Daily Archives: January 11, 2010

What “Did You Know,” exactly, anyway?

For about the nine squillionth time, I’ve been forwarded the link to the video “Did You Know?” (a.ka. “Shift Happens”). You’ve probably seen it. It sure does impress people. And it has a lot of impressive numbers in it.

I have to admit it’s at a bit of a disadvantage from the beginning with me due to the fact that “Did you know?” in any forward is almost a guarantee that I’m about to be told something that’s inaccurate. Also, I’m getting tired of the music, which has been used on another video since, and is now for me, at least, the leitmotif for hype and hand-waving. It is rather apposite, though, in that the words start with strong-sounding repetition of a straightforward phrase without actually specifying what is right here, right now, and then go into something that sounds like detailed content but is actually indecipherable.

The video does present a fair bit of interesting food for thought, and some of the numbers are quite impressive (if wanting more context), but it can be remarkably fluzzy and often not especially thoughtful in itself. (Nor are the data referenced, so they could just be making it up, or misquoting, getting it badly wrong…)

So I just wanted to pick on a few things in it, as a bit of an editorial fact-querying exercise: Continue reading


You’re looking for the sky, but there’s something in the way. Who’s this bo? Is it some bolshy, stroppy youth, one of the Bos of Kentucky (KY) or a boy from Saskatchewan (SK)? Perhaps it’s Ivan Boesky, the famous insider trader of the 1980s, noted for telling Berkeley students that greed is good.

Ah, nope, it’s more bush-league than that. Boesky may have been rubbishy, but this is shrubbery. And not just a shrubbery, suitable for delivery to the Knights Who Say Ni!, but a whole condition of it. A bosky wood is a wood that’s plain old bushy.

Which is reasonable enough. After all, this word – and bosk (its related noun) and busky (a synonym) – are closely related to bush, which was originally busk. All of these, and similar words in other Germanic languages, are related to late Latin boscum, which is not that scum Bo again; it means “wood.”

But we’re not out of the woods yet. If you’ve bought Boesky’s belief that you can be greedy and still feel good about yourself – in hopes, perhaps, of getting a “boss” key to the office – you may, like Boesky, end up someplace boxy where the closest to this word you get is a Bosc pear to crunch on – which is named after Louis Augustin Guillaume Bosc, a French botanist. Ah, if only instead of greed you had listened to someone like St. John Bosco, a nineteenth-century priest and educator who focused on love and prevention (based on reason, religion, and kindness) rather than punishment.

But it’s not too late! You can yet escape your brush with the dark side and return to nature – to Shakespeare’s bosky acres, Milton’s bosky bourn, or Scott’s bosky thickets, where perhaps mountain men wear Melville’s bosky beards. And then, if the sky is still obscured, you may do what one does when lost in an Icelandic forest: stand up.