The ABCs of auto-complete

Filling out “What is _____”?

The rule is: write a word or two about the first topic I see from the autocomplete dropdown.

Antifa: antifa=”anti fascist”
Bitcoin: (I swear, I am just following the first thing I see!) an alternate currency used to purchase items online. (blockchain, a term related to bitcoin, came in third)
climate change: Big topic. Good luck with that project, kids.
DACA: The acronym for an Obama-era immigration programme called “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”, currently under threat by Donald Trump.
eid: A Muslim festival
fentanyl: a painkiller, too powerful for humans
gout: pain, too powerful for most people. Just try not to use fentanyl.
hpv: human papilloma virus
instagram: a way to share photos and videos via your smartphone
justice: a clothing store for young girls.
kombucha: a fermented Chinese tea
lupus: people seem to have a morbid interest in nasty diseases so far, don’t they?
ms: see?
nafta: an agreement which drains manufacturing jobs to Mexico, while causing Mexican to do the same work in squalid conditions for a fraction of the wages.
osteoporosis: a leaching of calcium from the bones, causing them to weaken.
pinterest: why is this at the top of google? I would bet that the site is something like “pinterest.com” — isn’t that worth a try to find out first-hand?
queer: a gay or lesbian person. The Google dictionary did not offer that as a definition, by the way, which is rather queer, to use the Google definition.
room temperature: 68 fahrenheit or 20 celsius.
Sarahah: Great. Another app which provides a way to harass others anonymously.
transgender: sense of personal identity does not relate to thei r biologically-assigned sex.
uber: Outstanding or Supreme; also a transport company.
vpn: virtual private network
whole milk: milk with around 4% milk fat
xanax: a mood drug
your name: yes, that really came up first for “y”
zip code: doesn’t apply to me, I don’t have a zip code

The origin of the phrase "silent majority"

This phrase was made popular by Richard Nixon around 1968 when he attempted to discredit Vietnam war protestors as a group of vocal fringe elements, while he was secretly escalating the war into Cambodia. “The silent majority”, it was supposed by Nixon, still supported the US involvement in Vietnam.

It must be admitted, that 40 years later, the phrase still resonates with us. But as clever and smart as Nixon was, he did not come up with it himself; the phrase actually had its origins in classical literature. It was used to describe dead people. So, surely that must mean that in Nixon’s democracy, we should always respect the opionions of the dead, since there will always be more of them than of us. This need to respect their opinions is made more urgent by the fact that dead people cannot speak for themselves, and thus have no voice of their own in our political discourse. In addition, most of them are hard-working dead people who have never committed crimes.

In recent elections, however, dead people have in fact lent their weight to various political parties by voting in several recent elections in several states in the US. Dead people have also run for political office, and one of them won an election in a race against John Ashcroft. In America, dead people are full participants in the democratic process, benefitting both Democrats and Republicans.

Surely, Nixon’s phrase has resonance, not in the apologetic, hawkish, warmongering sense, but in the originally intended sense, backed by over 1000 years of classical European literature.  I think Nixon really was referring to dead people, and he may have even been invoking the spirit world.

What is the true origin of that phrase? I was itching to find out.

At first, I thought “silent majority” must have originated from Dante’s Inferno, where would likely have used it to describe the dead. It turned out to be too juicy a fact to be true. He doesn’t use the phrase.

Phrases close to this have been pointed out a few years ago by the late classical scholar James B. Butrica, who quoted several writers, including the ancient Roman writer Petronius (AD 27-66): “Abiit ad plures” or, “S/He’s gone to the majority”, a fancy way of saying “S/He’s dead”. Butrica says that the same phrase was also used some 200 years earlier by Roman writer Plautus (circa 254–184 BCE).

At any rate, all I have to say is: one man, one death. It wouldn’t be terribly democratic if one man had two deaths. And also, I believe quite strongly that if you vote when you are alive, then if you die right after you leave the polling station, then you shouldn’t be allowed to come back and vote again as a dead person before the polls close.

In closing, I must say that the constant invocation of “the silent majority” over the years whenever most discourse opposes what a politician does, is a fallacy. We only have one way to read “silent majority” (I’m talking about the living this time), which is to say that if you don’t speak up, it is because it (whatever “it” is) doesn’t arouse your passions, and thus you don’t care. If the majority of voters decide not to vote, for example (as is too sadly the case most of the time), then their silence is not seen as a vote for anyone, and their non-votes are never counted. A politician cannot “listen” to the silent majority, because there is nothing for them to hear.

I laughed till I choked

This was originally discovered at Patti’s Random Noise. A Google search shows that this one is all over the ‘net, with a complete history behind the sign and everything. I laughed so hard, I could barely breathe; I was even in pain. And, yes, I suppose that particular clinic doesn’t see many clients, having already gained useful advice before they even enter the parking lot.

I wonder what the Pope would think of this kind of family planning advice?

The sign was for a family planning office in Northampton, England. The “NHS” logo stands for Britain’s National Health Service.

A shaggy dog

I have always been in stitches every time I read Peter Applebome’s imitation Hemingway:


We were young and our happiness dazzled us with its strength. But there was also a terrible betrayal that lay within me like a Merle Haggard song at a French restaurant. …

I could not tell the girl about the woman of the tollway, of her milk white BMW and her Jordache smile. There had been a fight. I had punched her boyfriend, who fought the mechanical bulls. Everyone told him, “You ride the bull, senor. You do not fight it.” But he was lean and tough like a bad rib-eye and he fought the bull. And then he fought me. And when we finished there were no winners, just men doing what men must do. …

“Stop the car,” the girl said. There was a look of terrible sadness in her eyes. She knew about the woman of the tollway. I knew not how. I started to speak, but she raised an arm and spoke with a quiet and peace I will never forget.

“I do not ask for whom’s the tollway belle,” she said, “the tollway belle’s for thee.”

The next morning our youth was a memory, and our happiness was a lie. Life is like a bad margarita with good tequila, I thought as I poured whiskey onto my granola and faced a new day.

— Peter Applebome, International Imitation Hemingway Competition
Click here for the unedited version Once there, scroll to the bottom.