"Incidentally, am I alone in finding the expression 'it turns out' to be incredibly useful? It allows you to make swift, succinct, and authoritative connections between otherwise randomly unconnected statements without the trouble of explaining what your source or authority actually is. It's great. It’s hugely better than its predecessors 'I read somewhere that...' or the craven 'they say that...' because it suggests not only that whatever flimsy bit of urban mythology you are passing on is actually based on brand new, ground breaking research, but that it's research in which you yourself were intimately involved. But again, with no actual authority anywhere in sight."
When the phrase is used in everyday speech, in my experience, it's usually true. I went to the local grocer and "it turns out" (meaning, I checked and I asked and) they don't carry such-and-such. That's what makes it such a powerful device: there's implicit trust when someone claims to have done the research.
But it's a two-edged sword. If you make a habit of abusing the phrase, and it turns out you're demonstrably wrong on occasion, opponents will begin to view the phrase with extra suspicion, and hammer you on not providing the actual "it" that turns out.
I second that. Use this kind of speak with people that are aware of rhetoric, neuro-linguistic programming or non-violent-communication (for instance) and you will shoot you in the foot deep.
* "It turns out that our patient with salmonella has a pet lizard."
On the other hand, when I am trying to convey my knowledge in, say, human genetics in a humble fashion and convey to the reader that it's OK that they didn't know what I'm about to say, I'll also use "it turns out:"
* "It turns out that every gene found to cause Mendelian lipid disorders also has common variants discovered by genome-wide association studies."
A Short Course in Intellectual Self-Defense
The examples are great.
I'd be interested to see a list of all the 46 passages though. I wonder if there are patterns.
1) Build up an argument almost to a crescendo
2) Pattern interrupt ("it turns out")
3) New argument
There is a shock to the system followed by the new argument that you would like the listener to adhere to. The shock makes the listener more suggestible.
That's the theory, anyway. The debate however is very controversial.
If someone tell me "turns out, the astrologers have been right all along!" ... that's not going to sway me unless they're sitting in front of a library of relevant peer reviewed evidence, and can guess which irrational number I'm thinking of.
So if you qualify a proposition with "it turns out", that tells the filter that you should probably believe it. Maybe it triggers an assumption like "there is research backing this up."
Notice it sounds funny to say "It turns out that you're a dumbass," as the filter also flags boorish stuff and so it gets mixed signals there.
And it seems deceptive when you state contentious things this way, it's like you're trying to slip stuff past the filter. Unqualified declarative sentences generally seem to trigger this, people always accuse me of "stating my opinions as if they were facts" === "Flag contentious stuff for me so I don't have to think."
There is more than 46 (725) ~ http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fpaulgraha... If there is a pattern, could it be emerging from "asking questions", thinking, then finding non-obvious or surprising results? Reading through the authors site I found this gem also another explanation.
"... If one is convinced that mind is a computer program, or at least if one thinks of that as a fruitful metaphor, it may be helpful to think about these “thought-generating phrases” as function calls. They are like little labels that execute a useful module, or packaged set of computational instructions. And the point is, just having a label makes it easier to find the code, and therefore more likely that you’ll execute it. Which is exactly what you want if the code is worth calling. ..." ~ http://jsomers.net/blog/generating-thoughts
It quite possible the phrase, "it turns out" is also a thought generating phrase.
Yes, you are right. I missed that even after click through. Do you have any idea for the miss reported hits?
For any interested, I just submitted it to HN here:
[the phrase is] useful in circumstances where you don’t have any substantive path from X to Y.
Nothing personal, but I think he's onto something. Especially if you take a more generous outlook and expand it to "circumstances where you don't demonstrate any substantive path from X to Y." (Even if somebody fails to demonstrate a substantive path, the path might still exist.)
Re: patterns, there was a blogger who did some kind of screen-scraping, machine learning, NLP analysis of my blog and claimed their analysis proved I was really a bot. I would take that kind of thing with a grain of salt.
And if the exact path is illuminating in some way, but distracting from the original intent, then it would serve to put the explanation in a footnote.
Besides, the underlying problem has more to do with the verb "to be" (from which "is" conjugates) and the assumption of universal identity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-Prime
"It turns out" is often used in mathematics lectures, when the lecturer is trying to keep things relatively informal and is avoiding proving results. Blind assertions have no place in mathematics - it's much better to provide an intuitive explanation in the spirit of the proof.
E.g. there was a small and nice intuitive prove of a reasonable theorem in the first place, but scores of people found ways to generalize it, and in the end you have a mess of symbols proving a hopelessly general lemma.
(Then again, I’ve had uncommonly thorough math courses, and would likely share your frustration.)
Not really. Sometimes someone sees a bunch of examples and wonders if there is a generalization/theorem. So they set out to prove it and 3 pages of symbol manipulation later you have a proof.
"it turns out..."
* Yes, this sentence is false.
Larry Wall counts laziness as one of the key "great virtues of a programmer"
The result is not the same. But if it is interchangeable, that makes for a useful trait indeed. We call it «hacking».
Also, I would not dismiss personal experiences. Turns out they are what life is made of ;)
What good is that?
And you have to hold your hands up to indicate [square braces].
That might be too socially functional.
This sort of phrase works like a logical/causal exoskeleton intended to support the far more loosely linked set of intuitions that motivated the author to write/communicate about the topic.
These sorts of things are not even necessarily the biproduct of conscious thought. We are trained by academe that our intuitions must be served on a platter of logic and causality, and our sparks of inspiration (or emotion) are rarely experienced in remotely the same way that we would communicate them, so we back-fill.
Ponder this the next time you have a spark of insight about something and then contemplate telling someone else about it. Notice how your brain adds on the trappings of logical structure ex post. In some cases the idea was highly logical and the trappings come easily, while in other cases the idea is moderately ill-formed or speculative and one notices his/her brain being effortful in its quest to find the logical/persuasive platter on which to present the concoction to others.
And this is a problem, making assertions/arguments based on direct experience?
That phrase is the 1973 high school yearbook of the startup culture.
But, as it turns out, he's gotten a lot better about substantiating his claims. I'm tempted not to substantiate my claim after that sentence, but his presentation at startup school last year was pretty much all about the evidence.
While we're at it, can we please add "At the end of the day..." to the list of pseudo-pithy (and indeed lazy) phrases to retire, too. JFK coined "in the final analysis..." which hung around for years, and years. "At the End of the Day" took its place, but has become just as tiresome, and meaningless.