Whistle Blower

The expression whistle blower has been printed and voiced often in the last few months. When I first started being made aware of it I thought it was a colloquialism, a metaphoric expression that people use to poetically draw attention to something untoward happening in the work place, like the image of someone blowing a police whistle to get help in an emergency.

I still am not used to it. It doesn’t exist in my 1991 Oxford Dictionary, where whistle for and whistle-stop are the only expressions included after the main entry for whistle.

I did a search for its legal definition online to learn that it does seem to have a legal justification. All that I recall is that the whistle blower law seemed to be made to draw attention to anyone dishonestly adding to government expenses. Before that I used to think a whistle blower simply snitched on someone in any workplace and had the right to do so without retribution, but I always felt that there must have been a more legally accurate formal term to express the notion embodied in whistle blower.

And recently, maybe today even, because I haven’t heard that the whistle blower is drawing attention to unnecessary government or even business spending, she/ he seems like a researcher providing research to the political opponents of his employer.

Acid Rain to Global Warming/Climate Change

I sometimes forget that news disseminators are doing what they’ve been accused of doing since 1941 in the movie Citizen Cane. But what they are now doing is more profound than simply making it difficult to obtain  objective characterizations of political figures and public concerns; and those concerns used to be called problems, difficulties that need practical solutions; now the word problem has been replaced by issue. A practical term implying something that has a solution has become a word that implies discussion so that when we read that something needs to be talked about, or is finally being talked about we are encouraged to feel a sense of accomplishment never thinking that what we’ve been told now will  dissolve into another issue then return in another generation as a bright new issue; though states of affairs that really concern us are never confronted but keep recurring  as issues in media depicted political messages. I read that in our recent federal election in Canada and President Obama’s second term a major issue was climate change/global warming, though I recall hearing Canada’s party leaders offering to spend and borrow   to  satisfy the wants of supporters, but nothing about conservation or physical improvements sometimes just the media words climate change and the metaphor green while our air grows smoggier and those tiny lawn signs warning of the presence of chemicals that kill weeds keep appearing on lawns. Even Canada’s Green party seemed caught up in voicing general issues such as employment more than environmental ones. And on my street despite a hydro rate   increase post election, meant according to media to limit hydro use; porch lights still blaze under streetlamps.

I have recently come to believe that the do nothing complaint directed at politicians and voiced by some citizens as an excuse for not voting  is the result of people’s real concerns needing thoughtful planning and determination being turned into issues, topics presented for debate in headlines of articles floating through generations.  

Ellipsis/Ellipses

“An ellipsis is a series of three consecutive periods known as ellipsis points ( . . . ) used to indicate where words have been omitted from quoted text, or (informally) to represent a pause, hesitation, or trailing-off in thought or speech.”

Recently the internet has latched on to this very old element … used in quoted texts to indicate omitted words not pertinent to the idea contained in the quote that a writer wishes to highlight.

But online this horizontally written symbol has come to be 3 vertical dots joined to 3 linked program functions.

And to me it seems obvious that references to the ellipses in Mr. Trump’s impeachable transcript have got into the minds of writers who in learning recent computer programs, have learned that three vertical dots linking 3 functions are ellipses, originally 3 horizontal dots symbolizing textual omissions. And they have spotted theses ellipses or omissions like pink elephants through out the president’s purported transcript of his July phone call to the Ukraine.

Stop Talking

This whistle-blower stuff is a new creation that used to represent someone complaining about being mistreated in the workplace; often those who feared complaining came to be represented by an impersonal whistle-blower an identity that’s become institutionalized and taken over by the silent minority establishment feared by a large majority of citizens whose precarious existence depends on their not speaking up and complaining.

Sometimes that majority used to believe their actions were limited by networks of people of common association sharing economic power and limiting social control to those fortunately born into the minority establishment.

The great majority gave the epithet prejudice to certain individuals managing that system. For years the words prejudice and bigotry seemed common. But one day those words were replaced by a less colloquial term, racism, a word that carried more weight in its impreciseness and could be hurled at the enemy like a thunderbolt.

Now whistle-blower, reminiscent of the plebian tribune; born of the fearful voiceless majority is subsumed by the fearless vocal minority and like racism has increased in atomic abstractness and weaponized to silence the fearful.

The Diction of Media

    Words popularized by media and politicians many of which are like short cuts that avoid coherent explanation and analysis:

  • “Nuance”, “Nuanced”The word “nuanced” used to mean something like shaded, subtle, perhaps even difficult to explain related in meaning to the word “complicated” which implies difficult to explain, and understand . On October 17, 2012 a New York Times article, “On China Currency, Hot Topic in Debate, Truth Is Nuanced” reports that the Chinese currency was discussed by Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney, and that the discussion of the facts was “nuanced”, which according to the usual meaning of “nuance” suggests a shading of meaning and a kind of cautious subtlety of expression that may actually avoid the truth of a matter because some facts might be verboten or too complicated.
  • “Bottom line”, a metaphor taken from accounting jargon, denoting net earnings: the “bottom line” of a financial statement. This metaphoric phrase is so central to media vocabulary that I often overlook it as though I think I know what it means; but I don’t. Here it may refer to a shift ( from what to what?) in “perceptions of the economy or events in the Middle East” that according to the below quoted opinion, this October 12, 2012, could finally establish a leader in the 2012 Presidential race.

