Friday, February 26, 2010


Flouting a flaunt

So far, I’ve not had any interest in watching videos on the 2-inch by 1.5-inch screen that is my BlackBerry, though it can play them for me. I use it to play audio all the time, but even if I could get CNN or the local news on it, I wouldn’t want to bother, though I might happily listen to audio from the same programs. And Desperate Housewives would be completely beyond the bounds of reason.

It seems odd that not long after we moved into bigger-is-better high-definition televisions (my own 34-inch Sony is tiny in comparison to what most HDTV owners have opted for), we seem to be embracing the micro-mini-mini television experience.

And, so, Eric Taub tell us, in his Gadgetwise blog on the New York Times, that broadcasters are looking toward the ability to send their now-digital signals to us en route. And he reminds us of the dangers... and the illegality:

While it is illegal to watch video in a vehicle’s front seat in most states, easily receiving live video on an iPhone (and other smartphones) will make flaunting the law that much easier.

Now, check the bottom of this post for the labels, and note that “Technology” isn’t listed, but “Words/Language” is. Because even though Mr Taub[1] is writing a blog, and not a NY Times news article, we should still call him on his use of the wrong word.

The word he wants here is “flout”, not “flaunt”. To flout a rule is to openly ignore it, to the point of demonstrating contempt. Walking past a police officer while smoking a joint — and perhaps stopping to blow smoke in his face on the way by — is flouting a law.

It comes from Middle English flouten, meaning “to play the flute.” I guess smoking your reefer in front of the cop is like playing a flute in his face; I can see that, yes.

To flaunt something is to display it ostentatiously, but implies no scorn and no rule breaking. You can flaunt your intelligence, your body, or your car. You can flaunt your mobile television, surely, but doing so doesn’t flaunt the law that it flouts. (And the origin of this one, is uncertain.)

Update, 8:30: Since I wrote this, the word has been corrected on the blog, without any notation of the correction. Tsk, tsk.

[1] Taub means “dove” (the bird) in German, in case you were wondering. [Update: No, it means “deaf”; see Eric’s comment to this post.]


Catherine said...

I see many examples of writers using words incorrectly. This occurs too often for me to write letters of complaint (or help). When a wrong word jumps out at me, I have to stop reading and wonder where the writer went to school. I understand that the English language changes steadily, but the example you give is one of ignorance, IMO.

Eric said...

Barry, Good catch. Flout it is.

By the way "Taub" actually means "deaf" in German. "Taube" means dove.


Barry Leiba said...

Oy. Thanks, Eric... we get to trade corrections. That's fitting.