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the surgeon general atop his mighty horse

Had a humorous vision/realization this morning, and thought I would share, just for grins.

I was staring at the side of a cigarette pack and trying to picture who the surgeon general was. I realized I had very little idea of who this person is or what their job is, aside from a patently absurd picture in my head of the odd concept "Surgeon General". The first thing that comes to mind when I picture the Surgeon General, I realized, is a brave man with a beard sitting atop a horse, with a fancy general's outfit and feathers in his cap (or macaroni, as the yankees call it?), wearing surgical gloves and a facemask. The sole purpose of this brave surgeon general is to ride around on his horse yelling "For the love of God people, STOP SMOKING!! I'm warning you, it's KILLING YOU!!! Why is nobody taking me seriously??! Ahhh!!"

At realizing this was the picture I had in my head, I had to laugh out loud, and acknowledge that the real surgeon general is probably nothing like this, and probably actually has a job description outside of warning people not to smoke. But I do think somebody ought to draw a cartoon of it, or make an SNL-style skit out of it... could even be a recurring character? Stay tuned for the crazy surgeon general's latest address... the lulz keep on coming.

Upon writing up this post, I of course had to check and see what the actual surgeon general looks like. Apparently, I was wrong about the horse and the facemask, but to my exquisite delight he (or she!) actually DOES wear a general's uniform:
[UPDATE: I stand corrected... it's a naval Admiral's uniform, which of course makes so much more sense!]

Joycelyn Elders, surgeon general under Clinton:

Steven K. Galson, surgeon general under Obama:

So why is it that cigarette packs do quote the surgeon general on each pack? Wouldn't it make more sense to say "the best scientific evidence shows that smoking is bad for you" rather than "the surgeon general says smoking is bad for you"? Seriously, does the latter way of saying it carry more weight with smokers? And mightn't some smoker think to himself "sure... that's what the *current* surgeon general says, but what about the last ten surgeon generals... would they all agree? And what's the next surgeon general going to say?"



Apr. 14th, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
Ha! You "know very little about the military", but I remember that you claimed once "those uniforms look like 18th century French military uniforms" (I think referring to Babylon 5 Centauri dress?) and when I called you on it, you said you knew what you were talking about. So are you just an expert on classical military fashion? :)
Apr. 14th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
I recall saying that the Centauri wear french-looking clothing and have french-sounding accents. You make it sound like I said something much more specific... I don't recall saying it was a particular century.

I think the reason they look french to me is because the French tend to use a lot of frills and stuff on their clothing, just like the Centauri use. I don't think you have to know anything about the military to know that... it's all over their culture.
Apr. 14th, 2009 10:52 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't have reacted if you had just said "their clothing looks French". I'm quite certain you mentioned "18th century" and "military"; I don't recall anything about accents.

It's obviously not worth memory-battling, but perhaps it is an example of your tendency to exaggerate things to make what you're saying sound better. What you recall is the thought you had in your head prior to speech, but in preparing to say it you augmented it. I think another example is when you were talking to your dad and you rattled of some inordinately large number for the cost of the Iraq War.

This sorta fits in with the "hedge words" discussion we had.
Apr. 15th, 2009 12:50 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure that the initial thing I said was "doesn't it look like the creator of B5 was modeling the Centauri after the French?" I expected you to laugh and say "yeah" but instead you reacted by saying something like "No, what the hell are you talking about?". Following that, I tried to get across what it was about the Centauri that reminded me of the French. And I may have said something like "their uniforms remind me of something out of..." But I was certainly not making any precise claims or saying that I knew exactly what a French military uniform looked like. It's just that I could picture the French wearing such things. It was clear to me what I was trying to say, and I remember being frustrated that it seemed like you should be nodding but instead you were contesting everything I said.

I think the hedge words would be more relevant if I had stated something specific with certainty. But this was clearly not such a case, as I did no such thing. Although I'm not too surprised that you thought I was saying something entirely different than I thought I was saying, because I do remember thinking it was odd that you were objecting to everything.


domino plural

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