A little language kritik

Debate is a silly thing. This activity is ostensibly designed around logic and reason, but we have so many names for things that are relics of tradition and habit.

I'm pretty big on names for things. I really love a good name - something that is witty, maybe helps in understanding some concept. I think everyone does. But when something has a bad name, a name that obscures meaning or is just plain silly, most people tend to ignore it. I mean sure, we don't have racist names for disads anymore, but with all the talk about how to make debate a more accessible place to the outside world, why is there no discussion about making our jargon a little more user-friendly?

Let me get to some examples:

"Intrinsicness perm"
- this one is a straight up relic. It comes (as I understand) from an era in which disadvantages needed to be "intrinsic" to plan. If the affirmative could think up something else that a policy maker could do to avoid the disadvantage - an "intrinsicness answer" - the disad would not be considered a reason to reject the plan. If plan causes a drop in business confidence but is otherwise a good idea, well then we'll do plan and then do something about the business confidence. Frankly, I have no idea how a negative team ever won a round in that world.

Anyway, the kernel of this concept - an addition of something else to plan - carried over into the world of counterplan theory, and the name has stuck around today. This sucks. If someone asks me what an intrinsicness perm is, I can simply explain what it is - a perm that includes some action neither in plan nor counterplan - but then that person has to manually connect the word "intrinsicness" (which isn't even a word) to that concept to be able to use it in a round. Really nasty. Why don't we just call them "addition perms" or "add-on perms" or "rider perms" or "staple perms" or something?

"Double Bind" - This one is just silly. The idea is that you set up a system of arguments that puts your opponents between the ol' rock and a hard place - the more they link-out of one argument the more they link into the other. Running a topicality violation on the word "public" along with a marxist kritik of the public/private dichotomy, for instance. This is generally a pretty good strategic move, so it deserves a good name. A hell of a lot better name than "double bind." There's nothing "double" about it. It's just a bind! They are in a bind between one argument or another. The word "double" is there just to make it sound harder to get out of. You'd be just as well off calling it a "XXTREME Bind" or something. silly.

I'll probably have a bunch more as time goes on and I get reminded of them, that's why I'm using a label just for silly debate words.

Really I think it'd be awesome if we made something like the Jargon File for debate. Like a wiki or something that a non-debater could read and understand this silly thing we call debate.

One more thing on the to do list :)

1 comment:

Zea said...

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