Neutral Bias?

Caroline Baum reminds us that "Neutral Bias is an oxymoron."

She is correct — Neutral is the absense of bias, not a bias iunto itself.

Other noteworthy oxymorons:

Jumbo Shrimp
"with all deliberate speed" (i.e. "go quickly slowly")
anecdotal evidence
Larger half
deafening silence
Military Intelligence

The last example comes to us courtesy of George Carlin . . .

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Null commented on Mar 23

    Public private-equity?

  2. mark commented on Mar 23

    bureaucratic effiency?

  3. PAUL commented on Mar 23

    It’s Curious
    Cautiously Optimistic

  4. Michael Schumacher commented on Mar 23

    constant variables that are consistent

    Rumsfeld on Iraq…..2005


  5. Arun commented on Mar 23

    Microsoft Works

  6. David Merkel commented on Mar 23

    Don’t mess with Caroline Baum; her wit is razor sharp.

  7. Smokefoot commented on Mar 23

    Deliberate does not mean slowly, it means “with intention”. So “with all deliberate speed” doesn’t mean “go quickly slowly”, but rather “go quickly but not recklessly” or “quickly but stay in control”

    And an anecdote can be evidence – the weakest form of evidence, but evidence nonetheless.


  8. Lauriston commented on Mar 23

    Independent Fed!
    Neutral biased Fed! (LOL)

  9. VennData commented on Mar 23

    Conventional Wisdom

    Postal Service

    Guest Host

  10. rto commented on Mar 23

    Press release!

  11. dave commented on Mar 23

    very unique

  12. Darrell Styner commented on Mar 23

    Another favorite from Carlin: Two airplanes were involved in a “near miss.”

  13. rob cyran commented on Mar 23

    Free gift

  14. Jason Ruspini commented on Mar 23

    There are non-contradictory examples of neutral biases. The favorite-longshot bias can be understood as a neutral bias because extreme odds are biased towards the center, towards 50/50. You could quibble about this example but there are others.

  15. __earth commented on Mar 23

    common sense!

  16. S commented on Mar 23

    (Fiscally) Conservative Republican

  17. Dave L commented on Mar 23

    Seen on a television hair-care commercial:

    “temporary permanents”

  18. Michael commented on Mar 23

    pretty ugly ;-)

  19. Nova Law commented on Mar 23

    “financial advisor code of ethics”?

    “bear market analysis”?

    “political integrity”?

  20. Paul N commented on Mar 23

    Pre-heat is a redundancy, not an oxymoron. If you heat something up, you heat it before you do something else, so the “pre” is a useless prefix to a word that already has the “pre” concept inherent in it. [However, it’s a useful redundancy in recipes, because it reminds the cook to get the oven on early, not when the food goes into it.] An oxymoron, as most of the other examples show, comprises contradictory elements, as in deafening silence.

  21. anon commented on Mar 23

    Swiss Cheese.

    OK, I know. The reference is from an episode of News Radio.

  22. John F. commented on Mar 23

    American cheese

    cheese wiz (wit!)

  23. John F. commented on Mar 23

    not to interrupt you, but…

    with all due respect, …

  24. Eric commented on Mar 24

    Strategic Defense Initiative

    Compassionate Conservative (if you want things to stay as they are, you can’t be bothered too much by existing suffering; if you want to end suffering, you have to want to change things)

    Democratic Leadership (tried and failed to think of some catchy Democrat-originated phrases)

    slightly more dubious:
    Sustainable Living (“in the long run…”)
    Real Valuation (“valuing” is something done by subjective people)

    which leads to:
    Objective Opinion
    Impartial Viewpoint

    To elaborate on one above, my mother likes to repeat the saying “Common sense is the least common of all the senses.”

  25. Teddy commented on Mar 24

    And how about Alan Greenspan’s personal “blind trust” from 10 years ago that was described AT THE TIME as supposedly invested in solely “conservative” long term US government bonds?

  26. Eclectic commented on Mar 24

    Jim Jubak has one of the best pieces he’s ever written (in my opinion) over at MSN Money:

    Here’s the thrust of it in [my interpretation] (that would be “Eclectic’s omnipresent capability of ‘cutting to the chase.’ “:

    [Institutional yield buyers push the limits of risk, because they’re ass-deep to an ostrich in present day value of costs of future liabilities for the Boomers who are equally ass-deep to an ostrich in “da-Nile” about having those liabilities met… and, lastly, da-Nile is a river that’s ass-deep in big crocodiles.]

    Furthermore they push the limits of risk, even knowing it, without having the capacity to withdraw from the risk, because NONE OF THEIR PEERS are withdrawing, and so they’d just look like fools if they did it alone.

    Peer pressure is one of the most powerful human emotional forces there is.

    That means if there’s a tumult, they’ll all get eatin by the crocodiles in da-Nile, together, because none of them have the nerve to get off the train before it gets to the river bridge that’s washed out by the torrential rain of a risky debt market come undone.

  27. Mr. X commented on Mar 24

    The best oxymoron of all time:


  28. VennData commented on Mar 24

    The reason I don’t get many follow up dinner dates? I tell the waiter to make my steak extra medium.

  29. VennData commented on Mar 24

    That over-arching descriptor of literary criticism, art, architecture, and the present human condition: Postmodern (which, when I tend to discuss it – after ordering the steak – might also explain my own no-follow-up present human condition)

  30. lewis commented on Mar 26

    Somebody ought to put a list of these together somewhere on the web and rank them. My two most recent favorites are

    rational investor
    sincere Presidential candidate (take a bow, Mr. Edwards, but look over your shoulder, here the rest come)

  31. VennData commented on Mar 27

    In honor of a real American hero.

    Not one who landed on an aircraft carrier for the cameras but one who gave up the limelight.

    Not the ones who lied and covered up their incompetence but one to whom his own truth drove to make a choice none of them would have made, ever.

    Not the ones who spun his tragic death to their own means, but one who aggresively denied them their media soundbite.

    But to Pat Tillman. Who gave up more than most ever have to defend our freedom.

    Oxymoron? Friendly Fire.

  32. Bakks commented on Mar 28

    How about ‘Predatory Lending’?

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