One of my favorite websites is "WordSpy," which highlights new words and expressions. We linguists are funny that way. A few days ago, the word of the day was mathwash, a verb meaning "to use mathematics, logic, or a similar rational argument to make something inherently subjective appear to be objective."
I think this is a case of a wonderful word arriving at just the right moment in time. As we wade deeper into the morass of the general election season, the candidates will marshall vast armies of statistics and economic data in an attempt to prove (a) that they are right and (b) that the other side is a bunch of useless ratbastards unfit to govern a grade school student council. This data will seldom be presented in context and will be used less as a tool for understanding than as a bludgeon with which to beat the opposition. Or, as Scottish literary critic Andrew Lang once said of a politician of whom he disapproved, "He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts - for support rather than for illumination."
I am a firm believer in data, but I like to know its pedigree before I believe in it. When I read an article or see a post or hear a speech loaded with statistics and other figures, I always try to figure out the source ... and if that source is a highly partisan one, I tend to do a little more digging before I accept the information at face value. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of believing that all information is created equal.
See you tomorrow. More thoughts then.