David L. Hoof

Strictly Speaking

Scenario

May 23, 2014

Tags: scenario, word inflation, pretense, obfuscation, tribal noise, confusion

SCENARIO

means a brief summary of the plot of a novel. That's it. Only this in its original detonation. This gave the word a certain valence in publishing, where a professional could be gleaned from an amateur by understanding what, exactly, an editor was requesting.

In the stampede to achieve authority and conviction from ignorance, scenario has been gobbled up and regurgitated with such predictable regularity that it is now as obligatory as toilet paper, and often used for the same purpose.

Instead of plugging in scenario, one could just as well say, "Under this set of circumstances," and exhibit that he or she knew how to guide a discussion without resorting to shopworn buzzwords in pursuit of conformity.

Impactful?

February 4, 2014

Tags: E.B.White, morality, language, gibberish, tribal noise, confusion, malignant neologisms

IMPACTFUL

Increasingly is the word impactful on the lips of otherwise articulate people. Its adoption is characteristic of the rage to parrot others in order to capture their attention. Even by the spell checker in this blog, impactful is underlined in red, meaning either that it isn't a word, or I've misspelled it. The latter I have not, unfortunately.

The problem with this and other malignant neologisms is that we have no linguistic immune system to cleanse speech. Impactful is troubling not because it cannot possibly be a word, but because it lacks any thoughtful moral grounding.

Impactful might include the object that bashed into the early Earth, creating debris that became our moon. Impactful certainly described the asteroid that ended the dinosaurs, as it describes other asteroid impacts that brought similar mass extinctions. Impactful must by needs include the first nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima. Total thermonuclear war would certainly redefine impactfulness, if the derivative noun it the metastatic inevitability of the root adverb.

Owing to common usage, most of us are forced to conceded that we think we know what the speaker intends, but even so, a matter of "how" remains embedded in silence by the word itself. It fails by being incompletely intuitive, and the devil in the details of agreement is the cognitive equivalent of seven blind men and a neological elephant.

Say What You Mean

December 19, 2013

Tags: intent, meaning, color, clarity, confusion, usage

CLEAR

When applied to materials, clarity is defined as the property that allows the image of an object seen through it to pass sufficiently free of distortion that the transmitted image remains recognizable in shape and apparent size, and undistorted in relative proportions. In all particulars but one, clarity is equivalent to transparency. What clarity does not necessarily mean is what most people now intend when they use the word “clear.” And that commonly omitted property is colorlessness.

And object or medium can meet all the criteria required to be clear and still be colored. In seeing the world through rose colored glasses, it is very much the world that others see through conventional colorless eyeglasses except in being shaded to the preference of the wearer. All sunglasses are by necessity clear. Were they not our eyes could not receive the objects that we need to see in order to walk, drive, apply sun block, stare at babes, check out whether the babes think our shades are cool, check out whether any babe is looking back at all.

Politicians are fond of adding emphasis by making the claim “crystal clear,” perhaps referring to Waterford crystal stem ware, which is, unfortunately, richly faceted, a property that results in diffraction rather than undistorted transmission. And Venetianglassl, which clear in the sense of transmitting objects undistorted, is often beautifully colored, and like any article colored for the purposes of added effect, does not allow the transmission of an image that is identical to the objected viewed in the absence of the interposing medium.

As it is now misused in describing products like caulks and plastics, one needs to specify both clear and colorless in order to express what most users now call clear. If this argument has reached you undistorted and intact, its meaning will be clear, even if necessarily colored by a scientist’s need for exact expression.

Finally, the word “clear,” like many other words in the English language, has several meanings, each of which is usually exposed by the context in which it is used. As it relates to sound, clarity means that the acoustical content (pitch, volume, meter, time, fundamental overtones and other aspects) arrives at the listener’s ear as if the listener were sitting at the source of the sound. This means that the medium in which it travels is uniform and transmitting (as even water does better than air), that it is not degraded by other louder sounds, or by badly placed reflectors or absorbing surfaces.

There is in a room at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland where a point source of sound is located at the exact center of the room. The walls of the room are packed in acoustically absorbing materials so efficient that the source’s sounds never reflect or echo. They merely and purely transmit outward in concentric compressions and rarefactions of air. What is heard by a human listener in this room is sound so starkly pure that it is truly austere. And so if the richness of sounds depend to some extent on imperfections, so much the more reassuring. None of us is perfect.

Opposites Are Not Identical

December 9, 2013

Tags: oxymorons, opposites, confusion, communication, film, Clint Eastwood

BAD

Once upon a time there was an adjective named bad. In that time it existed to describe people or objects or contracts or social ideas or philosophies genuinely believed by the user of the word bad to be unacceptable, unfavorable, undesirable, unsuitable in use or even unfavorable in consumption. Gary Larsen once drew a cartoon titled “When potato salad goes bad.”

Being deemed bad is generally taken as being less helpful to social mainstream objectives than being good. Good was the opposite of bad as is light and dark, or black and white. Distinctions by contrast were often dramatically useful in asserting simple-minded differences, as in Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. It is not dramatically implicit even after several viewings whether Lee van Cleeve or Eli Wallach was the bad, or why the guy left over after the tie-breaker was ugly. Nor was it clear why the ugly one, whoever that was, lacked the moral polarity of goodness or badness that characterized the others. It was only clear that when all three men stood squinting like mad dogs in the noonday sun, that distinctions of moral virtue were going to be less important than besting Sammy Davis, Jr. in removing the peacekeeper from its holster and pulling the trigger, assuming you didn’t squeeze prematurely and shoot yourself in the foot (more…)

Selected Works

suspense mystery
For every emerging independent woman today, men can be little better than annoying at best and downright monstrous at worst. A creation of a stolen NSA computer program, Fiona Halloran is launched into the present to assist faltering novelist Andy Delaney capture the market that has evaded him, the one for and about women. But there’s an emerging risk: increasing personal danger to them both. This doesn’t stop when they finish his latest novel, Babes & Bastards. It just spills over to the next best seller in a series starring Fiona Halloran, Nun No More. Look for it soon in a bookstore near you.
In the dying Montana town of Sanctuary, helf-Crow Deputy Redfawn Kravitz relentlessly tracks the killer of Senate candidate Jeb Holloway, who then starts picking off the best suspects, one-by-one.
Using only sounds as clues, a blind man must locate his six-year-old niece before kidnappers kill her.
historical mystery
Just before Oktoberfest in 1931, Adolf Hitler's niece and secret lover is found dead in a locked room in the Fuhrer's Munich flat. Pressured by the Nazis, the police rule it a suicide, but evidence suggests a cold blooded execution. If the killer can be outed, widespread outrage will thwart a maniac's rush to power.
Satire
A cheated wife goes way overboard to get revenge on - and a fair settlement from -- her uberrich husband, with terrifyingly hysterical results.
literary mystery
Little Gods is prep school noir, like A Separate Peace as if it were written by Alfred Hitchcock.
action adventure
A clandestine biowar attack on America reduces society to medieval chaos.
Fiction
Approaching Christmas, a winter blizzard locks Chicago in snow. Among its residents, retired FBI poisons expert Tad Lindholm is a haunted man. Haunted by his past, haunted by his recently dead lover Yvette, haunted by the long shadows of too many empty booze bottles, haunted by depression, and tempted by an arsenal of deadly doses to end it all. At the same time, he is trapped by lingering suspicions that he alone synthesized the traceless toxins responsible for recent deaths. Numb with stubbornness, encircled by intersecting mysteries, Lindholm pursues the real killers among his enemies, only to discover an unimaginably personal betrayal.