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October 05, 2018  |  Friday words #141  |  209 hit(s)

I have some new terms today, but I also need to do a little housecleaning, so to speak. I have a couple of new-to-me terms in my queue that got a good airing in other forums recently. So why not just let those folks do the talking? Here you go:

himpathy. In the New York Times, Kate Manne discusses this word in terms of the back and forth during Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation battle to be seated on the US Supreme Court. She defines himpathy as "the inappropriate and disproportionate sympathy powerful men often enjoy in cases of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, homicide and other misogynistic behavior." I like wordplay, but I’m always leery that new words based on rhymes (for example) might not have staying power. But who knows! Seems like a useful term.

HODL. This is a misspelling of "hold" that originated in the world of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. (As in, hold, don't sell.) Nancy Friedman has a great write-up in which the original "HODL" misspelling is only the beginning.

Ok, I can cross those off my list!

I have to confess that the two new-to-me terms that I have today grabbed me because I liked the way they sounded when I learned them via a tweet. The terms are the jingle fallacy and the related jangle fallacy. The jingle fallacy is when multiple concepts are considered the same (or lumped together) because they have the same name. An early example was the term college students: people think of college students as constituting a more or less homogeneous population, but any such population will include part-timers, people who end up dropping out, a student who's there only for a year, plus of course full-time students. Another commonly cited example is the word anxiety, which is often used to also cover the separate condition of fear.

The jangle fallacy is sort of the inverse: when people think that concepts are different because they have different names. Here are some examples that also show why the jangle fallacy is problematic:

A particular attribute may be labeled a “skill” by an economist, a “personality trait” by a psychologist, a certain kind of “learning” by an educationalist, or a “character” dimensions by a moral philosopher. Each may have the same concept in mind, but miss each other’s work or meaning because of the confusion of terms.


Both terms seem to be largely confined to psychology and cognitive studies, at least for now. I was a little surprised to read that jingle fallacy goes back to 1902. In the original discussion, H.A. Aikins uses jingle in the sense of something catchy. His alternative term was the reflex fallacy because the fallacy was the result of reflexive thinking:

On to origins! If you want to win, you need a strategy. You know, a plan. And who makes those sorts of plans? Leaders! High-up type leaders, like maybe generals. Indeed, as Friend Ben noted to me not long ago, the word strategy comes from a Greek word for a general. (Tho as the OED says, in English this is "Partly a borrowing from Latin. Partly a borrowing from Greek.") The constituent parts in Greek are stratos ("army") + agein ("to lead"). As a bonus, I learned that stratocracy means "government by the army." I can't say that that would be, haha, a good strategy.

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