Sunday, November 01, 2009

99 and 44/100 Percent Pure ...

In classical debate, one of the first things necessary to proceed is to agree on the definitions of terminology.

When I was in college, the debate subject one semester was something like this: Resolved: The United States should instigate a period of compulsory national service for all American youth.

Each term has to be laid out and more or less agreed upon before getting into the yea or nay of it. How long is a period? Compulsory? Enforced how? What kind of national service? Does the military draft count? What is a "youth?" How old? And so on.

You often see this kind of thing in legal contracts, wherein the party-of-the-first-part, hereafter identified as "the publisher," and the party-of-the-second-part, hereafter identified as "the author" are to engage in an agreement to produce a novel, hereafter known as "the work."


Such set-up is critical to the progress of a debate. Because if Pro is talking about apples and Con is talking about armadillos, then they go nowhere fast.

Once those are hashed out, then the discussion can proceed. If you don't do it, then you have to loop back later and pick it up.

In less formal debate, like, say, online blogs where somebody offers a comment and somebody else a reply, and then some back and forth, the definitions sometimes are implied and inferred indirectly. This often leads to misunderstanding. The question that needs to be clear is:

What are we really talking about here?"


When I was a boy, the selling point for Ivory soap was still the same as it had been since the 1890's: "It floats!"

Drop your bar of Lux or Palmolive into the sudsy bathwater, and they sink like rocks. But Ivory, doesn't, no sir, Ivory floats, which means it is pure, which means it is ipso facto better than the other brands. You don't have to feel around on the bottom of the tub to find it, un uh momma, it's right there ...

Well. What it actually meant was that Ivory was whipped and full of air and less dense than water. Which meant precisely nothing vis a vis its cleaning power. That hard-milled Lux bar was denser (and lasted longer because it was) and thus did not float.

Ivory was cheaper, didn't have as much perfume, and did actually have a slightly better antibacterial quality. It also didn't have glycerin, to help keep skin from drying out, which was why it killed more bugs. Not a selling point, though. (Soaps are anionic surfacants, and one bath bar generally works as well as another. Sometimes mechanical agents are added to the stuff. Lava Soap contains a fine grit of pumice, which is death on grease and grime, but tough on the skin. Built-in loofah.)

Floating by itself in the Ivory instance meant zero. (Other things float, some which are considerably less pure, which I am sure that all of you who have indoor toilets have noticed now and again.)

In 2001, Procter and Gamble snuck out a thousand bars of non-floating Ivory, and a reward for anybody who happened to notice one of the sinkers, with a idea to changing the formulation to one that was easier on the skin. I dunno if they've switched over to non-floaters, but if they do, it's because they surely know that the It floats! slogan is now and always has been suspect and not doing the job any more.

At our house we use weird soaps from New Seasons; currently, sandalwood. Last bar was birch bark or somesuch. And since I shower and save my soaking for the hot tub, the convenience of being able to quickly find floating soap instead dredging the bottom is a non-issue.

The burgeoning advertising field pulled the wool over buyers's eyes with the white soap. They offered as fact the notion that floating soap was better than non-floating soap. It wasn't fact. Not even an honest opinion. (It might have been true, but since no evidence was offered to support it, it wasn't even a very good theory.)

Facts and opinions sometimes coincide, but not always. The sun, if it comes up tomorrow, will do so in the east, is a fact.

Vanilla ice cream tastes better than chocolate? That's an opinion.

Thus the lecture for Debate 101. Any questions? Read chapters 9-12 in the text and come prepared for a quiz on Thursday ...


Scott said...

So using words like swipe, steal, take, pirate, thieve, et cetera, when you mean copy, would be dishonest, right?

Steve Perry said...

Now you are just being disingenuous. If you deprive me of income by "copying" my book and passing it out, you can call it a whatever you want, but it's still theft.

You play word games and I enjoy those, but all the the smoke and mirrors you want won't change the bottom line.

A rose is a rose is a rose. You can call it whatever you like but it doesn't change what it is.

Scott said...

No, I'm patiently pointing out, again, the difference between theft and copyright violation.

Steve Perry said...

No, you are splitting hairs, and past the point where we are going to get to a meeting of the minds. You can have the last word if you want, but we're done.