The strength of materials and the people’s folly

by JoeCarillo ( | | | | )

March 2, 2015


Dear Fellow Communicator,


Tumultuous times like these, both here in the Philippines and in many other places in the world, have prompted me to hark back to a cautionary essay I wrote in the early 2000s, “The Strength of Materials and People’s Folly,” which bewailed our tendency as a people “to consign ourselves to the patently inferior choices and deceptively attractive but bad decisions that ultimately make life so miserable for many of us.” It’s an essay that I think is as relevant and as timely as ever, so I decided to post it in this week’s edition of Jose Carillo’s English Forum.


THIS WEEK IN THE FORUM (March 1 – 7, 2015):

·       Essays by Jose Carillo: Tales of Perdition (Popular culture, religion, and media have mercilessly conditioned us to to believe that everything is possible)

·       Readings on Language: Romancing the English Alphabet,  Both Literally and Figuratively (A passionate chronicle of how the “cunning code” that became our ABCs evolved)

·       You Asked Me This Question: How Third Conditionals Differ From Subjunctive Sentences (The first deals with the real-world situations, the second with wishes and desires)

·       Use and Misuse: Clarifying a Questionable Notion About the Proper Use of “Each” (Must this word be always singular no matter how it’s positioned or used?)

·       News and Commentary: 64% of the Indigenous Languages in the Americas Face Extinction (Their speakers are falling below the mininum 100,000 for a language to survive)

·       Time Out from English Grammar: The Genesis and Evolution of Love Songs as a Transcendent Art Form (They flowered over the centuries despite censorship, controversy, and socio-cultural as well as religious reprisals)

·       Badly Written, Badly Spoken: Exceptions to the General Rule of Writing Numbers in Letters (Scientific, mathematical, and statistical writing use figures, not spelled out numbers)

·       The Finest in Language Humor: “I’ll Bet You Didn’t Know These Facts About the English Language”  (Sampler: In mediaeval Europe, a moment was precisely 1/40th of an hour, or 90 seconds)

·       Students’ Sounding Board: How to Avoid the Use of Legalese In Your English By Really Trying (Be a no-nonsense writer who’s not attempting to sound like a lawyer)

·       Advice and Dissent: To Survive, Democracy Needs to Find A Way to Break Its Confidence Trap (Its problem is curbing its impulsiveness, short-termism, and historical myopia, a political analyst argues)

·       Getting to Know English: Why Does the Word “Gratuitous” Have Two Contradictory Senses? (It just happened to evolve into a strange word form called a contronym or antagonym)

·       The Lounge: A Folktale for Our Troubled Times (Its moral is that opinionated, inadequately informed individuals are as blind as if they have no eyesight)

·       Education and Training: The DOST LEAP and Other English Proficiency Improvement Measures (Concerns of an advocate of good English regarding their efficacy and delayed release)

·       How Good is Your English?: Debatable Answer Choices in English Practice Test (They can confuse when too arithmetical, too arbitrary, and too culture-bound!)


See you at the Forum!


Sincerely yours,

Joe Carillo


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