For Joe Biden

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

It’s too confusing to keep track of all the different ways that liberals impugn conservatives. And the words don’t mean the same thing each time they’re used; the meaning shifts depending on the user, the victim, the situation.
I would prefer that liberals adopt one general-purpose word to use for everyone and everything they don’t like. How about “poop?”  Short, easy for Joe Biden to remember, think how much fun the debates would become.
You’re a poop. No you’re a big poop. You’re the biggest poop. Yeah, well your ideas are poop. Your mother is a poop.  Fun!
Joe Doakes

Orwel posited that the eventual goal of “Ingsoc” was to reduce all language to “duckspeak” – semiliterate grunts that put guardrails on the limits of human thought.

This fits right in.

March Of The Strawmen

Over the weekened, I listened to “It’s Been a Minute” with Sam Sanders – one of NPR’s many mad grabs for virtue-seeking relevance – and I heard a bit that simultaneously nauseated and thrilled me.

It’s at about 17:00 into this week’s broadcast.

But don’t worry – I listened to it, so you don’t have to.

Big Left is finding it necessary to rescue, reclaim and rehabilitate the word “Intersectionality”.

I thought about transcribing some quotes – but I’ll just leave it to y’all.

Because this is the sound of Big Left launching a counter-counter-attack in the culture war and the Battle for the Language.

What’s Spanish For “Hack”?

I love languages. I speak three of ’em passably enough not to get made as a Yank, and can order a drink, pay a tab or find a bathroom in a bunch more. If I could learn more full-time, I would. I’m a linguistics geek.

I’m probably an outlier among Americans at large – we’re a big mostly monolingual country, so most Americans don’t need to learn another language.

But the word “hatchet job” means the same thing in an amazing number of languages. That occurred to me while reading this, well, hatchet job from the WaPo, claiming that about half of Republicans get annoyed hearing other languages. According to Pew:

47 percent of such Republicans say it would bother them “some” or “a lot” to “hear people speak a language other than English in a public place.” Eighteen percent of white Democrats said they would be similarly bothered.
Aside from politics, age and education are the major predictors of linguistic discomfort. Eighteen percent of whites younger than 30 said they would be bothered by a foreign language being spoken, compared with 43 percent in the 50-to-64 age group, and 45 percent among those 65 and older.
Among all racial groups, whites (34 percent) are most likely to be bothered hearing foreign languages, followed by blacks (25 percent), Asians (24 percent) and Hispanics (13 percent). Among Americans overall, 70 percent put their level of unease at “not much” or “not at all.”

And this article is kinda hatchet-y. 

For starters, it doesn’t say *why* “half of white Republicans” have that reaction. Oh, the WaPo knows what it *wants* people to think – that’s why they included the utterly unrelated “High profile confrontations”. Racists!

And yet of those Republicans, the vast majority reported being “bothered” only a little bit – which doesn’t seem like it’d be a byproduct of hatred. It doesn’t go into motivations. 

I’m to postulate the vast majority of that isn’t racism, but people in a largely monolingual culture reacting to being excluded. Remember the question – they’re reacting to hearing people “speak a language other than English in a public place.” Language is an excluder; it’s a private club. It’s why my grandma never spoke her native Norwegian unless she was among fellow native speakers; it’s why I don’t talk in German or Norwegian in meetings with mostly Anglo co-workers. It’s kind of rude. 

The reaction is hardly limited to Americans, much less “white Republicans”. Check out how the French react to groups of Americans talking English sometime. 

I’m gonna strongly suspect most of the result comes from social annoyance rather than bigotry or provincialism. 

Men hva vet jeg?

The Moody Boor Stood Bloodily Aloof

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

This winter, the news media ran stories about ice dams causing damage to the roof.  How do you pronounce the word “roof?”  Why don’t all -oo- words sound alike?  Try this sentence:
While the goofy cook chewed a root and doodled in a book on the roof, a pooch looked at a boot and woofed as a kook took good food out the door.
No wonder foreigners have such a hard time with English.

True. English is tough enough to plough through, though, without that.

From Now On, You Will Pronounce My Name In My Ancestral Norwegian, To My Satisfaction, Or Be Called A Bigot

If I had a nickel for every stranger that’s pronounced my name “MIchelle” or “Michael”, I would have enough money to not need to interact with strangers at all anymore.

It seems I’ve hit the intersectional lottery.

Or maybe not.

Because mispronouncing peoples’ names isn’t a matter of trying to wrap one’s tongue around a word from a completely different language, with all the inevitable pitfalls

Oh, no.  Like everything one does, and everything one does not do,  h it’s apparently racist. 

 Zuheera Ali and Keya Roy talk to author Ijeoma Oluo and each other about their experiences living in the United States with “difficult” names. They also talk to Rita Kohli, a professor at University of California, Riverside who has done research on the effects of mispronouncing names on students of color.

Aaaaaaaand…:

Spoiler: This practice of mispronouncing names isn’t just embarrassing. It has a long and racist history.

