‘Knowledge is garbage.’

Whenever I run into a new word, or a word that I have to look up, invariably I’ll turn around and find that word in another place. It sits there on the page, or comes through the speaker, as if saying, “I’ve always been here. You were just too dim to notice.” Or maybe it says, “I’m your new friend. You can see me everywhere!!”

And so I was reading Gene Weingarten’s column in the Washington Post Magazine, where he’s saying that Google has turned knowledge into garbage:

“Information isn’t garbage, but being knowledgeable is severely devalued. It is nothing to aspire to or to take any particular pride in. The era of the know-it-all is over.”

Then he brings in Peter Sagal, host of NPR’s “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me,” who, recalling his SAT scores, says, “I definitely had a 780 in verbal. I missed one question, the meaning of the word ‘palliate.’ ”


My Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary. which I won in the 6th Grade spelling bee at Friends School in Detroit, says palliate means to reduce the violence of : abate; to cover by excuses and apologies: excuse.

Next day I’m reading “Bel Ami” a 19th century French novel of manners by Guy de Maupassant, and I come across this:

“Do you understand now how our acceptance of [the fortune] would be interpreted? It would be necessary to find a side issue, some clever way of palliating matters.”

No more palliating sightings since then, but I’m hopeful.

Happy New Year.



Filed under books, popular culture, reading

2 responses to “‘Knowledge is garbage.’

  1. Deborah Holzel

    And then there’s palliative care–comfort measures for the terminally ill.

  2. Shmoo

    “Palliating” in the novel was the choice of the translator. What are the chances? 🙂

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