Helen of Marlowe's Blog

Hospitality Customers

Posted in Language by helenofmarlowe on January 22, 2012

Have we abandoned the idea that words have meaning?

In our local paper yesterday, in a story about Target being refurbished, the local “executive manager of logistics” is quoted as saying, “… it will be more inviting to our guests.”

Guests? Guests don’t pay. At least that used to be the case. What Target has is customers. And there’s nothing wrong with that word. I know that words evolve, language evolves. It made a little bit of sense some years ago when hotels began referring to their customers/clients/patrons as guests – since hotel “guests” do in fact stay overnight and eat meals, as your own house guest would do. But for Target, it seems a bit of a stretch.

In so many ways, words have lost their primary purpose of communicating, and have taken on a manipulative aspect.

Another example: I believe in protecting the lives of women, even when they’re pregnant. I believe in protecting the lives of panthers and bison and dolphins. I believe in protecting the arctic fox and the lynx. I believe in saving the amur leopard, of which there are only about twenty left in the world. I believe in the right to life of plants, if not individually, then as species. I believe that humans should not kill other animals for food or sport (though I would not condemn a starving hunter lost in the wild who knows that the net loss will be one life, either self or other). I believe nations have a responsibility to provide medical care to all its children, all its citizens – not just those who pay monthly premiums to a for-profit insurance company. Doesn’t this make me pro-life?

Not politically, but if language still made sense it would. But the term pro-life has been abducted, beaten out of shape, and recycled to mean some nonsense that defies logic.

How can we re-claim that term? From those who would destroy habitat and the planet in order to accommodate the one species of animal (human) that seems set on destroying the diversity of life on this planet? And are still claiming the term pro-life?

And as a last example of renegade language, I went yesterday to buy a gps in preparation for an upcoming fairly long trip. I opted for the more expensive model, because by paying more, I could get “free” map updates. Pay more, get “free” updates. ok.

As an aside – when I go into Target, I always notice a sign on their door: “Guide dogs only”. What? Wait – I’m not a guide dog . I can’t go in? Before I enter, the thought always arrests me momentarily… I’m not a guide dog! I can’t go in! And then I reconsider. They’d have no “guests” if people read the notices to mean what they say.


googling duckduckgo

Posted in Uncategorized by helenofmarlowe on January 16, 2012

Happy MLK day.
Today is fourteen minutes longer than January 1, and I am using my extra fourteen minutes to read Billy Collins poetry.  Of course we don't really have fourteen minutes during which the clock stands still, but even so, I consider these minutes to be welcome progress toward the long hot days of summer.

After reading a poem that I especially like, The Real Geniuses, I decided to share this poem with a local poet who is close to my heart (he's  here  ) just to enjoy the reading of it.

I’d recently seen a TED talk about google, about the search engine’s tailoring search results to our particular interests. I don’t want to see only what I’m already biased toward. I want a search engine that doesn’t care who I am or what I like, one that will give me the same results it would give my conservative friends. (Conservative seems the wrong word for those who want to destroy most of the progress of the 20th c, but that’s another post.) I'd read of a new (to me) search engine, duckduckgo, so I thought I'd give it a go. I typed in Billy Collins The Real Geniuses. No luck. So I thought I'd give it punctuation clues, and typed “The Real Geniuses” by “Billy Collins”. The first thing it returned to me was Woman Set to Become 1st Spacecract Pilot. The second on the list was Lutheran Surrealism.

So I typed the same (original, no quote marks) into google, and the first result was a text of Billy Collins's poem. On WordPress, even.

According to wikipedia, the search engine duckduckgo philosophy (found with a google search) emphasizes privacy and does not record user information. Nice. Very nice. I think. But on the other hand, if I search for a Billy Collins poem I want that Billy Collins poem, not Lutheran Surrealism. So how does that comport with wanting a search engine that doesn't care who I am or what my politics? It's hard to find a correlation between knowing who I am, and returning a reasonable response to a not-especially-esoteric search.

A friend suggests I clean mozilla’s memory of who I am. mv ~/.mozilla and then go through a few more simple steps to re-create ~/.mozilla. Worth a try. But I wonder how long it will take the new mozilla to figure out that I’m a progressive liberal pro-life (the already living) Unitarian Universalist vegetarian environmentalist linux user. My guess is less than a minute.

Must we choose between privacy and efficiency? Is that the question? I suspect privacy is a thing of the past, and I may as well go with efficiency.

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