birth, one side effect of which is that they become very good at it. They often hold down jobs and present a façade of normalcy to the outside world. Having experienced negative reactions to their impulses from a very early age, they learn how to survive in society by creating a normalized persona behind which lurks a demented viewpoint. Ted Bundy is a classic psychopath.

A sociopath, however, comes to his iteration of antisocial personality disorder experientially or through an aggregating sense of having been wronged by society. Psychopaths and sociopaths share lawlessness, deception, aggressiveness and an inability to feel remorse or guilt, but sociopaths are not nearly as “good” at it, not having had to incorporate their antisocial impulses into a presentable façade over the course of a lifetime. Robert John Maudsley, the inspiration for the Hannibal Lecter character, was severely beaten throughout his childhood and was (according to Maudsley) raped by his father, largely theorized to be the source of his sociopathy, one that led him to a condition in which the mere presence of another person excited an internal obligation to kill that person.

There is of course much more information available on this distinction, and naturally, the two have plenty of shared traits, but it’s probably best not to toss those two terms around without a bit of consideration. After all, you don’t want to get on the wrong side of a psychopathic grammarian who resents your mischaracterization.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Mixed Metaphor Mashup


One of the most joyful ongoing pursuits of any linguaphile is the hobby of collecting of mixed metaphors.  Just yesterday a friend averted a political discussion that could have gotten ugly by saying she didn’t want to open up a whole new bag of worms, to which I replied that she was just reaching into her old can of tricks.

Mixed metaphors come in a variety of shapes. A common one, like the examples cited in the opening paragraph, is the act of attempting to say a common comparative phrase, but  substituting one component of the phrase with a different word. The best ones are unintentionally funny or in some way ring the bell of irony.

I recall a good one from Daniel Menaker’s fine novel, The Treatment, in which the protagonist’s Indian therapist refutes his patient’s claim that all single women in New York are emotional wrecks by suggesting, “There are plenty of fish in the sea hitting on all eight cylinders.” Non-native speakers often utter them to great comic effect.

You might be getting your ducks on the same page or Hillary’s poll numbers might be dropping through the roof, but if you truly hold your seat to fire, even if your eyes have never set foot on a mixed metaphor, you can have more fun than a hand-basket full of monkeys collecting them.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"Live Free or Die," a Brief History


“Live Free or Die” is the state motto of my native New Hampshire and it is without even a remote challenger the best of all of the state mottos. But where did it come from? Like so many good things, it came in the mail.

General John Stark, New Hampshire’s most celebrated Revolutionary War figure, composed the phrase in a toast denoting the anniversary of a victorious battle, but he was too ill to deliver it in person so he sent it in a letter to be recited at the event. “Live free or die,” his toast read. “Death is not the worst of all evils.”

That second part would look great on the license plate too.

As a small child growing up in Manchester, New Hampshire, I have distant memories of playing in Stark Park, marveling at the stacked, painted cannonballs and concrete-filled Revolutionary War cannon, imagining a battle with General John leading the charge and me loading cannonball after cannonball into these great guns and annihilating rows of redcoats. Had I known at six years old that it was he who had uttered those words that had at first frightened and then invigorated me, I might have joined ROTC in grammar school.

The identical phrase, “Vivre libre ou mourir,” was popular during the French Revolution, so it is likely that our man Stark lifted it from them. “Live Free or Die” was accepted as the state motto in 1945 and it immediately appeared on the new emblem and soon enough, on the license plates, which as the great Bill Morrisey pointed out, are often made by prison inmates.

New Hampshire. The gnarly motto, the craggy White Mountains, the inhospitable winters, the now-fallen Old Man of the Mountain, all conspire to make New Hampshire’s mind-blowing beauty and deeper-than-wide conception of community a little rough-hewn, something you have to do a little work for, but once you do that work and experience the richness of living in New Hampshire, then you know a depth of human experience I have never felt anywhere else. So a big “Live Free or Die” shout-out to all of my friends back home in New Hampshire from me out here in California, where our state motto is “Eureka.”

Monday, August 24, 2015

Subject and Object Pronouns: More Hard Core Grammar


Using subject pronouns correctly can make you sound like you’re auditioning for the part of Thurston Howell III in a film reprise of Gilligan’s Island: “It could well have been he; I’ve never trusted the professor.”

