Sunday, 25 March 2018

would you mind coming with me, piglet, in case they turn out to be hostile animals

Minted in the realm scientific methodology, the literary allusion to the Woozle effect—that is, appeal to authority or evidence reinforced by frequent citation—was first used to criticise confirmation bias in research and long-term studies three decades after A. A. Milne first portrayed Winne-the-Pooh and Piglet embarking off into a snowy Hundred Acre Wood to track down the elusive Woozle. The down believe that they are bearing down on the mysterious creature, until as Christopher Robin points out to them, they are going around in circles and tracing their own footprints.
Woozle hunting or the Woozle effect occurs when a thesis or argument is premised upon an earlier reference that itself lacks scientific rigor or unverified claims and whose non-facts become the basis of urban-myth or custom. Examples of this phenomenon might be the prohibition of not wearing white shoes after Labor Day—which was just a snobbish joke that became culturally ingrained or the avoidance to leads to clumsy syntax by citing misplaced grammatical rules about not splitting infinitives (to boldly go where no man has gone before) or ending a sentence with a preposition (this is the sort of tedious nonsense up with which I will not put)—both rules made for Latin and not English since they were each grammatically impossible to do and in the case of the latter, English absolutely excels sensibly at what can be called prepositional stranding. Of course, there can also be more serious and stubborn examples of the Woozle effect in public discourse.