The Duncan Banner

August 26, 2012

What’s written isn’t always what’s read

Jeff Kaley
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — Because a rarely seen liquid substance has occasionally fallen from the sky in the last few days, this seems a great time to make an umbrella out of some of the sticky notes that serve as my memory:

In 35 (Gulp!) years in the journalism dodge, I’ve learned an undeniable fact: The author is only half of the equation; how a reader disseminates and interprets completes the communication circuit.

A writer can pen a simple observation — something that seems universally apparent, something almost innocuous — but the meaning can get folded, spindled and mutilated as it passes through a reader’s gray matter.

Take the sentence, “The sky is blue.”

When 10 readers ingest those four words, five of them know exactly what the writer means. They nod their head in agreement (“Yes, the sky is blue.”) and go on with their lives.

However, one reader will insist, “No, the sky’s not blue, it’s more a Pilgrim gray.” One other person will launch into a scientific lecture about the sky not having any color, and what we see is sunlight reflected and filtered through dust particles.

Two readers will read “The sky is blue.” and respond, “Hmmm. What are you really trying to say?”

And here in the 21st Century cyber-communication world of sound bites and social networking, where abbreviations and emoticons are considered “writing,” the 10th person will whine, “The sentence was too long, so I didn’t finish reading it!”

n The National Foundation of High Schools says high school football continues to be — far and away — the most popular participatory sport among secondary school students. In the 2011-12 school year, nearly 1.2 million high school students were on the gridiron.

What’s interesting is: Of the 1.2 million football players, 1,561 were girls.

- There are some folks who just can’t help being stupid, but at least they could stay home.

- “I’ll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there’s evidence of thinking going on inside it.” Wry observation from British novelist Sir Terry Pratchett.

- Of all the fringe presidential candidates running in 2012, Rocky Anderson maybe one of the most fringe-est. A former two-term mayor of Salt Lake City, Anderson is the candidate of the Justice Party (Bet you didn’t know such a party existed, right?), and he’s a strong advocate of equality for gay folks.

Thing I find most interesting about Anderson, though, is he refuses to take contributions from corporations, foreign nationals and federal government contractors. Would love to see what might happen if candidates of the two major parties had such a prohibition.

- Maybe it’s unfair, but I see a red flag anytime a marketer tells me, “We’re going to pass the savings along to you.”

- “We are the freest nation in the world, except when we’re afraid.” So said John Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center.

- The word “awesome” ain’t as awesome as it used to be.

- Hedging is really not a bad thing in conducting civil discourse. When someone asks, “What’s on your mind?”, do they really want to know? Same with, “How are you doin’ today?”

- According to 21st Century Techno Man (my alter ego), he’s adopted Joe Walsh’s recent hit song, Analog Man, as a personal theme song. It’s a wonderful tune, guaranteed to touch the sensitivities and tap the toe of techno-curmudgeons.

- “Once in a while we will stumble upon the truth, but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened.” Winston Churchill said it.

- There may be a noble sentiment behind it, but the notion every young person in the USofA must have a college or technology school degree is simply a pipe dream.

- When I was growing up on the Illinois side of the Wabash River, rumor had it the reason our neighbors in Indiana were called “Hoosiers” is because after a knife fight in a tavern, somebody would pick up a lump of flesh and ask, “Whose ear is this?”

Probably not true, but we young’uns thought it was gruesomely cool.

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