Skepticism and Language

Something has become apparent to me in some conversations recently: being a skeptic changes the way I use particular words and phrase things. I am very particular about the words “belief” and “faith,” for instance, being careful not to use the former when talking about things like science (where it’s a matter of acceptance, not belief), and being careful to use the latter…pretty much never. When I talk about things I remember, I often preface or qualify the statement with a phrase that recognizes how flawed and malleable memory is.

So, dear readers, I put the question to you: How has your skepticism changed the way you talk?

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7 Responses to Skepticism and Language

  1. Mythnam says:

    It's made me a lot more sarcastic, for better or worse. I find that I tend to use the word "believe," which sometimes leads to accusations of believing things on faith, but I just deal with that when it happens. I do have to phrase things more clearly than should be necessary sometimes, and I respond to questions with more questions often enough that I probably come off as kind of a dick. I also have to say "I don't know" more often than most people, but that just comes with the territory.

  2. Akusai says:

    I also qualify my statements a lot more than I used to. When I'm on shaky ground, (i.e. I know that I don't know too much about what I'm talking about), I'll always make sure to point that out to whoever I'm speaking with. I definitely didn't used to do that; I used to bullshit my way through in an attempt to look more knowledgeable than I was.

  3. Techskeptic says:

    Like akusai, I feel this annoying need to qualify what I say, even when not on shaky ground, but so that it is understood where the applicability it and what the data sources are.This makes me sound like I dont knwo what I am talking about.

  4. Akusai says:

    Also, I find myself rarely using the word "skeptic" in mixed company. It feels weird, like they'll think I'm part of some new cult or something, and it requires more explanation than it's worth, anyway.Which is a shame, because it's the best descriptor I have for what I do.

  5. GDad says:

    "Gesundheit" instead of "Bless you."People having hard times are in my thoughts, not in my thoughts and prayers.I tend to mutter "Jeebus H. Cripes" a lot under my breath.I very rarely use absolutes in speech. For example, it is extremely unusual to hear the words "always" or "never" pass my lips.I try to have sources to cite when I assert things. If I assert that the rate of high school dropouts in the USA is >30%, I need to be able to point to the 2006 (or whatever) TIME Magazine article where I read that statistic. This makes arguments with idiots less appealing, because I hesitate to bring up evidence unless I can cite that source.I tend to change the subject a lot when family members swear by the latest homeopathic BS.

  6. Bronze Dog says:

    I've succeeded in cutting down on various "God exclamations" and my use of the word "impossible," just to name a couple off the top of my head.

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