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Those numbered Congresses

Since I’m layin down the law on terminology . . .

Could the entire subfield of American politics please stop talking about the 77th Congress or the 103rd Congress and start talking about the 1941-42 Congress and the 1993-94 Congress and so forth? This would just make everybody’s life easier.

Thank you. I’ll stop bugging you now.

7 Comments

  1. Doug says:

    AMEN! Preach it brother!

  2. Mac says:

    Absolutely!

  3. John Fleck says:

    This journalist applauds you. It's one of those coded jargon-speak tricks people use to exclude those who aren't in the know. But its end result is getting in the way of actual communication.

    By way of metaphor, I was once sitting in a workshop that brought together a bunch of geophysicists and geologists. At the time, I didn't fully grasp the difference. But over the course of several days, the geologists would repeatedly make reference to "the Cambrian," "the Cretaceous," etc. And the geophysicists would raise their hands and say "How long ago was that?"

  4. Anonymous says:

    And animal psychologists should say "reward" instead of "reinforcement". According to Veblen, academics use obscure terms to show off.

  5. Eric says:

    That's fine for most congresses, but the style gets muddied by the 1939-1941 congress, e.g. There's not much harm in talking about the 103rd Congress (1993-94).

  6. ZBicyclist says:

    Good suggestion.

    But at least "103rd Congress" always refers to the same thing whether you are reading the NYT, WSJ, Time or Newsweek.

    In statistics, the symbology changes more often than sheets at a cheap motel.

    Consider, for example, this incomplete listing of choices for the two parameters of an NBD (negative binomial) model:

    Johnson, Kotz and Kemp: P, k
    they also offer q, k
    Greenwood and Yule: alpha, beta
    Jeffreys: beta, rho
    Anscombe: alpha, lambda
    Evans: a, m
    Evans, Hastings et al: x, p
    Wikipedia: r, p
    Wikipedia also offers omega, p
    Ehrenberg: m, k
    Ehrenberg also: m, a
    Hardie: r, alpha
    Guenther: p, k (NOT the same thing as P, k)
    Systat: P, K (IS the same thing as p, k — but not as P, k)

    and, of course, I'm not done yet — just tired of typing. For this particular function, I have a big cross-reference table to keep the literature straight.

    Why does this persist? I would have naively thought that with the dominance of a relatively few software choices (SAS, SPSS, R/S) that terminology would be standardized, just as Microsoft inadvertently standardized the rules for Hearts.

  7. mjm says:

    Bad news: as comparative has tricked out its methods American-style, we've started doing the same thing with the European Parliament.