Though grammatically incorrect, the object pronoun, him, would almost always be used in this case, at least in speech. Picture this: a cop slams you into a wall and shoves a mug shot in your face. “Is this the guy who sold you the heroin?”

You’re not going to say, “It’s he! It’s he!” No, what you’re going to do is deny, deny, deny, deny. You played the game, now you do the beef. You can do a year, and your homies will appreciate it. Do it for the ‘hood! Man up, thug! But if you were going to roll over and squeal like a little pig, you’d say, “It’s him! It’s him!”

It’s more conversational, but it is in fact wrong. I am for the most part a prescriptivist in grammar, in that there must be a compelling reason to deviate from existing conventions, and because it’s more comfortable to say, mostly because of repeated error, for me isn’t reason enough, so I try never to use object pronouns where a subject pronoun is called for. Admittedly though, if in an LAPD choke-hold, I suspect I would burp out a feeble, "It's him! It's him!" In writing though, you can call me Thurston the Third with regard to subject pronoun use.

The most common subject pronoun use is easy. I, you, they, he, she, we. I booked a gig. You brought your parents. They were horrified. He stormed out. She followed. We perform in drag. Object pronouns are used when you are substituting a pronoun for something functioning as the object of a sentence. Me, you, them, him, her, us. You’ll notice that the second person subject and object pronouns are identical.

If you ponder that a while, you’ll also eventually notice that if you were to attempt to use both the subject and object forms of the second person pronoun in a single sentence, you would be forced into using the reflexive from of the second person pronoun, yourself, as the object pronoun. “You are only fooling yourself, Donald.”

The most common mixup with subject and object pronouns is with the Mary and I construction when it appears as the object of a sentence. It’s Mary and I won the prize, but The prize was awarded to Mary and me.

So the moral of the story is that using the correct subject form in some sentence structures makes you sound snobby. If you want to get that one wrong in speech, that’s no big deal. Proceed. Avoid it in formal writing. Either write it properly, or if you really hate the way the correct expression looks and feels, rewrite the sentence. Getting the “Mary and I” wrong in direct object use should make you wince a little, and any other subject versus object pronoun errors should make you writhe in pain.




Friday, August 21, 2015

The Verbing of Adjectives: Will the Coining Never Stop?


The nouning of verbs and the verbing of nouns have both been covered in these pages, mostly in terms of their popularity as business jargon. Sad enough, but there have recently been credible reports of the verbing of adjectives.

The one I heard about was robusting. A PR professional who reads this blog called it to my attention and I assumed it had been uttered in a meeting, but she sent me the following graphic:

                           

This is from a systems security industry trade rag called Information Security Buzz, and one must assume that the editor rather liked this particular usage mangle. I rather don't and I am gratified to have found out from another reader that the street has beaten Information Security Buzz on this particular case of adjectival verbing, this from UrbanDictionary.com:

You'll notice this interpretation of the term "robusting" has garnered just five votes with only two of them positive (one of which is mine); nonetheless it is the top answer at Urban Dictionary for that word. My guess is that the author of the definition was attempting to write "act" rather than "art," but it more or less works either way.

Disgusting though it may be, I prefer this definition to the business definition, "to make robust," as it contains some component of comedy and mischief, whereas the business editor's linguistic laceration suffers from both its self-importance and its misplaced sense of cool.

Let me know if you find any other verbed adjectives.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Getting Ben-Hurred in Business


Having for the most part spent my working life as an ink-stained wretch, retail punching bag or cubicle rat, I am new to business meetings and am having a good time with some of the jargon. This recent delight is probably remedial to many readers, but it’s a relative novelty to me.

My favorite thus far has been the term, Ben-Hur. When one gets Ben-Hurred, it means a relatively small issue has distracted a manager, which has in turn caused him or her to turn away from a more important matter. It refers to a moment in the movie "Ben-Hur" when Charlton Heston’s character meets a group of people who are going to see Jesus Christ deliver the Sermon on the Mount. Poor old Ben elects not to join them and misses out on one of the defining pieces of Christian oratory. It’s like missing the “I Have a Dream” speech, the Gettysburg Address and Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance all at once.

