Monday, March 2, 2009

Something versus This

There seems to be a widespread amount of confusion about the difference between the words "something" and "this."

Whether it's the economic stimulus bill, the auto industry bailout or the latest military weapon system, I keep coming across an argument that says "The situation is dire so we need to do this," followed by an apparent expectation that the argument is over.

What they mean is "The situation is dire so we need to do something."

Maybe the various this's are indeed the best solution to the various dire situations. But they are not the only option. We didn't necessarily have to do this. We only needed to do something, and the something could have been quite different than this.

I'm not commenting here on the specific merits of any spending bill, bailout package or weapon system development project. I'm just saying that the defenders and advocates of such endeavors really need to avoid "We had to do this, it was our only option" when explaining why their selected course of action is appropriate. 

There's always another option.

2 comments:

Mark said...

Great point! What gets me is when the urgency to do "something" translates to the acceptance of "anything". Sort of a flip side to your point (limiting to one option) is the expansion to too many options, including the horrific, ill-advised, and just plain bad ones.

The Dan Ward said...

Well said - I think the "anything" concept is very much the underlying assumption behind the something/this confusion...