Thursday, March 20, 2008

Word of the Day: Anecdotal

An anecdote is "a short account of an interesting or entertaining incident" - at least that's what my Pocket Oxford says. The word derives from the Greek anekdota "things unpublished". Anecdotal, the adjective derived from the noun "anecdote" (as in "anecdotal evidence") isn't defined in the Pocket Oxford - if it were, the definition would probably read "of, pertaining to or derived from an anecdote or anecdotes".

Question: what's the value of anecdotal evidence, of the kind Jenny Macklin cites in this report on the Northern Territory intervention:

Ms Macklin said Labor supported the changes because there was overwhelming evidence of high levels of child abuse and neglect in certain communities.

She said anecdotal reports from affected communities were encouraging.

"We're certainly getting anecdotal evidence that it is (working)," she told Fairfax Radio Network.

"Many of the grandmothers are saying that more money is being spent on food and of course one of the worst forms of neglect is children not being fed properly, going to school hungry, and of course that just means that they don't grow the way they should and can't concentrate at school."
Answer: almost, but not quite bugger all. In this usage, "anecdotal" is being used as a synonym for "hearsay". Evidence you accept because it supports your existing opinions.

Anecdotal evidence is Clayton's evidence.

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