05 Nov

Language Luddite?

Are you familiar with the word “Luddite”? S. L. Viehl complained in her blog that writers shouldn’t use obscure words such as the aforementioned “Luddite,” and claimed that none of her surveyed acquaintances had ever heard of the word. Much commentary resulted from those who were surprised that such a common word should be considered “obscure,” especially by a writer. There were hard feelings, commenters were banned, drama ensued — but it looks like many people missed the actual point of the post: that those who don’t understand technology outnumber those who do, and it would be useful for the technophiles to use their knowledge and intelligence to teach others rather than to establish superiority over the neo-Luddite masses. “Knowledge,” she wrote, “is really only useful when it’s shared, not thrown.” This is a good point; too bad the use of a poor example word diluted it so much.

(Reported by languagehat, who survived the banning and follow-up apology with dignity intact. The sad thing was when Viehl replied to his apology by saying that, despite being a writer, she doesn’t like words very much. Can you imagine?)

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