An Illustration of the Power of Language
Several years ago, I was having lunch with a co-worker; a highly educated gentleman, well versed in applied chemistry and other sciences.
“I’ve often wondered what the dark side of the moon looks like. Since it’s never illuminated by the sun, I wonder if it has craters too?”
At first, I thought he was kidding, but then I realized that he was being completely serious.
I replied, “You realize that there really isn’t a dark side of the moon, don’t you? As the moon rotates, the sun sooner or later lights up its entire surface. By the way, there are photographs of the back side of the moon and it does have craters.”
I’ve often heard it said that: as we speak, so do we also think.
This story serves as a perfect example of the power of language to shape our thinking and convince us of “facts” which unfortunately just aren’t true. In this case with a well-used and commonplace phrase.
It’s relatively easy to see how such linguistic misconceptions can be reinforced. After all, why would our language accept the use of a phrase such as the “dark side of the moon”, if there really isn’t one?
For the rest of that particular lunch hour, I used an apple (representing the Earth) and a grape (the Moon) to demonstrate to my friend that the Sun does eventually illuminate the entire surface of the Moon and that the Moon does rotate on its axis – just once – every time it revolves around the Earth.
It was fairly obvious that he really thought that I was trying to pull one over on him. We both had been known to attempt that from time to time.
Begrudgingly, my friend finally had to admit that I was correct, but I could tell that he was having a difficult time accepting the fact that he had allowed himself to be misled by this phrase for all those years.
I hope he doesn’t believe that the Earth is flat! Maybe I better give him a call?