Precautions that increase danger
Posted: 08 January 2017 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]
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German has the wonderful word schlimmbesserung, meaning an ‘improvement’ that actually makes things worse. Does anyone know a word in any language for a precaution that actually increases danger? Modern life is full of them: for example -

- the practice of washing raw chicken before cooking it, which not only doesn’t remove anything harmful but spreads any salmonella or other bacteria present on the chicken to kitchen surfaces

- the British practice of leaving all one’s curtains tightly closed when going away on holiday (my mother-in-law would even pin hers closed). The intention is to conceal from potential burglars that the house is empty; but of course it does the precise opposite.

What’s striking about these particular practices is that absolutely everyone with expert knowledge of the subject knows they are directly counterproductive; health authorities and police in the UK have consistently been leafleting and advertising the public to stop doing them for years. But many people just won’t.

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Posted: 08 January 2017 06:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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More an example than a descriptive term: nuclear weapon test.

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Posted: 09 January 2017 01:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 08 January 2017 07:56 AM

German has the wonderful word schlimmbesserung

The word is Verschlimmbesserung in German, but someone must have got it wrong when compiling a list of untranslatable words, and the mistake has been picked up and reproduced in the way of the internet. Appropriate, really.

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Posted: 09 January 2017 05:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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There is misfeature, an old poetic term that has been re-invented by the software world to refer to a design that has unintended bad effects (not a bug as it works as intended, just that there are undesirable secondary or tertiary effects).

The OED entry (note the last one is computer jargon):

Chiefly poet.

A distorted feature, distortion; a bad feature or trait.
1818 Keats Sonnet, Human Seasons in L. Hunt Lit. Pocket-bk. 225 He [sc. man] has his Winter too of pale misfeature.
1871 T. Carlyle in Lett. & Memorials J. W. Carlyle (1883) I. 42 Some misfeature of pronunciation, which I have now forgotten.
1890 R. Bridges Shorter Poems i. 5 All summer’s dry misfeatures.
1906 C. M. Doughty Dawn in Brit. II. vii. 172 That to the sun, All-seeing, beneath this bended firmament, Is their misfeature, as the Night, uncouth.
1991 .EXE Mag. July 88/1 Users get annoyed with misfeatures in programs in much the same way as they do if Ophelia has a swift ciggie after Act III.

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Posted: 09 January 2017 08:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I could see it becoming a transitive verb in the theatrical sense: Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith misfeature Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker.

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Posted: 09 January 2017 09:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Dr. Techie - 09 January 2017 08:11 AM

I could see it becoming a transitive verb in the theatrical sense: Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith misfeature Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker.

Now that would most definitely prove useful!

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