Monday, 20 April 2020

The Bermuda Triangle

When an author writes that a particular phrase or term was first coined that is not the same as writing when the phrase or term to describe a particular concept or idea was first coined. Failing to differentiate between the two is a gumption trap fallen into by many a credulous bozo desperate to fact deny a new discovery that proves an author wrong about when a word, term or phrase was first coined.

For example, many simply claim that Richard Dawkins first coined the term "selfish gene". But he never. The term was coined years earlier in published print by his mentor William (Bill) Hamilton - see Sutton and Griffiths (2018) for the expert peer reviewed fact of the matter.

Today, during week four of the UK Covid-19 lock-down I was idly browsing through the shelves of my library looking for something interesting to read. My hand alighted on a book I can't remember reading. When I flicked through it I found a note I had written in ink pen on one of the pages. I wrote: "Check if this is true" on page 152 of the book entitled 'Think: Why You Should Question Everything' by Guy. T. Harrison (2013) where the author of that book has it: 'The earliest known mention of the Bermuda Triangle was an article in Argosy (February 1964).'  

Ironically, Harrison did not question this widely published claim himself, because following my directions written several years ago, I found an earlier mention the Bermuda triangle. The 1950 publication tells us that Pan American Airways provided trips to the area described as 'Bermuda triangle' (click here to visit the Google books scanned snippets entry, archived here).

In fact, there are many mentions of the area described as Bermuda triangle before 1964. The notion of the Bermuda Triangle being a meme about aircraft and ships missing within it is of course a different matter, because there we are talking about a concept about the area, rather than just a phrase, term or title for the same area. But we must remember exactly what Harrison wrote above. And when it comes to earliest mention of the term Bermuda triangle, or even about the dual capitalized version 'Bermuda Triangle', he is plainly 100% wrong. But he is clearly right that we should question everything we are told.

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