In a business context, it might refer to someone getting wrapped up in a merchandising project and as a result, missing out on an opportunity to land a major client. It is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees or of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. It is the misapplication of resources born of a poor assessment.

I have been so entertained lately by business jargon that I am tempted to share another term here, but I wouldn’t want you to feel rag-dolled.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Imply versus Infer Through the Lens of Toby Keith


Some Grammar Dance entries have a low aspiration indeed—no big picture, no analysis of a trend, no solution to an age-old conundrum. Our ankle-high bar today seeks simply to clarify the difference between infer and imply. It’s an easy one to get wrong, but a bad one to get wrong as well, as it can unwittingly tumble  out of your mouth and you might not even recognize you’ve been pejoratively judged in a conversation.

In the case of the Berlin Wall, people tended only to jump over from one direction. The same is true of imply and infer; when people use the word infer, many make the mistake of thinking it means the same thing as imply, though rarely will someone say the word imply and think that it means infer

Think of it in terms of an internal versus an external action. Suppose you hear someone say, “I went to the Toby Keith concert. Unfortunately.” He is implying that the concert was bad. It is a rhetorical vehicle that has been used to make you think something without directly stating it. 

What you may infer from hearing someone say, “I went to the Toby Keith concert, unfortunately,” is that the person has dreary taste in music. Even though the intention on the part of the speaker was not to telegraph a preference for the worst that country music has to offer, the listener gleaned that through her own powers of deduction.

In order to imply, one must say something with an intended but not expressly stated alternate or additional meaning. When something is inferred, it is an opinion arrived at within the mind of a single individual based on empirical evidence and that person’s intuition. They differ pretty wildly, and it’s important to use them correctly.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Election Season and the Straw Man Argument


As the elections inch nearer, we should prepare ourselves for a waterfall of doubletalk, newspeak and lack of plain dealing. There are relatively few major bad faith arguing techniques, and if you learn what the chief cheap shots are, it will help you smell a rat before it gets into your kitchen or even worse, before you vote for it. We will be salting in these common rhetorical sucker punches over the course of the coming election season; today’s is the old standby, the straw man argument.

A straw man is an effigy, a dummy, a stuffed pair of pants and a shirt, two old boots and a hat, and when you attack it, it can’t fight back. The same is true of straw man arguments. The straw man arguer will make it seem like he is addressing a point of debate and will refute it vigorously, only he has shifted the argument slightly and is not directly addressing the point that is in play.

Let’s say a performer at an acoustic open mic plays an original song called Festering Wound in which he acts out ten minutes of a Civil War field amputation. The lady at the front table is upset because she brought her twelve year-old daughter to hear her big sister sing Michael Row Your Boat Ashore. She was scheduled next.

She says to him that she has come to this open mic before, and that it has always been quiet and nice, so she felt comfortable bringing her child. She further suggests that in the future if he’s playing an open mic and there are children in the audience, he might pick a different song, one that didn’t involve blood capsules and a hatchet.

He takes offense and says that she is a lousy parent for bringing her child into a bar. He accuses her of exposing the child to alcohol as a result of being a slave to her own irresponsible drinking. He goes on to accuse her of having no artistic vision and a quickness to censor that is worthy of a Nazi.

The author of Festering Wound has characterized a caring parent as an alcoholic who brings her child into the bar with her and lacks any artistic discrimination whatsoever. He creates an inaccurate and caricaturized representation of his opponent and attacks that instead of her argument.

Expect that kind of ugliness in the coming year and a quarter, highly skilled rhetoricians using straw men to beat the stuffing out of one another in an attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pro-forms: a Part of Speech Defined by its Exceptions


Pro-forms are an often-overlooked part of speech, mostly because they really aren’t one. They function as pronouns most of the time, and can rightly be called pronouns most of the time, but just as all dogs are animals while not all animals are dogs, all pronouns are pro-forms, but not all pro-forms are pronouns. Pro-forms are weird in that they are only really defined by their exceptions.

