Friday, October 16, 2009

What is the sound of 10,000 motivational-guru heads exploding?

While editing an article, I needed to research the author's use of the old saying that the Chinese characters for "danger" and "opportunity" combine to form the ideogram "crisis." (I initially thought the writer had the equation mixed up.) As it turns out, this well-worn phrase, which John F. Kennedy popularized and serves as a key tenet for more than a few motivational speaker/self-help empires, is to Far Eastern wisdom as Panda Express is to Asian cuisine:

Lisa: Look on the bright side, Dad. Did you know that the Chinese use the same word for "crisis" as they do for "opportunity"?
Homer: Yes! Cris-atunity.

I won't tell you how I edited the article, but I'm curious to know what you'd do under the same circumstance. What's your responsibility to the writer of an article containing a little nugget of popular-but-false wisdom?

1 comment:

  1. Also reminds me of the dispute over the biblical meaning of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. Some scholars claim it was a small gate in Jerusalem, others say it's a mistranslation of the words for a camel and a rope, kamelos vs. kamilos.