Wednesday, July 18, 2007

word pairing: nuanced doubts

With the passing of cicada madness, you are now ready for another stirring installment of Word Pairings.

The ack/nak blog traffic log (which I compress into the wonderfully glottal 'bloglog') reveals to the careful student (me) just how stunningly popular Word Pairings has become. To which I say, well done (me). Self-congratulation is one sign of a healthy psyche.

Today's pairing is:

Nuanced doubts

Most recently spotted in an article by Independent UK reporter Johann Hari, this pairing takes on a special, poignant life to those of us who can instantly summon a mental image of M. Buckley:

The audience cheers Podhoretz. The nuanced doubts of Bill Buckley leave them confused. Doesn't he sound like the liberal media? Later, over dinner, a tablemate from Denver calls Buckley "a coward". His wife nods and says, " Buckley's an old man," tapping her head with her finger to suggest dementia.

An earlier use of this pairing dating back to October of 2001 in The Atlantic was ascribed to none other than William Bach, famed buddy of Godel and Escher:

After the meeting Bach expressed some nuanced doubts about the process of returns , the current means of re-integration of wartime refugees that has become the focus of international ambitions for Bosnia.

On their own, the constituent elements of nuanced doubts are perfectly energy-neutral:

nuanced (adj.)
Synonyms: nuance, gradation, shade
These nouns denote a slight variation or differentiation between nearly identical entities: sensitive to delicate nuances of style; gradations of feeling from infatuation to deep affection; subtle shades of meaning.

doubt (n.)
1. A lack of certainty that often leads to irresolution. See Synonyms at uncertainty.
2. A lack of trust.
3. A point about which one is uncertain or skeptical: reassured me by answering my doubts.
4. The condition of being unsettled or unresolved: an outcome still in doubt.

Taken together, the two contrarian uses of nuanced doubts provided above highlight the challenge of this word pairing.

  • To some, nuanced doubts are perceived as a sign of defective, uncommitted thinking and potential senility.
  • To others, nuanced doubts are a sign of intellectual honesty in the face of red-faced knee-jerkism.

As a result, this particular word pairing is the equivalent of a land mine unless you possess complete and perfect knowledge of your listener's peculiar point of view as it relates to the subject of your observation.

Examples to follow.

No comments: