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Re: CRANIAL-CAUDAL vs ANTERO-POSTERIOR
<On the related subject of metric vs. imperial, given that we all agree
(don't we?) that metric _has_ to be The Right Thing...>
Well, no, I think it is A Choice. There is no intrinsic superiority of a
meter compared to a yard or a foot. In fact, I'm wondering why hands as a
measurement apply only to horses these days and why rods haven't stayed in
use right along with acres.
The second part of your statement, about not having a 'feel' for metric
measurement, is relevant.When we're going from inchoate concept to thought
in words and then to communication, we have to provide a grounding. Since
that's itself pretty inchoate, let me provide an example (this discussion is
also an example).
Let's say that you want to explain to someone that a dinosaur standing on
hind legs to feed is a difficult concept to accept. So you begin by saying
(and I'm inventing numbers because this isn't a discussion about facts, but
about the process of thinking): 'This dinosaur is 40 feet long and weighs
10 tons. It has to bench press half that, raising itself from standing
there on four legs to taking all that weight on two legs while it's leaning
towards the tree...'
You're creating a narrative with referents about how hard an effort the
physical process involved must be. To communicate the degree of the
challenge to yourself or someone else, you use terms that automatically
resonate as 'that's big' or 'that's heavy'. If you don't have that
background information to work with, you're going to add to your own
challenge by having to define your measurements on the fly in a way that
will produce the desired reaction.
In short, known terms have an agreed, inherent connotation which you can use
as building blocks in your argument.
That's why change has to have another compelling reason behind it. To quote
a favorite example of mine, Einstein complained about the limitations of the
prose in which he had to express himself when he pointed out that people
still say that the sun rises even though they know it does not. Closer to
home, people still use the term dinosaur to mean something big, old, stupid,
and maladapted even when they know different. Why? Because the building
block concept is so useful that even factual error is less important.
So, never assume that facts influence usage. Even authority does not
influence usage. The attempt by style authorities to change 'different
from' to 'different than' in many situations has failed because there was no
advantage to changing the agreements people have made about how to
communicate. 'Different than' frequently sounds puerile. [Insert mutter
about apatosaur in non-argumentative manner.]
Maybe in certain limited situations authority can work. but as Jerry Harris
said in his discussion it will take decades of unrelenting, overbearing
work, and the results may well disappear when the authorities retire.