Asking Google, "Who invented the circular saw?" will yield Edmond Michel, and while he was credited with the development of a circular saw in the 20th century, this was not the first circular saw in existence.
The origins are widely debate as the circular blade was in use by the late eighteenth century, but one of the most comprehensive accounts of the origins of the circular saw concerns Sister Tabitha Babbitt from Harvard, Massachusetts:
"One day while watching the men sawing wood, she noted that one half of the motion was lost and she conceived of the idea of the circular saw. She made a tin disk, and notching it around the edge, slipped it on the spindle of her spinning wheel, tried it on a piece of shingle and found that this idea was a practical one, and from this crude beginning came the circular saw of to-day. Sister Tabitha's first saw was made in sections and fastened to a board. A Lebanon Shaker later conceived the idea of making a saw out of a single piece of metal" (The Manifesto, 1899).
While it's true that much of the developing world may have been producing similar inventions of their own accord, even around the same time, inventions have been widely misattributed solely to one person. More and more people are becoming aware that while Thomas Edison made a development in the production of the light bulb, he didn't actually invent the light bulb.
More and more people are aware that Christopher Columbus did not discover America.
The chapter, "Language that Starts the Clock of History When it's Most Convenient," by Ali Almossawi describes how indicators of time and descriptors of historical events can be used to deceive, dismiss, and misrepresent.
He points to a compelling quote from the [also often misrepresented] 1984 by George Orwell (1949). "Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right."
While there are multiple valid meanings to this passage, Almossawi is specifically referring to ways in which the events of history are recorded and skewed to fit a narrative. Something that I really admire about his chapters, as I've explained in past posts, is that he uses concepts and events that are commonly known to introduce lesser known ideas. This chapter is no exception.
Rewriting history is a power play.
Rewrites of history are used to pretend that people and who are different from ourselves and places that are different from where we've always lived are lesser than.
These rewrites can also be used to pretend that changes in law immediately changes society and stigma, and Almossawi takes this one step further. He states that laws are loaded language in and of themselves. He gives a direct example, "We'll let you vote, but you have to pass a literacy test first. Oh, you can't read and write (by law)? Shame" (Almossawi, 2021).
For those who are interested in reading more about civil rights laws passed in he 1960s, I highly recommend watching interviews conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, reading, and generally listening to BIPOC voices.
What kind of information would aid this chapter?
By no means is this a criticism of this chapter. I think that it serves its purposes and follows through on its argument. It would be very difficult to delve into the extent of why people have found it so necessary to misrepresent events in current news and history. Simply stating that it's a concern of power, while very true, reads as dismissive.
Something else that this chapter does, which I found particularly interesting, is show how the same loaded language used in the news, in our history, in our laws, feeds into our interactions with one another. More information about how the languages that exists in different spheres interact would substantiate this chapter, but it would also help to learn more about this subject and then re-read the chapter.
The impact of this book, and specifically this chapter, is that while it holds a specific purpose and fulfills that purpose well, it is also very re-readable. It's difficult to compose a piece in which new things can be discovered each time it is read, but this text has that value. By re-reading, also, one can only become more self-aware.
Thank you so much to everyone who has given me feedback on Purposeful Prose thus far!
This was a very interesting chapter, and while there are some issues that I cannot speak to, it's very helpful to understand a further extent to which the information in our news and history has been skewed by loaded language, often in ways that we are not aware of. That said, implicit biases deserve their own series of posts entirely.
Next week will be a continuation of my conversation with my amazing colleague and friend from The Urban Writers.
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As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Almossawi, A., & Giraldo, A. (2021). An Illustrated Book of Loaded Language: Learn to Hear What’s Left Unsaid (Bad Arguments). The Experiment.
Gunter, B. (2014, November 2). Alabama woman, at 94, reflects on poll taxes, literacy tests and new. Southern Poverty Law Center. https://www.splcenter.org/news/2014/11/02/alabama-woman-94-reflects-poll-taxes-literacy-tests-and-new-efforts-limit-voting-0
Orwell, G. (2021). Nineteen Eighty-Four. Penguin Classics.
Tensley, B. (n.d.). Black voting rights and voter suppression: A timeline. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2021/05/politics/black-voting-rights-suppression-timeline/
Eldress of the Harvard Shakers. (1899). The Manifesto.