Typical

typicalTypical seems to me to be an unusual word, one that draws its connotations almost completely from the context in which it is used but that, of course, is a product of its definition: Exhibiting the qualities, traits, or characteristics that identify a kind, class, group, or category.  It derives its connotations from the kind, class, group, or category and the particular qualities, traits or characteristics being referred to.  If my boss (if I had one) says, You’ve done your typical wonderful job, it’s a complement.  If he says, I’m going to have to have Ron look over your report, Bud.  That’s typical, it’s not.   Well, perhaps typical’s not entirely connotation-free.  According to the Urban Dictionary, typical is The word woman use to describe their displeasure and contempt for anything a male could do, would do, will do, or should do in order to please their partner.  A woman never explains what is “typical”, it just covers every sin known to man.  Hmmm.

In my world, the world of engineering, when the word typical shows up in  presentation, you may see a few of us giving each other looks in the back of the room.  And when we find it in a report, say, the statement, This graph shows a typical result, we may smirk a bit.  Because the word typical has acquired a bit of a reputation, a connotation, if you will, in a technical context.   It is likely that every engineer has seen a so-called typical result that was in reality the best example that the presenter could find, not typical at all.  And have worked on a project where most of the work was done to come up with the one so-called typical example.  As a rule, it’s not malicious, although I have seen a few people use work that was entirely atypical to prop up a project doomed to failure.  Most engineering projects begin with an objective in mind and there is a natural tendency to continue the research until the objective is reached, then stop.  Sometimes, there is limited funding.  And the typical result is born.

If you’ve followed along with my week here on Bud’s Blog, you know why this topic is on my mind.  I … and my colleagues … have worked very hard this week to come up with an example for a project we’re involved in.  Today, we submitted this result in preliminary form to our customer.  We didn’t say it was typical.  We said it is an example that show the potential of our processing.  Fortunately, this project is a feasibility study in which we only need to show it is worthy of further work.  We don’t have to have a typical result, just one that offers promise.   But if you wonder why I’m sometimes skeptical about what certain scientists say, it’s because in spite of rumors to the contrary, science isn’t always pure.  Scientists are human.  And typical results aren’t always typical.

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One Comment on “Typical”

  1. cherperz Says:

    I would say that your post is typical engineer logic just for effect but I wouldn’t mean it. Is there really much that exists that is typical? About the time someone says the word “typical” in relationship to men’s behaviors or women’s behaviors, someone shows up and does the exact opposite.


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