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Two words celebrated in the lexicon

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webmaster | 12/04/13

The Oxford English Dictionary has pronounced “selfie” the word of the year, while the Merriam-Webster Dictionary people say their word of the year is “science.” Selfies are photos we take of ourselves, usually with our cell phones or looking at the cameras in our computers. There are millions, perhaps billions of them out in the great blue nowhere, thanks to the work of scientists who specialize in the creation and manipulation of electronic toys.

Science is just about anything we want it to be. For example, there is political science; and then there are chemistry and physics, actual sciences which have no similarity to political science.

The word science is easily misused, sort of like the word “professional.”

Doctors, dentists, lawyers, architects, engineers and certified public accountants, for example, are professionals. The word “professional” is used to delineate a person who had passed a rigorous course of study through at least one advanced degree and one internship, who had passed well-regulated exams for licensure and who subjected himself or herself to further study as time went on to make sure he or she could keep up with developments in his or her profession.

But not so many years ago, we began to see ads something like this: “The next time you have your house painted, be sure to hire one of our professionals.” Or, if asked, you might say, “I’m a professional cow milker,” assuming that was, in fact, your occupation, and someone who had just shaken hands with you had commented on the fact that you had a very firm grip.

The word “professional” has gotten away from us as far as actually having a meaning we can count on, and I think the word “science” is not all that far behind. That’s because people who pursue ordinary undertakings call themselves scientists whenever they can to elevate their status. Economists, for example, call themselves scientists, when all they are is wild guessers who got lucky. A fly fisherwoman might call herself a “salmon scientist,” and people would believe her if she happened to bring home a big catch.

“Selfie” might stay pure, however, because it would be hard to mix it up with actual photography.


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