Editor at Large

Watchwords for 2009: SWAN

Scientists at Stony Brook University in New York have found that 1 in 10 long-term couples experiences true love, as far as an fMRI can show it. Jake Young of Pure Pedantry explains why this is so much journalistic fluff. But the researchers are right about one thing: by referring to these true lovers as “swans,” they’re using a term we may hear a lot more of this year.

Ride On, Black Swan

One of the main reasons I think you’ll be reading about swans in 2009 is Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This hyperconfident public intellectual wrote a book in 2007 called The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, whose success put him in Tipping Point territory. Taleb uses the term “Black Swan” to describe those moments in history that define a generation and defy ex post facto explanation: Black Monday on Wall Street in 1987, the 9/11 attacks, World War I.

The bubble burst of 2008 means that Taleb’s term will continue to appear in the press as a synonym for the worldwide slowdown that nobody saw coming. Nobody’s seen anything like the global depression that seems to be bearing down upon us.

But to me that wasn’t a black swan; it was a white swan. I knew it would happen and I said so. It was a black swan to Ben Bernanke. I wouldn’t use him to drive my car.

Once upon a time, Europeans thought that all swans were white. A single black swan was all it would have taken to invalidate the theory–and that’s exactly what explorers found, flocks even, in Australia.

Swanning Around

If you thought that Obama post was my swan song, think again. I’ll be diving back in (a swan dive?) this year with new posts and new features.

Until next time, keep an eye out in the media for all manner of swan puns and black swan sightings. You may see a lot of them in 2009.

2 replies on “Watchwords for 2009: SWAN”

Annie Glimmerglasssays:

Nice to see you back! Catchy way to begin your post – with a comment about “true love… ” Who made the quote about Bernanke? Taleb?

Glad you’re keeping track, Annie! Thanks for the comment. Yes, the quote is from Taleb — hence the link within it to the original interview.

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