About

I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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We cannot allow engineers to build products for an idealized rational user when real humans are irrational: we must design for the way users actually behave.

Jakob Nielsen, "The Paradox of the Active User"



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 7/24/2017

Totals
Posts - 2442
Comments - 2553
Hits - 1,968,922

Averages
Entries/day - 0.47
Comments/entry - 1.05
Hits/day - 383

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 5:36 AM Pacific


  10:49 AM

Hey, it's Friday again. So soon! Fortunately, we have the consolation of words.

Today's new-to-me term is conformist distinction. I got this from a FiveThirtyEight podcast in which Tom Vanderbilt was discussing his new book on taste, You May Also Like. In the podcast, Vanderbilt was discussing "tokens of identity" by which we project ourselves, and the dual desire to fit in but also have a unique style. This, he says, is conformist distinction, apparently a term from psychology. (I don't find hits on this using normal-Google, fwiw.) As he summarizes the term, "We all want to be like each other, more or less, but with a little twist."


Here we all are, showing our distinct style while conforming to hipster fashion

For unexpected etymology this week I have a term that's actually timely: candidate, as in someone running for office. This one came up when I was reading about Roman senatorial elections in Mary Beard's SPQR.

The tl;dr on the word is that it means "clothed in white," referring to the white togs (er, togas) that candidates wore. A little bit of delving, what the heck, tells us that candidate shares a root with candid (something that, arguably, candidates often are not), which means "white" and "shining" or "glistening." In fact, the first definitions in the OED (in historical order) for candid are "white"; "splendid"; "pure"; "impartial"; and "free from malice." It's only after that that we get to "frank." The shared root also appears in the word incendiary, where -cend- comes from a verbal form meaning "to cause to glow, shine." How about that.

I suppose that as an aside, I could note that toga comes from the Latin word for "to cover."

Like this? Read all the Friday words.

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