Baby Steps to Disabuse Yourself: Use a Dictionary

English is my second language. I learned it first (like all kids around my block) from unsubtitled animated cartoons. And later, from school.

Around age 7 I cracked a mystery. I found out that “doc” is an abbreviation for “doctor”. This triggered other memories of me hearing “what’s up” and understanding it is a form of salutation. And I got an epiphany: “What’s up doc?”, this is what that Bugs Bunny character was saying all along! I and all the children around my block were simply emitting similar-sounding gibberish up until that point, such as “watchoffduck”.

I had no idea why “doc” and “doctor”. The cartoons had forgotten to include any medical apparel on the character. So, there still was a doubt in my mind that this was indeed what the rabbit was saying. But I had no dictionary in the house at that point and obviously no Internet.

I ran outside to see if I could find any kids to tell them about my epiphany. And I found A (~0.5 years older than me). I started telling him what I had found out and how it all makes more sense now.

He said that no, the expression must be about carrots (“morcovi” in my language). It cannot be “What’s up doc?”. I insisted that no, the English word for “morcovi” is “carrots” and you don’t hear it in this sentence.

He went berserk. He started shouting that it must be about carrots and that I was lying. I was puzzled. I asked him what is Bugs Bunny saying then? He repeated the same gibberish kids were usually saying — “watchoffduck”. Yes, but what does it mean exactly, word by word? He did not know. If you don’t know, then why do you say I am lying when I am telling you exactly how I got to that conclusion?

After some back and forth, it turns out that his parents were using Bugs Bunny to make him eat carrots. Telling him that Bugs Bunny himself is telling him to eat carrots.

When the truth is pitted against the entire world view of a person, even if demonstrably false, it will be met with all the rage that stems from the deductions of what it means to have been lied to and to have believed. People cannot stand to be seen as fools.

Me telling him exactly what Bugs Bunny says revealed a new truth about his world, that destroyed his worldview: parents can lie. Accepting what I was saying meant accepting that his parents lied to his face. Of course, he could not believe me more than he believed his own parents. So, I must be the one lying.

Finally, I left saying that I might be wrong, but that there is a way to know if I am right or wrong — by consulting the English dictionary.

We cannot afford to think that we are not fools already.

There is a high discomfort in being shunned by those you maybe even care about, but in the end, telling the truth is a duty to yourself, to them, and to the world around you. But be prepared to face the low blows and have patience.


We need correct data in order to construct correct models of the world. It should be a human right to receive correct data (as much as it can be demonstrated).

We need Science as a shortcut for being in consensus with the laws of the Universe and we need a dictionary in order to be in consensus with the vocabulary of others. Voting is yet another consensus consulting mechanism.

But after achieving consensus internally, we need to steadfastly defend it at all costs and with maximum clarity, until we are proven wrong. At which point, we will disabuse ourselves of the illusion of the old consensus and adopt the new one.

Originally published at

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