04 June 2010

Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

It used to be that trucks that were carrying gasoline said that they were inflammable, and as it happened a lot of people, even people who worked around these trucks, would be found lighting up cigarettes and unfortunately blowing up the trucks. Why would they possibly do that? A pair of linguists discovered that there was this unconscious association with this word inflammable, which they thought meant not flammable. So now all gasoline trucks say “flammable,” which wasn’t even a word beforehand.