Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fun w/ web ads: Science words banned by @carlzimmer featured in his ads

Carl Zimmer has recently been writing about words that should be banned from scientific communication. Originally, I thought this notion was hokie but then I read his postings about it and am starting to warm to the idea. In essence he is railing against jargon. Words and phrases he thinks are to be avoided include
  • Breakthrough
  • Captive observation
  • Demographic leveling
  • Marine environment
  • Material properties
  • Morphology
  • Phylogenetics
When I was browsing his posting something pretty funny started to happen. Ads popped up making use of the banned terms. The best is shown in the one below:

This features an ad from Phizer for its "Big Think/ Breakthroughs" campaign to "explore medical science at the cutting edge." I guess Zimmer has not yet set up an ad blocker system which will keep out ads that use the banned terms ...


  1. It just makes the whole things extra relevant and funny.

  2. I'm not sure what one could replace "phylogenetics" with. "The science of making alignments, inferring evolutionary trees, and interpreting the results"? What's wrong with getting the public to learn the word? It's not a meaningless term like "breakthrough" (which I agree should be avoided).

    The public can learn new words -- when I was in grad school in the mid 1990s, I had to explain to my parents what a "genome" was, but now no article even in a newspaper would think that "genome" needed explanation.

  3. Not sure why phylogenetics is on there come to think of it ... but whatever ... the point to me is that in many cases we do not think about words/terms when we use them and sometimes there is a way to say something that more people will understand without changing any of the meaning

  4. the word I hate is 'dynamical'. the biophysics people use it a lot. I don't understand why it is different from 'dynamic'

  5. dynamics..dynamical.. different way of saying the same thing to make you think your IQ is 40 points higher. :)

  6. One of my favorite web ads was about the horror of having "dsDNA." I didn't look into it, but I wonder if they would have tried to sell me anti-ds DNA antibodies to "treat" me.


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