Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Nate Silver makes a punny

In the middle of a long explanation about why polling in the Deep South has been more inaccurate than in other regions of the U.S., Nate Silver made what looked at first glance like an error, but really was a clever pun, however accidental (bolding mine).
Polls can sometimes have problems because of social desirability bias — the tendency to provide an answer that you think might seem most acceptable to the stranger on the other end of the line, rather than what you really think.

This bias is potentially stronger in cultures that have stronger codes of etiquette, and where people are more self-conscious of the front they present to strangers. This is pertinent in some Asian and Asian-American cultures, for instance. Polls of Hawaii, where there are many Japanese-Americans, have a bad track record; one survey there somewhat infamously predicted a win for George W. Bush in 2004, but John Kerry instead took the state by 9 percentage points.

Etiquette also remains more in tact in the South, and especially in the Deep South, than in most other parts of the country. If so, polls there could encounter similar problems.
I couldn't resist ribbing Nate about his diction.
My proofreader's eye notices something odd about the use of "in tact" in that sentence. Let's see what the Free Online Dictionary has to say about "in tact" versus "intact."

tact: Acute sensitivity to what is proper and appropriate in dealing with others, including the ability to speak or act without offending.

intact: Remaining sound, entire, or uninjured; not impaired in any way.

The proper usage is "intact," but I think you should let this one stand. In context, writing "etiquette...remains...in tact" makes for a good pun. I hope it was intentional.
Even if it were unintentional, I still found it funny. Hey, I like looking at Freudian slips showing. ;-)

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