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  • T. W. Emory


Imposing order on chaos seems to be a deep-seated need in humans. So too, making the complex simple; or at least having the complicated made simple for us. Thus, the important role played by those writers and video-makers who turn technical information into something readily understandable and even interesting to the general public. Such “popularizers” definitely fill a niche in today’s society. In effect, they respond to the ‘cut to the chase’ and ‘cut the Gordian Knot’ demands of the average layperson.

Those two ‘cut’ expressions I just used, got me to thinking about how many common idioms contain the word ‘cut’ to convey the basic idea of quickly getting to the important or main part of something, or getting to what’s what in short order. For example, ‘cut the crap’ means get to the point, or tell it like it is. Then there’s ‘cut the red tape’ which has to do with eliminating or bypassing the complicated, as in rules and procedures. To ‘cut out the middleman’ refers to dealing directly or avoiding unnecessary stages. When you ‘cut corners’, you take the easiest, quickest, or cheapest way, though not necessarily the best way. And to ‘cut someone down to size’ means to deflate or reduce a person’s exaggerated sense of self-worth.

I find it interesting that these ‘cutting’ idioms keep company with a famous philosophic principle. “Occam’s razor” states that one should not make unnecessary assumptions and that the answer to a problem is often the simplest. Occam’s metaphorical “razor” cuts away, as it were, competing arguments and conclusions in order to leave the simplest argument and likely conclusion. And so, with that I’ll cut this short.

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