The lightning-bug and the lightning

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.

–Mark Twain, in a letter to George Bainton (1888)

43 thoughts on “The lightning-bug and the lightning”

  1. Smallish differences can make or break a lot of things. This reminded me of some philosophy.

    Let’s say we have three scenarios

    1) Humanity is totally wiped out
    2) Only 1% of humanity survives a disaster
    3) There is no disaster

    I’ve heard a philosopher argue that the difference between 1 and 2 is greater than the difference between 2 and 3. Even though in an immediate sense the difference between 2 and 3 contains more people killed by the disaster, the difference between 1 and 2 contains all the future human lives who could rebuild in the 2nd scenario. So here a small difference in the scope of the disaster would be a huge difference in how bad the disaster is.

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