Hey, Vsauce. Michael here.
And as they say, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”
What it means is that it’s better to have a certain advantage than to have nothing, except the possibility of a greater one.
But two birds in the bush? Who calculated that?
What really is the value of a bird in the hand?
Well, according to Julian Baggini, a bird in the hand is technically worth 2.48 birds in the bush. He calculated that number by looking at observations from studies of what psychologists call loss aversion. Loss aversion is a name
given to the tendency we humans have to more strongly prefer to avoid losing
something we have than to gain something that we don’t.
In general, it’s been shown that if someone loses a hundred dollars, they lose more satisfaction than someone who receives a hundred dollars acquires. Researchers have been able to get more
granular with loss aversion. In one study, they gave half of the
participants something nice, like a fancy mug, and the other half they gave nothing.
Then they asked the people
with mugs to come up with a value for the mug were they to sell it and
never have it again. They also asked the people who never got
a mug how much they would be willing to pay to have a mug.
Now, the people who would never had one, estimated that the value of the muh
would only be about $2.87 But those who did have the mug and knew that
they would never have it again if they sold it estimated its value to be about
two-and-a-half times larger, around 7 dollars.
So, according to the evidence, in a general sense having is actually slightly more than twice as good as not having.
But why just cover that aphorism? Let’s talk about some other literary
terms, because our language can do some pretty funny things and those things it does have specific
names. Let’s begin with the blind date murderer.
A meme people create that starts off all scary
and frightening, but then turns out to actually be nice
and cuddling. For instance, I’m going to rip off your face…book
status, you are so funny! I’m gonna cut you… out some coupons for
that pizza place you like. If you struggle, it’ll only make it worse…
according to this fascinating article I’m sending you about quicksand. Many other memes use a similar structure
and the reason it’s funny is that it’s an example of what is known
as paraprosdokian. A paraprosdokian is a sentence or
phrase you can use that begins one way,
leading people to think a certain thing, but then, in the second half, completely
reverses or in some way changes that initial opinion.
I will eat your baby… carrots if you don’t want them.
Syntactic ambiguity is when you can’t figure out exactly
what a sentence means, because the order of the words doesn’t
help. It frequently occurs in newspaper headlines.
For instance, “Police Help Dog Bite Victim.”
Well, did the police help a person who’d been bit by a dog or did the
police help a dog bite a victim?
“Free Hat!” Are you giving away hats for free or are you trying to get a guy named Hat out of jail? Lexical ambiguity, in my opinion,
is often more fun. This happens when a word has multiple
meanings and figuring out which one is being used in a sentence is a challenge. The word “buffalo” can mean
a number of different things. It’s the name of an animal, the name of a
city and it can also be a verb, which means to bully or confuse or baffle, as in “Hm, this video buffalos me.”
I tweeted about this a few months ago. Because “buffalo” has those three meanings, it is possible to make it completely sensical and correct, legitimate sentence using only the word “buffalo.”
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.” You have to think about it for a long time
for it to make sense, but what it’s really saying is that bison
from the City of Buffalo, that bison from the City of Buffalo bully also happened to bully other bison from
the City of Buffalo. Tongue twisters.
All I have to say here is that the “she” inside “she sells seashells by the
seashore” is an actual “she,” not just some random girl.
“She” most likely refers to Marry Anning, a British paleontologist who
collected fossils from beaches nearby where she lived her entire life and discovered the very first Ichthyosaur’s skeleton when she was only 12 years old.
Now it’s time for my favorite literary term, tmesis. This word is great because you
get to spell it with the “T” and then an “M,” and no vowel in between.
Tmesis is a figure of speech when you stick a word inside another
word. For instance, why say “absolutely,”
when you could say “abso-freakin-lutely?” And why say”you’re welcome,”
when you could say “you’re wel-diddly-elcome?” And of course, “legend… wait for it… dary.”
Finally, a spoonerism is a specific type of verbal mistake where you switch the first two letters
of two words. Many of us do this occasionally, but it’s
named after William Archibald Spooner, a reverend who did this a lot.
For instance, instead of saying that the Lord is a
loving Shepherd, he would tell everybody that the Lord is a shoving leopard.
He would get his “merds wixed up.” One of my favorite, however,
comes from Sarah Palin. When you spoonarise her name,
she becomes Parah Salin. And as always, wanks for thatching.