Showing posts from June, 2012

Why should we not drink the Kool-Aid?

Acocella faults the descriptivists for not drinking the postmodernist Kool-Aid and failing to acknowledge “that there is no such thing as objectivity .... Warnings about  'drinking the Kool-Aid' are not part of some dreary anti-obesity drive. They refer to the grim events at the 'Jonestown' commune in Guyana in November 1978, where cult leader Jim Jones induced the -murder/suicide of 918 of his followers as the authorities closed in. The Kool-Aid reference is to a sweet, fizzy drink laced with poison which senior figures in the commune persuaded members to drink. Though there was also violent coercion, some victims seem to have taken the drink voluntarily. The company producing Kool-Aid have been understandably reluctant to have their product associated with the Jonestown massacre ('a popular misconception') - though there is macabre humour to their pointing out the deadly concoction was based on a ' cheap imitation'  of KA.

What is a run on a bank? What does James Stewart teach us in It's a Wonderful Life???

A run on a bank is when a large number of customers withdraw their funds simultaneously. If a run on a bank gains momentum it can quickly 'fail' or go out of business, as  happened with Lehman Brothers in 2008. This is what George (James Stewart) is trying to prevent in the famous scene (above) from 'It's a Wonderful Life'. With institutions that are 'too big too fail' (see The Royal Bank of Scotland) a government or international financial organisation may rescue the bank by either taking it over or injecting huge amounts of cash. This can prove ruinously expensive (see the current situation with the Spanish banks). How do you stop a bank run? With great difficulty. The traditional remedies are: a) delay -  ....the bank is going to open again next week ... the key requirement is to 'buy time' to organise refinancing. This means slowing down the rate at which customers can withdraw their funds. At the end of the scene above George agrees to r

Why should we use less on fewer occasions?

Because fewer is correct for countable nouns: cats, cars, pens . Less is used where the noun is 'uncountable' or does not have a plural: milk, money, air.  This simple rule is often unwittingly broken, particularly where there is an irregular plural noun: person becomes people and so there fewer not less people. A video explaining the fewer less/rule for second language learners is here