Of course, it’s not complete cultural sensitivity to Jerzy Szczepanski or Solveig Hjelle or even Euan Braithwaite’s names we’re talking about, here.

And if you happen to listen to the podcast at the link – apparently from a program to train young public radio drones – you may reach the same observation I did; that millennials of a certain ideological persuasion collect grievances the same way the seem to love collecting psychological and medical diagnoses; the same way the used to collect Pokemon cards.  The same way their grandparents collected fishing stories.

So anyone who doesn’t pronounce my name “BAIR-g” is a bigot.

By the way, that’s the Norwegian “BAIR-g”, not the German/Yiddish “BEHR-g”. 

Why Does Governor Walz Hate The Environment And Want Rural Minnesotans To Die Flaming Deaths?

Governor Walz provides the service for which Big Environmental paid good money.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Enbridge pipeline would replace hundreds / thousands of derailment-prone tanker cars and crash-able «trucks that currently transit populated areas and sensitive environments with a pipeline that will be gallon-for-gallon vastly safer for both people and the ecology; Walz knows who he’s working for.

Arguably the bigger crime? The twaddle he plopped out there to justify “his” decision.

I’ll add some emphasis:

Gov. Tim Walz will continue pursuing a court appeal started by his predecessor that could block Enbridge from building a controversial $2.6 billion oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.
Under former Gov. Mark Dayton, the Commerce Department appealed the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC’s) decision to allow Enbridge to build the pipeline, a replacement for its aging and corroding Line 3. Last month, the Walz administration said it would review the appeal.
“By continuing that process, our administration will raise the Department of Commerce’s concerns to the court in hopes of gaining further clarity for all involved,” Walz said in a statement. “As I often say, projects like these don’t only need a building permit to go forward, they also need a social permit. Our administration has met with groups on all sides of this issue, and Minnesotans deserve clarity.”

“Social permit”.

That is two steps from fluent Duckspeak.

Following it up with a platitude like “Minnesotans deserve clarity” adds rhetorical insult to Orwellian injury.

Governor Walz; your leash is showing.

Remember: The Democrats Are The Party Of “Science”

Democrat (what else?) California (where else?) state assembly committee chairbeing  bans the use of gender-specific pronouns:

[California State Senator and Senate Judiciary Committee chair Hannah-Beth Jackson] said that new committee rules recognize California’s designation of “non-binary” as a gender. The words “he and she” will now become “what my grammar teacher would have had a heart attack over,” the senator said. The committee will use the word “they” instead, because it is gender-neutral, Jackson said.
“Basically, that’s the primary reforms and revisions to the committee rules,” she said.

Jackson also said that as the chair, she will now be known as “they,” to keep in line with “the spirit of gender neutrality for the rules of this committee.”
“So, the world is a different place. My grammar teacher’s long gone and we won’t be hearing from her,” Jackson said.

Wait.

Back up.

What was that?

She then corrected her use of the word “her.”

Of course she did.

The Rhetorical Equivalent Of The Moral Equivalent Of War

Why is it that the party that claims to eschew war (while getting us into most of the wars we’ve had since 1900) can’t keep its mitts off of militaristic rhetoric?

Big Left’s “Green New Deal” is, like nearly every gigantistic utopian Big Left enterprise since the Wilson Administration, the “moral equivalent of war” – requiring the nation to organize its economy along military lines, albeit without saying the “M” word.

Jonah Goldberg:

…the important point is that ever since philosopher William James coined the phrase the “moral equivalent of war,” American liberalism has been recycling the same basic idea: The country needs to be unified and organized as if we are at war, but not to fight a literal battle. The attraction stems from what John Dewey called “the social possibilities of war” — the ability to reorganize and unify society according to the schemes of planners and experts.
This was the through line of 20th-century liberalism, and now 21st-century liberalism, too. Wilson’s war socialism, FDR’s New Deal, Harry Truman’s Fair Deal, John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier, Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, Jimmy Carter’s declaration that the energy crisis was a “moral equivalent of war,” and Barack Obama’s “new foundation for growth,” with his Thomas Friedman-inspired talk about “Sputnik moments”: It’s all the same idea gussied up as something new.
Another irony: The militaristic organization of the domestic economy is a hallmark of nationalist movements. But nationalism is a dirty word among liberals today.
Instead, they name-check a thoroughly nationalistic enterprise, the New Deal, and slap the word “Green” in front of it as if it were a fresh coat of paint.

If it got out that migrants mocked and taunted intersectional theory, I’d guess Big Left would appropriate the idea of a border wall, too.

Culture Police Blotter

While smoking the happy weed is the latest libertarian distraction, the term “Marijuana” is suddenly on the outs:

Today “cannabis” and “marijuana” are terms used more or less interchangeably in the industry, but a vocal contingent prefers the less historically fraught “cannabis”. At a time of intense interest in past injustices, some say “marijuana” is a racist word that should fall out of use.\

Bu then, by that same token, isn’t smoking ganja (I’m swtiching  to appropriating Jamaican culture, thanks) itself appropriative?    Aren’t all those lilywhite honky weed activists stealing the recreation of all those Mexican immigrants and black jazz musicians?