Simply put, a pro-form is a word that represents something or someone else that has been previously mentioned. It is often used as a writing vehicle to avoid repeating the same word or group of words twice in close proximity. “I played that Madden Football video game for the first time yesterday. Now I’m addicted to it and I am afraid to fly.” The word it is the pro-form with a classic pronoun function.

Instances of pro-forms that aren’t pronouns include so, there and do or did. “When Sean bungee-jumped off the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge without incident, Jules did too.” The word did is the pro-form here, and the phrase, bungee-jumped off the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge is the pro-form's antecedent. Notice that the pro-form here is the simple past form of the verb to do, and not a pronoun at all.

“Bill thinks he can climb Mt. Washington on a pogo stick. I don’t think so.” The antecedent here is climb Mt. Washington on a pogo stick and the pro-form is so, an adverb. In this case, it keeps us from writing, “Bill thinks he can climb Mt. Washington on a pogo stick. I don’t think he can climb Mt. Washington on a pogo stick.” Pro-forms are critical, and most people use them without knowing what they’re called. And now you do.

so

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Got Gots? Maybe You Should Have Fewer…

The word got is ugly to say, hear and think about. Aurally, it starts with a hard G in the back of the throat and initiates a dropping jaw and a burst of air that is corralled by the tongue, which is stopped up against the mouth’s frontal roof. Ick. And it’s a selfish word, very possessive and grabby.

In most cases when we might feel compelled to use got, it could be dropped without losing the sentence’s meaning. If you say, “I have got to quit training for the triathlon because my cigarette keeps going out,” the word got is redundant, and should be avoided.

That is not the case if the have or has in question is contracted; in such cases, the got is required. One iconic example of this that resonates with old people is AOL’s signature greeting, “You’ve got mail!” It wouldn’t quite sound right if it said, “You’ve mail.” If it said, "You have mail," that would be fine, but might lack the implication of delight or celebration that the marketing team at AOL intended.

It can be used for emphasis in special cases like, “You have got to be kidding me,” but if it ends up on your page, ask yourself twice if it has got to be there.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Dog Days of Summer: Named After a Star Canine


For most of us, the term “dog days of summer” needs no further explanation. In our mind’s eye we see an English bulldog lying on a patch of grass in the park, its eyes rolling back into its head and its once insouciant smile now a perplexed smirk as a foot-long pink tongue with black splotches lolls rhythmically in and out of its sagging maw.

But it is not for our fine furry friends that the dog days are named at all. It is for the rising of Orion in the final week of July and the first weeks of August just before sunrise along with his faithful dog, represented by the star Sirius, otherwise known as the dog star. This celestial pairing of Orion rising just before the sun was first noticed in North Africa and the Mediterranean, and something akin to the term "dog days of summer" began to appear in Egyptian and Roman writing in the centuries leading up to the Common Era.

While the view is decidedly different in the US, the timing of those days when you’re walking in cement shoes is identical in our part of the northern hemisphere, and we know it quite commonly by the term, "dog days of summer." We don’t see Orion do his morning routine from our vantage point, first heralding and then handing off the day to the sun, but we don’t really need to. We have our dogs. 


Monday, August 10, 2015

Cakewalk: a Great Word and a Quiet Revolt


Over the course of a week’s vacation in New Orleans, I ran across a mention of the Cakewalk dance, which as a word study is inspiring and depressing at the same time.

The Cakewalk grew out of the field antics of American plantation slaves who sought to entertain themselves by exaggerating the haughty promenade and effete strutting of their masters’ formal dances, which the house slaves would often observe and report back to the field hands. 

It grew to be a common distraction for the slaves, this sub rosa sarcasm, and while some plantation owners found the practice irksome, most found it as hilarious as the slaves did, only they by and large didn't understand that they were being lampooned. It was Jonathan Swift-level satire, with the delicious victory of the butts of the joke unaware that they were unwittingly laughing at themselves.

The slave owners would often hold competitions to see which of them owned the best “walker” as they were called. The dancers would strut and preen, prance and bow, doff their caps and wave canes; the winner would then be presented with a highly decorated cake, hence the name. Derived from the Cakewalk dance are several expressions that remain to this day, including, “piece of cake,” or “cakewalk” itself to describe something that is easily done, as well as “takes the cake.”

