© 2008 -- 2011 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Another note on the way the language works, or

I just passed along some erroneous information

I read this sentence today in Discover magazine:
People who grew up watching black and white television are more likely to dream in black and white than are people who grew up watching color.

Then later when I saw S, I wanted to share my new found knowledge with her, so I said:
Did you know that people who grew up watching black and white TV are more likely to dream in black and white.

Now that may be true, but it isn't what the magazine's sentence said. The magazine said if you put two people side by side, one who whatched black and white TV as a kid and one who watched color TV as a kid, if one of them dreams in black and white, the odds are that it is the one who watched black and white TV.

My sentence said if you asked someone who grew up watching black and white TV whether he dreamed in color, chances are good he'd say no.

If you don't find that difference as fascinating as I do, than either you don't hear the voices in your head, or you haven't exhausted your brain by spending too much time working with words.


  1. That is exactly the problem and the promise of our human condition. The ability to recreate through our own communication an unending array of ideas. Weather false or fact the words we speak (or write) sends out an encrypted message for others to decipher. It is the fulfillment of the black promise given in the garden, "you will be like gods..."

  2. Do robots dream of electric sheep?

  3. And a little more information on "more likely" would be good. 49/51?

    Causal issues? People who grew up with B&W will all be in their 50s or older. A factor? What if young people dream in colour and it fades to B&W as they age?

    Has the work been replicated?

    So many issues!

  4. I do hear voices in my head, constantly, and some damn band that continually plays songs I am sick of.

    Oh yes, my brain would surely be exhausted to try and work words as much as you do.

    I am not so tough on myself, I just try to get the point across.

    I do appreciate it to read it though, your efforts are not wasted!

  5. Communication is difficult, even under the best of circumstances, and when you take into account all the shades of meaning of certain words, and the different life experiences of the communicators, and the different levels of effort given to being precise, it is a wonder that anyone ever communicates anything accurately at all.

    Perhaps we don't, really.

  6. Yes it's interesting isn't it Grandpa? Not only too many words but too few can change the whole context of truth...I'm a sure a lawyer would spot that also :)

  7. Thanks, Braja. You just put me in with that whole cast of lawyers.

    Oops, sorry, LegalMist. It's good to be cast with lawyers. :-) Besides, as you say, who really communicates anyway?

    J Cosmo. Those were the exact same questions I had. Cheers.

    KMcJ, I think they do. At least, Harrison Ford imagines they do in black and white.

    You're right, Marty. It is the promise.

  8. Thanks, Rachael. I'm glad they're not wasted. And judging from the results I've seen so far on your sites. Keep listening to those voices. Or better still, keep talking back to them. Let them know the kind of music you want to hear.

  9. Cosmo makes some good points.
    Mind boggling!
    I critique everything I read instinctively, and find much of it to be of the "you know what I mean" variety. ARGGGG!
    I love to find the right word to make things unambiguous and fantatsize about writing CLEAR instruction booklets for products. I forget myself in the work - often a good thing ;->
    Thanks, Grandpa, ALOHA!

  10. And what about people in the pre-TV era??!
    I wonder....

  11. Grandpa, you must have a field day in this blogger's world! Plenty of people, saying what they don't mean/meaning what they don't say...are those two sentiments exactly alike in meaning? Thanks so much for coming over to OWL blog. I hope I don't violate your tender and engaged brain. :-) <3

  12. Great reader comments- all fab and sorta!

  13. That's really interesting!

  14. I'm guessing from your post (nice nuance) that you may also share my love of dangling or misplaced modifiers? People think I'm crazy.

  15. Aloha, Cloudia. If only everyone shared that passion for getting the right word and the word right.

    Indy, that is a good question. Perhaps they dream in the static of radio drama.

    That's okay, Braja. I've been cast in worse light. :-)

    Cynthia, I had a very enjoyable time at your blog. I'll be back. And please come back here anytime.

    Yaya, thanks for coming by. I always find it interesting they way words work.

    Het, JBA. Misplaced modifiers make my top ten list of bad language stumbles. And they can also be quite amusing when they aren't dangerous.

  16. How about this one (he he he)

    She asked me to take the trip on the enclosed postcard.

    Doesn't do it justice. How about..

    Dad asked me to mow the lawn from the upstairs window.

    I actually found a doozy in the NYT one Saturday. I laughed for a week.

  17. Those are both great, JBA. Feel free to send more any time.