Acid or Litmus? This is a Test


An acid test or a litmus test? What is the difference?

This from Jean-Louis Gassee writing for Monday Note.

Consider it a litmus test: Any candidate willing to accept this road to failure is automatically disqualified as being too weak. A worthy contender makes it clear that he or she needs an unfettered mandate with no Office Of The Second Guessing in the back of the boardroom. Bill and Steve would have to go — but the Old Duo doesn’t want to leave.

Jean-Louis is writing about how to replace a high profile CEO.

Litmus is a blue colouring matter, obtained from various lichens or so says Oxford English.  As for me, I knew zero about lichens until not along ago when Garden Solutions sent out some very cool photographs of them. They are turned red by acids, and the blue colour is restored by alkalis.

None of this sounds appropriate for what Jean-Louis wrote.  Could he have meant acid test? Someone wiser than me will have to discern. An acid test was, and maybe still is, used to test for gold with nitric acid. Fowler indicates that Woodrow Wilson popularized its broader use in The London Times of 1918. “The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will.”

Fowler defines the broader use of acid test as “a critical or conclusive test.” I really think this is how Jean-Louis intended it.Litmus didn’t even stir Fowler’s fancy. Or is it that litmus has no broader usage?

Or maybe Jean-Louis intended to invent something new? He has done it before.

What say you?

For full disclosure, I must tell you I am now a subscriber to Monday Note. I might ask them too. Headed there next.

6 thoughts on “Acid or Litmus? This is a Test

  1. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist December 10, 2013 / 12:12 am

    Perhaps an acid test only tests for the acid side of the scale whereas a litmus test looks at both acid and alkali readings.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist December 10, 2013 / 12:15 am

      I meant to add that perhaps being alkali means something like being a pushover and perhaps acid relates to an inherent nastiness, burning a hole in people so to speak.

      • fictionfitz December 10, 2013 / 4:55 am

        If it doesn’t, it should. I love your interpretation!

  2. Carole Webber December 10, 2013 / 11:32 am

    An acid or a litmus test result is proof of why the test was given.
    Sort of like passing muster.
    Maybe completing a term paper qualifies.

    • fictionfitz December 10, 2013 / 5:56 pm

      You mean to say they are the same?

  3. New Hampshire Garden Solutions December 10, 2013 / 6:38 pm

    It seems to me that an acid test would give a yes / no answer, while a litmus test would give an either / or answer. Acid is used to test for gold-yes or no. Litmus is used to test for acid OR alkali.

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