Sold a Bill of Goods – Not Good at All

The phrase means to be cheated, though I didn’t understand why – “goods” is a general term for merchandise so surely buying goods is, well, good. And a bill of goods must be some sort of receipt – which also sounds good.

Word Detective says

“Bill of goods” was used in the non-pejorative “list of stuff” sense for many years until the 1920s, when it suddenly took on a negative spin… (“Selling a big bill of goods hereabouts, I’ll wager, you old rascals?” Eugene O’Neill, Marco Millions, 1927). “Bill of goods” very quickly almost entirely lost its simple, honest mercantile sense and became a synonym for “scam.” Just how this transformation happened is something of a mystery.

The site speculates that the phrase means the list was given to the purchaser but the goods never delivered. I’ll add my own observation that the switch to meaning a swindle occurred during America’s Prohibition era which makes me think of rum-running and accompanying swindles. I assume the phrase must have been known before O’Neill used it in a book.

A wordoriginsorg forum agrees with the O’Neill citation and includes several uses of “bill of goods” as a simple listing rather than a swindle before the 1920s, including by Mark Twain  in Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court in 1889.

Another Potential Disaster Caused by Global Warming

Several aspects of the Global Warming debate fascinate me. One is argument that there is no debate. I consistently read that 97 percent of scientists believe it is real and is caused by man. There was a petition by Dr. Art Robinson that disputed that assertion, and over 33,000 people with at least Bachelor of Science degrees signed it. It was attacked because there were a few “fake names” used in the signatures. Let’s pretend some portion of the signatures were valid. I’ll pick that there were 30,000 legitimate scientists who signed the petition. There would have to have been 1,000,000 scientists who disagreed with the petition for the 97 percent assertion to be valid. Another attack against the petition is that the scientists who signed it weren’t experts in climate science. I signed it, and am guilty as charged. I am not an expert in climate science, but consider that I have a rudimentary understanding of scientific methods.

One of my work assignments was pretending to be the manager for several scientists with advanced degrees. They often enjoyed arguing with each other about scientific interpretation. I’m trying to imagine how disgusted they would have been if I had stepped into the middle of a discussion and declared “The science is settled.” (I think that statement, which I consider to be absurd, explains why I persist in questioning/denying.)

Another aspect of the discussion or debate is that the lower temperature last year was optimal. It seems that only negative effects can result from the temperature increasing. Of course there are several positive effects of warmer temperatures, such as increased yields for some crops. But, according to NPR, even that isn’t a positive. Global warming, according to the reports, could cause a shortage of salad. Warmer temperatures caused the Arizona lettuce harvest to wrap up early and central California, which fills the salad needs after Arizona drops off, had heavy precipitation that delayed some plantings. I agree this is terrible, because I really like salads. And apparently there will be a shortage unless we stop the many human activities resulting in carbon dioxide emissions that cause higher temperatures and increased localized precipitation? Or maybe it’s too late! So far I’ve been able to buy all the salad-making materials I want, but I guess I should live in fear that is about to end because of global warming?

On the Same Page

Round_Table_Discussion.svg.medTo be on the same page is to be thinking or understanding an issue similarly, or in agreement, though not necessarily on every detail. It is usually said about efforts to solve a problem.

Knowyourphrase.com says the origin is may refer to students opening their textbooks to the same page, or choral singers opening their music. That sounds plausible but sometimes people simply make up good stories to explain a phrase.

If the phrase seems to be recent, so Know Your Phrase may have found the origin in 1974, in the Corona Daily Independent:

“I think we can beat Washington and whichever [football] team we play next to get into the Super Bowl. If 47 players and our coaches are all on the same page, we can do it.”

Wherever it came from, tweakyourbiz.com calls this a business cliché, “a handy crutch when you’re groping for a word in a pressurized situation.” Perhaps some original thinking would lead to fresh language.

Facts and Truth – Will Your Brain Let You See the Difference?

Facts are not as important as the truth that defines who you are, and every idea you have is a physical thing in your brain. The circuits become fixed and new information is modified to fit, because some things simply must be true.

That’s my summary of a recent interview I heard with academician George Lakoff, but what really caught my attention is that he implies you can’t change this. Even if you know your brain is filtering facts, you can’t help it. Not all facts may challenge your sense of self, and you can deal with those. But when the topic is part of your identity, you’re trapped.

That defies my sense of free will, which, of course, would only prove Lakoff’s point.

Lakoff says he can explain why certain positions that seem independent go together – for example, pro-life and flat-tax. I’ve often thought about this – if I know you’re a vegetarian I bet I can guess your politics. Why should that be so?

As it relates to politics, Lakoff says we see our nation through the metaphor of a family, and there are two kinds of families: the strict father and the nurturing family. Most people use a mix of these two approaches (so maybe there’s hope for a fact to get through!) but the basis of the strict father is that authority and morality go together – right and wrong are clear, tough love creates a disciplined person who will succeed, and if someone doesn’t succeed it’s their own fault and they deserve what they get. Continue reading

Preaching to the Choir – a much safer audience

This phrase refers to attempts to convert someone who is already a believer – that is, a waste of time. According to Phrase Finder, this is a fairly recent phrasing, originating in the United States, based on an older version.

The first reference is from The Lima News, Ohio, January 1973:
“He said he felt like the minister who was preaching to the choir. That is, to the people who always come to church, but not the ones who need it most.”

An earlier English version dates back around a century further and is first cited in a letter to The Times in November 1857:
It is an old saying that to preach to the converted is a useless office, and I may add that to preach to the unconvertible is a thankless office.

It was subsequently made popular by John Stuart Mill.

Predatory Lawsuits

I’ve been disgusted with the power of the litigation industry since President Bill Clinton vetoed a law that would have addressed frivolous medical lawsuits. The veto came, as I recall, after it was passed by the House and the Senate. Fast forward to today and consider the number of ads on television asking for people to sign up for money available because of “medical malpractice.”

My disgust was reinforced by a Denver Post editorial titled, “Predatory lawsuits only hurt ADA compliance.” There has been a profitable litigation industry that has evolved from the laws that were passed to protect the rights of disabled citizens. There are several examples given in the editorial of people who have, with legal help, profited from the ADA legislation. One is a person named in the article who has succeeded at getting out of court settlements for 64 lawsuits against small businesses who weren’t given the chance to make corrections to the violations before being required to pay. Others have found this to be a lucrative process. A Floridian who travels to Colorado has filed 71 lawsuits. There are other examples of people who have successfully filed lawsuits based on the law. They often do not even need to pay filing fees for their lawsuits “because of their income level.” Apparently income from out of court settlements doesn’t count as “income.”

Our legislators seem to be eager to pass regulations that protect “fairness.” Perhaps they can find time to pass something that protects small business owners from predators who are interested in financial gain and not the protection of disabled customers.