Vocabulary lesson

Secretary Jackson now says that his quite circumstantial account of having turned down a would-be contractor for dissing the President was “anecdotal,” by which he seems to mean “false.”
It wasn’t, though.

Did you know that “anecdotal” was a synonym for “false”? Me neither.

Of course, it’s virtually certain that Secretary Jackson is lying about having lied. He and his spokeswoman have given too many details of the transaction (which she called “hypothetical,” another new synonym for “false”) for any sane person to believe that the whole thing was invented.

Someone ought to remind Mr. Jackson that if he repeats his current lie to his Department’s Inspector General or to the FBI, he could go to jail for it. Unfortunately, there isn’t (yet) a law against officials lying to the public.

As some blogger remarked today (I hereby bleg for the url of that post) this may be the first time in Washington history in which an official’s defenders claim that he was lying while his accusers insist that he was telling the truth.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

3 thoughts on “Vocabulary lesson”

  1. Actually, I have heard the term "anecdotal" essentially used to mean "false", particularly in the phrase "anecdotal joke". Most commonly, when a joke is described as being "anecdotal", it means that the story itself most likely is not true, but it is being used as an example of something that might happen or as a supposedly humerous way of warning people about inappropriate behaviour. Many jokes that are of the "Friend of a Friend" variety fall into this category.
    So, when I hear of something being described as "anecdotal", I usually take that to mean that the specific story being told isn't necessarily true, but that the underlying principles and/or warnings it carries are supposed to be paied attention to.

  2. The thing is, even if it was a lie (which I don't believe, he was threatening his audience. The only sensible interpretation of why he would tell that story is to convey that 'If we find out you're disloyal to the President, no contracts for you.' So even if it's a lie, that doesn't make it okay, it just changes the nature of the offense.

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