MISUNDERSTOOD PHRASES….In a comment to a previous post, James E. Powell says the following about Marshall McLuhan’s famous phrase, “The medium is the message”:

The phrase, and the analytical thought behind it, is second only to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in the number of times it has been referred to by people who have no understanding of what the author was talking about.

I’m not sure which misunderstanding of Heisenberg James is thinking of ? maybe he has in mind a superposition of all of them ? but that sounds about right to me.

It also provokes an interesting thought: what other famous phrases and concepts would be on a list of Top Ten Most Misunderstood Ideas of All Time? In the spirit of Heisenberg, I’d put G?del’s Incompleteness Theorem on the list, although so few people have even heard of it that I’m not sure it really counts as widely misunderstood.

On a less exalted plane, I might nominate “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” which means exactly the opposite of what most people think it means.

What else? Make it a Top 100 list, provide some nice, breezy explanations, and it could be a fine little gift book kind of thing. Just the project for a polymath with a light touch and a few free weekends.