For some reason I have been thinking about the famous episode when Colin Powell appeared at the United Nations with a vial filled with a white powdery substance intended to portray the biological toxin, anthrax. It was quite a while ago, back before the U.S. invaded Iraq. The anthrax was used as a justification for invasion. Powell painted a picture of an Iraq that possessed significant quantities of the stuff, enough to make huge numbers of people sick —an Iraq bent, also, on attacking the U.S. and or her allies.
It's interesting to remember how our government and military were driven into the war. Were Powell's assertions credible? I seem to remember that the war planners' assertions about chemical weapons in Iraq were traced to a single source from Germany, code-named "Curveball." Hmm. makes me wonder.
Anyway, although this may already be a known quantity, as an exercise in humor, I was wondering about what was in that vial. If you already know what was in the vial that Powell held up in front of the UN security council, then please pretend like you don't, and don't give it away for the rest of us (at least wait a while and give people a chance to guess.)
If you care to weigh in or wager a guess as to what white powdery substance inhabited that seemingly inconspicuous vial - then please proceed to the poll page.
Here's an article by Steven Pinker on the issue of language and the widespread view that English is in a state of decay and one step away from total collapse.
Language is a human instinct. All societies have complex language, and everywhere the languages use the same kinds of grammatical machinery like nouns, verbs, auxiliaries, and agreement. All normal children develop language without conscious effort or formal lessons, and by the age of three they speak in fluent grammatical sentences, outperforming the most sophisticated computers. Brain damage or congenital conditions can make a person a linguistic savant while severely retarded, or unable to speak normally despite high intelligence. All this has led many scientists, beginning with the linguist Noam Chomsky in the late 1950's, to conclude that there are specialized circuits in the human brain, and perhaps specialized genes, that create the gift of articulate speech.
But when you read about language in the popular press, you get a very different picture. Johnny can't construct a grammatical sentence. As educational standards decline and pop culture disseminates the inarticulate ravings and unintelligible patois of surfers, rock stars, and valley girls, we are turning into a nation of functional illiterates: misusing [hopefully], confusing [lie] and [lay], treating [bummer] as a sentence, letting our participles dangle. English itself will steadily decay unless we get back to basics and start to respect our language again.