I can die happy now (or, as it turned out, not)

I just noticed that Geoff Pullum contributes frequently to Language Log. One of the first books I read after coming to the US was his The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax, which is fabulously entertaining. My lasting impression was a goggle-eyed “gee, Pullum must be smart, and stuff.” Until tonight.

Pullum wonders where the phrase “this isn’t rocket science” comes from. He claims that rockets are simple, but they’re really not. A simple rocket is (self-evidently) simple, but an even slightly interesting (read “predictable”) one requires an astonishing amount of work to design and build. Well, blind hero worship was overrated all along.

My suspicion is that the term dates back to the heyday of NASA, but I can’t even be bothered figuring out if this is true. Perhaps I’ll call this the Pullum defence…

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