That America balanced her checkbook on the backs of slaves is one disgrace. That slave owners consumed without remittance not only their labor in the fields but also their leisure in music and dancing is another. That those same slaves were able to satirize their masters right under their noses with the Cakewalk is an act of genius, pride and sheer bravery.



Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Stripper's Report Card: Twerks Well With Others



New Orleans is apparently the home of twerking, so it is no surprise that it remains a place where twerking can occur without a moment’s notice. Last night as my lady Debra and I toured through Frenchmen Street in New Orleans, a terrific brass band was playing on the corner of Frenchmen and Chartres. The pandemonium was near absolute as a passel of three college-age white girls made their ways to the front of the crowd and began dancing. It was the classic Neapolitan ice cream mix of a blond, a brunette and a redhead; Debra cast a glance at the ladies and of their high-riding blue jean cut-offs she said, “Those look like twerking shorts.” Not sixty seconds later, one of the gals assumed the position and the floorshow began.

Like a baboon in mating season she thrust her butt cheeks high, and with a Marilyn Monroe storm-grate-and-white-dress leg splay along with a tongue-lolling look over one shoulder, she issued gluteal gyrations that if harnessed could potentially mitigate the current energy crisis. The other two were soon to follow. Then came the fanny-slapping, there having been some division of labor pertaining to expertise, as the twerker was highly skilled, as was the slapper, part of whose responsibilities were lip curling and more tongue lolling, caricatures of a woman in the throes of sexual abandon.

But where does the word come from? As I mentioned previously, it seems to have originated in New Orleans. According to research by Katherine Connor Martin, head of US dictionaries at Oxford University Press, it bubbled up from the bounce music scene in New Orleans in the 1990s. Martin cites a first recorded instance in 1993 on a dance record by DJ Jubilee called Jubilee All in which he utters the line, “Shake baby, shake baby, shake, shake, shake… Twerk baby, twerk baby, twerk, twerk, twerk.” Shakespeare it ain’t, but DJ Jubilee’s cultural influence has grown, its most widely observed demonstration having been Miley Cyrus’s notorious performance at the 2013 VMA awards.

It is theorized to be a derivative of “work,” as in “work it,” an exhortation to ramp up dancing suggestiveness that has been a known usage going back to the disco era and perhaps before. It may also be a conflation of “twitch” and “work,” for obvious reasons. One of the women who joined Debra and me on our stroll through Frenchman Street said, “If I ever saw my daughter doing that there would be hell to pay.”


A similar reaction greeted Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” when it became popular in the late 1950s, and that ire has since subsided entirely. Somehow I doubt twerking will ever enjoy the same social acceptance, but who knows? Perhaps some number of years from now, grandmothers will be gathering on the nursing home porch and leaning on walkers for support, twerking and flashing decades-old tramp stamps and remarking as to which among them can still bring the thunder.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Persuade versus Convince: It's Not Just a Matter of Degree

Today’s snippet is the difference between persuade and convince, which at first sniff might appear to be virtually synonymic, but whose proper usages differ.

A good way to get a comfortable hold on these two rascals is to know that you’ll never be convinced if you won’t be persuaded, while you can be persuaded without being convinced: though not convinced it was a good idea, Bill was persuaded to try LSD.

One element of convincing is helping someone arrive at a conclusion as a result of evidence. That is not to say you can’t be convinced on flimsy evidence. Any one person’s certainty is never a marker of absolute veracity, so in order to be convinced, one need not be even remotely correct. Still, after a good round of hearty convincing, the convinced is in a state of unshakable assuredness.

Persuasion is a softer science. It is an appeal to reason, to a higher sense of mind and being. The persuader perceives herself as having achieved an understanding that would be beneficial to others, and she shares her vision of how to reach this state of opinion, activity or consciousness. It is a process of seduction, this persuading, an importuning that presumes your desire for personal betterment and presents the upside of a preferred decision or personal disposition.


Persuaded can be used euphemistically to describe torture or intimidation through the rhetorical device of understatement. You could say, “Skinny Joey persuaded the guy to pay up by mailing him a human finger.” However, if you were to say, “Skinny Joey convinced the guy to pay up by mailing him a human finger,” the element of rhetorical understatement is gone, and it becomes merely a statement of fact.