A Way with Words

The other day I waxed indignant on Facebook when Leroy Jethro Gibbs of NCIS, a Marine veteran, used the word “boat” to refer to a ship. It’s a common mistake that civilians make, but Gibbs, now working for the Navy, should know better. Besides, as a Marine veteran he’s no doubt made several cruises with an amphibious task force, although I don’t recall that he was with me on the two I made as a Navy radioman on a commodore’s staff.

Someone made the comment that it didn’t matter and pointed out—disdainfully—that some curators also wax indignant when people refer to a painting as a picture. As long as the communication is clear, what’s the issue, the person asked.

Clarity and precision.

A picture can be a painting, a photograph, a drawing, a petroglyph, etc. You get the picture. A painting is a picture with certain attributes, starting with how it was made.

The person asking the question fails to recognize general and specific terms. Let’s hope the FB discussion showed her the light.


Columbus Did Discover America

I know it is not politically correct to say this, but let’s face it: Columbus discovered America.

The major argument against giving him credit for discovering America is that people were already here, it had already been discovered. That’s half true in that there were Native Americans living from north to south and south to north, many probably unaware of the others.

But that’s just it. There was no America. There was a land mass on which discrete groups of people, from the Iroquois to the Mayans, lived. But the groups were not united under major governments and never conducted business very far from their villages.

As we all know, Columbus set sail looking for India. And why did he want to find a shortcut to India? Riches.

He wasn’t interested in creating a better society; he was interested in finding riches for the royal family of Spain. Others followed him, most with the same goal in mind.

Out of that came America, the continuing quest for riches. Columbus didn’t invent that quest, but he certainly extended it when he discovered America.

So like it or not, for better or worse, Columbus discovered America. Remember that on payday and when all the bills come due.