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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Black Swan

Being a passionate ballet lover (if you are too, visit my other blog at toursenlair.blogspot.com), I was intrigued to come across what is apparently a trendy new term: "Black Swan event":

"A Black Swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random."

The Black Swan's author Nassim Nicholas Taleb states that Google and the September 11 attacks were Black Swans. Taleb also tells us "Black Swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our personal lives".

However, apparently Taleb was not alluding to nasty Odile who turns up in Act III of Swan Lake and deceives the prince into thinking she's the good white swan Odette, but rather to the unexpected discovery of black swans which destroyed the theory that all swans are white.

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About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.