Archive for May, 2014

Recently, I read a blog where the author claimed he wasn’t a “real” writer; that he was “just” an amateur.

Though I believe that anyone who writes is a writer, whether or not they get paid for it, that is not the point of this post. Rather, I will be discussing the word “amateur” and the misleading way many people use this word.

The primary definition of “amateur” simply means a person who engages in an activity for pleasure, for the love of it, rather than for financial compensation. An amateur does not make their living engaging in the activity mentioned.  Originally, there were no assumptions as to the quality of the activity performed; the sole point was that the person did not make their living from the activity or work.

Nowadays, the connotations of this word have mostly strayed from its original meaning. Most people use the word “amateur” today to imply shoddy, sloppy, substandard work. It is used to mean the opposite of the word “professional”, which now carries the assumption of quality work.

However, as with “amateur”, the original meaning of “professional” simply meant that one was paid for the relevant activity; this was how they made their living. And while a professional presumably did careful, meticulous work, the assumption that their work was necessarily superior to that of an amateur was not always implied.

Indeed, I’ve seen many amateurs who excel in their chosen activity. Olympic athletes, who are officially classified as amateur athletes, immediately come to mind. Similarly, I’ve seen too many “professionals” produce substandard workmanship. After all, how would the Better Business Bureau exist without so-called “professionals” doing shoddy work?

It is the dedication to excellence that makes the real difference, not whether or not the person is paid for their efforts.

Something to think about.

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cheating_rect-460x307One of my language pet peeves is the use of the word “cheating” to refer to marital/relationship infidelity, and the expression “cheating on” someone, to refer to somoene being unfaithful to their romantic partner.

It reminds me of math tests and country songs, such as “Your Cheatin’ Heart”.  It also has a decidedly juvenile, high-schoolish tone to it, as well as sounding more than a little redneck-y.

Though, of course, your mileage may vary, I prefer to use the words infidelity, unfaithful, and the like, rather than the mawkish “cheating”.

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One common tendency among many people is the unfortunate fallacy of thinking in extremes. That is, if you don’t agree with a particular point, then you must be for its polar opposite, with no room for shades of grey in between.

For instance, I remember as a young adult complaining that I had no intimate relationship with a man and talking with my sister about it. She would immediately get huffy and tell me that being alone was far preferable to living with an asshole.

Of course that is true, but I would always answer her by saying, “Are those my only two choices? Asshole or alone? Surely there are other choices in between those two extremes?”.

Another example I see often on Facebook is a type of comment that predictably appears in response to articles dealing with animal abuse. These commenters want to know why people care so much about animals when there are so many children being abused.

Their unspoken erroneous assumption is that people can care about only one issue at a time; that if you care about one issue, then you could not possibly care about the other. It apparently has never occurred to them that one can care about the abuse of animals AND children, both at the same time. For them, life is all about either/or and never both/and.

Still another example of this sort of thinking is one I see on message boards. Sometimes, a member will decide they’ve been spending too much time at the board and will decide to take a break from it. But instead of simply not visiting the board for an extended period of time, they take the drastic step of completely unsubscribing from the board and deleting their account.

Another common example of extreme, black and white thinking often happens in response when an individual woman attempts to do a non-traditional job, such as being a fire fighter, and fails.

Predictably, many people will point to her individual failure as proof positive that ALL women are unsuited to such work where, with a man, they’d just shrug and say it was his own personal failure and implied nothing at all about other men.

Thinking in extremes is dualistic, black and white thinking that does not allow for multiple possibilities or shades of grey.  It is usually a false dichotomy.

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