Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Good news, bad news

Language! What a tricky thing--and once again I am in awe of the ability of technology to make me smarter. I used the word "bellweather" in an email to someone today and my spell checker informed me that it should be "bellwether." I had always assumed that a "bellweather" referred somehow to a bell that rang in strong wind and therefore was an indicator of impending weather, and hence its more metaphorical use as a trend indicator. The corrected spelling made me doubt whether (no pun intended) or not I understood the word so I cut and immediately pasted it in my Wiki search widget on my default browser page. Oh my:

A bellwether is any entity in a given arena that serves to create or influence trends or to presage future happenings.

The term is derived from the Middle English bellewether and refers to the practice of placing a bell around the neck of a castrated ram (a wether) leading its flock of sheep. The movements of the flock could be perceived by hearing the bell before the flock was in sight.

Well, the next time you're thinking about whether to be a leader or a follower, you might want to keep that castrated ram thing in mind.

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