    Where will it go from here? If nothing changes in the real world, the race will remain close until Election Day. If perceptions of the economy or events in the Middle East shift, the election could shift, as well. But the bottom line is that whatever changes take place will be driven by voter perceptions of reality, not the petty preoccupations of the Political Class.

    In the quotation above the key word is “perceptions”. And political perceptions are fashioned by what is communicated to us by media. Few of us ever witness political candidates’ actions directly “in the real world”. All we can know about politics is what we are told to “perceive” by media. And so we are told of a conflict between “perceptions” and “reality”, the theme of a dual world: the perceived/apparent world versus the real world, and since I think that the perceived political world is the product of media and that the “Political Class” likely includes journalist political commentators, then any changes in “voter perceptions of reality” will be contributed to by the “Political Class”, a reality delivered to us by media.


  • “Transparent”, “transparency” implies that when one’s actions are transparent they are both honorable and understandable. “Function” void of ethical/moral connotations: “function” central to mathematics; purely abstract technical/professional significance; replaces responsibility, job. A Barclay’s Bank official was asked by a British politician on July 4,2012 whose “function” it was to detect criminal activity
  • “Clear”, “clarity”, “clearly” are used to convince listeners that something is easily understood whether it is or not. The epithet “clearly” saves the speaker the necessity of giving a precise and accurate explanation by simply telling listeners that what is stated is stated “clearly”, confident that no one whether confused or not will object. I now believe that the word was popularized by philosopher and mathematician Renee Descartes who used the notion of clear and distinct idea to establish the existence of God and self as the clear and distinct ideas upon which his theory of knowledge was based.
  • “Existential/existentially” an abstract concept probably derived from philosophy. Existentialism is a philosophical belief about the metaphysical nature of a human individual’s conscious life. Media and political speakers use the term to illustrate threats to the physical survival of things, nations, or peoples.
  • “Having said that” replaces but, however, nevertheless, yet, regardless, regarding, despite, on the other hand. The phrase “having said that” allows the speaker the luxury of not having to help his/her listeners understand what was said by connecting what was said to the remainder of his/her speech and telling why it is significant to his/her reasoning.
  • “Reiterate” (say again,repeat, go over) “Reiterate” sounds smart and permits the user to avoid having to state what is actually repeated.So listeners may guess what they can remember of what might be said again, and try to make sense of it.
  • “Substantive” replaces substantial or essential, significant; “substantive” is a technical grammatical term meaning subject, a noun in the nominative case: it was adopted by philosophers. Most media and political speakers probably use “substantive” to mean something important often with an adjectival sense. I noticed one journalist making an adverb of it: “substantively.” Like “reiterate” “substantive” sounds smart, but like”reiterate” the learned sound it makes mesmerizes and permits listeners to overlook a possible lack of explanation. ‘See substantive (adj.) late 15c., “standing by itself,” from O.Fr. substantif, from L.L. substantivum, neut. of L. substantivus “of substance or being,” from substantia (see substance). The grammatical term (late 14c.) was introduced by the French to denote the noun in contradistinction to the adjective, from L. nomen substantivum “name or word of substance.” ‘
  • “Paradigm” once meant a grammatical pattern; it now seems to be used in a sense inspired by Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions which explained that when scientific theories are adopted they must overcome the previous theory ie. the old paradigm,(old way of thinking) and replace it with a new paradigm(the new way of thinking).
  • “Impact” (cause, effect, reason)Using impact instead of effect usually requires listeners to imagine a logical analysis that could explain precisely how an effect might follow from a prior event, or reason and whether the effect is positive or negative.
  • “Going forward” (future,proceed,advance,ahead) without indication of future development in a certain time or place. Listeners must anticipate/guess what might be going forward when and for how long, until what future time. Words expressing metaphorical violence in verbal/policy debate
  • “Blow back”, metaphor comparing a counter argument/ political viewpoint to an element of the environment (windy weather) another instance of vague uncivil,violent reaction, here to un unspecified rhetorical political posturing against a potential political storm. In a September 12, 2012, N.Y. Times article his responding to the deaths of 4 Americans in Libya as though he were bravely tempting the vagueries of the winds, a hurricane perhaps, “…Mr. Obama risked political blow-back for moving forward with his rally…”
  • “Push back” seems to mean(fight, resist, counter,oppose,defend,) adds implied physical violence to political chatter that used to use specific reasoned arguments in debates not the brutality of the school yard.
  • “Back and forth” is a vague phrase perhaps creating the image of boxers trading punches instead of debaters exchanging words, arguing and counter arguing.
  • “Slam” another word used by the media to indicate a violent, unspecified metaphoric reaction; slam used to denote the violent shutting of a door or violent hurling of an object against a surface. Consider these three examples: “Syria slams UN chief as clashes go on” (Toronto Star ,April 28,2012) “Gunmen hit Syrian army from sea, Moscow slams rebels” ( Reuters likely April 28, 2012, caption on April 30 reads 2 days ago) “Syria derides UN chief as peace plan in crisis” ( Associated Press, April 28,2012)

    The Toronto Star , and Reuters use of “slam” is to this reader mystifying as to Syria’s and Moscow’s attitude toward the UN peace plan. Syria’s attitude toward the plan as described by the Associated Press as “derisive” is specific and informative and might at least be investigated as to its veracity .