One of my classes has completed a unit on etymology recently and I am now inspired by the idea that I might be able to invent a new word myself. In fact I might even make a genuine contribution to the language and discuss a concept that has been bugging me for ages all at the same time. Amazingly, I suspect there is no word for the concept I’m thinking of and, since a quick check online informs me (note this – it is important I did this) that my new word doesn’t yet exist with another meaning, here I go.

We live in the information age and authoritative facts lie at our fingertips. So why is it that half understood concepts that don’t stand up to scrutiny still proliferate? There was a time when the general public could be excused of collective naivety but time has passed. We all spend too much time linked to smart phones these days to get away with that excuse.

I think the first thing that needs to be done is to give the phenomenon a name. Something that doesn’t have too nasty a connotation but describes an undesirable thing nevertheless. Something that sounds ‘bumpy’ like riding a bike down a rocky hill without your feet on the pedals. Something like this.

Prob·a·bi·log·i·cal [probuh-bi-loj-i-kuhl]

adjective 1. In accordance with assumed principles broadly accepted in society but not supported by evidence: the idea that asylum seeking refugees who come to Australia without paperwork are queue jumpers and law breakers is probabalogical.’

Ok, so I’ve chosen an example that probably wouldn’t make it to on account of its political sensitivity (here in Australia at least) but it’s currently my word and it’s definitely my blog so I’ll stick with it as it also happens to illustrate my ulterior motive.

For the record, the United Nations lists as a human right a person’s capacity to seek asylum from persecution in their homeland. It doesn’t guarantee asylum, just the right to seek it, and it certainly implies that such people should not be demonised for their predicament.

And, since I’m in a clarificatious mood, I should also point out that the numbers of asylum seekers that come to Australia is ridiculously small by global standards and, even then, the refugees who get all the attention (those that arrive by boat) are a small fraction of a small fraction.

And the overwhelming majority of claims by such people are found (after years of scrutiny) to be legitimate.

These facts are well documented yet year after year, with heartbreaking consistency, I teach class loads of teenagers who believe the nation is being over run by sneaky and undesirable lawbreakers. It’s not as if there isn’t a wealth of information out there. It’s not as if the facts aren’t easy to find or grasp. It’s not even the case that my students are a generation of unempathetic narcissists – actually, most of the students I teach are quite keen on the idea of being active on social justice issues.

Their opinion on this issue is just probabalogical.

So there you go folks, have that one on me. In fact, have three new words for the price of one since ‘clarificatious’ and ‘unempathetic’ didn’t exist before this post either. Use it to describe any popular or widespread views that are demonstrably inaccurate. I’ve added it to my spell checker so that the squiggly red line no longer appears. Hope you feel it useful enough to do the same.  

Oh, and should you come across probabalogicians, first take a deep breath and then, as helpfully and good naturedly as possible, suggest that they ‘Google it’.