And as long as we’re going to start policing the language for appropriation – shouldn’t we scupper the word “Jazz”?  Originally a New Orleans black term for the horizontal mambo, it was originally adopted by white critics to disparate “negro” music.

Isn’t it time for a more complete linguistic housecleaning?

Staggering Genius

Dante’s Divine Comedy was one of the great works of Western literature – a key building block in the intellectual tradition of the West.

This update, re-imagining Dante’s nine circles of Hell as applied to linguistic offenses, may actually be better.

Circle two – regarding the eternal, infernal debate over the “Oxford Comma”, is a good example:

Second Circle:
The Serial Comma

One half of this circle is populated by souls who are cursed to make arguments that nobody cares about except their own mothers, howling gorgons and the infernal mistresses of hell. The other half are cursed to make arguments that nobody cares about except their own mothers, howling gorgons, and the infernal mistresses of hell. The difference between these two situations seems to matter a lot to both halves. Neither side will listen to you when you suggest that they could avoid this level entirely.

Circle ten; those who circulate memes on social media about how putting two spaces after a period is “wrong”.

Inflammation

Back in the eighties, in a conversation with a “progressive” of the time, I called “BS” on her use of the term “Holocaust” to describe…

…welfare reform.

It was a pattern thirty years ago.  Today, given the newliy-broad use of the term “white supremacy”, it’s turned into utter depenDence: berg

The term was popularized by academic race theory, where it seems to have largely replaced previous terms of art like “institutional racism” or “systemic racism.” Now it is migrating out of the ivory tower and into everyday discourse, puzzling the millions of Americans who are used to an older, narrower meaning.

It’s all in the marketing:

It’s easy to see why writers and academics find the term appealing. “Institutional racism” conjures up images of beige-carpeted offices and rows of desks; “systemic racism” sounds like some sort of plumbing problem. “White supremacy,” on the other hand, packs a visceral punch that commands the reader’s attention. Because they’re describing something that needs attention, it’s useful to have a phrase that does the job.

Of course, there’s the little matter of crying wolf:

Nonetheless, using “white supremacy” this way is a mistake. It leads to confusion in the national conversation, because opposing sides are using a critical term in very different ways. It hampers our ability to discuss the phenomenon that the anti-racists actually want to discuss. And ultimately, if we continue to use it this way, it will lose the very emotional resonance that made it an appealing substitute for more clinical terms.

The whole thing is worth a read.

And some concerted pushback.

As The Orcs Breach The Final Wall

I love the English language.

I earn a living in the world of business.

I hate what business has done to the language with the heat of a billion suns.

And it’s not getting better.  The decline is accelerating.  Lucy Kellaway has been documenting the decline for decades – and is finding that the worst offenders are prospering from their crimes against clear, concise language:

Howard Schultz is a champion in the bullshit space. The Starbucks executive chairman has provided me with more material for columns than any other executive alive or dead. Yet he is still at it, and still out-doing himself. Earlier this year, he announced that the new Starbucks Roasteries were “delivering an immersive, ultra-premium, coffee-forward experience”.

In this ultra-premium, jargon-forward twaddle, the only acceptable word is “an”. Mr Schultz has brewed up a blend of old and new jargon, the fashionable and the workaday, adding a special topping of his own. “Delivering” and “experience” are grim but not new. “Ultra-premium” is needless word inflation. “Immersive” is fashionable, though ill-advised if you are talking about scalding liquids. The innovation is “coffee-forward”. Sounds fantastic, but what is it?

And it serves their purpose:

Over the years, Mr Schultz has consistently proved just how bad language serves business people well. So when an analyst asks if you are going to acquire anything, you can either say no, which is a bit too bald and clear, or you can say 34 words instead, as he did a few years ago: “I would say that we have enough to digest in the near-term, and there’s nothing candidly in our sightline that would suggest that we’re involved in engaging anything that we’re going to acquire.”

Bingo. The audience will be so bored, you will never get called to account.

50,000 foot view?  It is what it is.

 

The Privilege Of Barbering About Privilege

I said it during the 2016 campaign. I’m gonna say it again.

The reason everyone had to start talking about “white privilege” was to pre-empt discussion of “class privilege” – of the sort that is Big Left’s real power base.  If the body politics – especially the part that votes Democrat – were too busy barbering about “white privilege”, the notion that a hot tar roofer from Little Rock with an Arklahoma accent has some innate leg up over Oprah Winfrey because white – they wouldn’t have time to fuss about the class divide that separates Kenwood from North Minneapolis, Carlton from North Hennepin Community College,

Every time I’m ready to completely give up on David Brooks – and it happens frequently enough – he writes a column like this, about  how class privilege (especially in our “progressive” zip codes) perpetuates itself.

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

Brooks’ point is a good one – language is  a primary way to include or exclude people.  And it’s not just vocabulary; a southern accent is sure to draw discrimination here in Minnesota, while a mid-Atlantic, Boston or Brooklyn accent will engender zoo-like curiosity.

And Brooks’ point is that these dividers – both social, and their more concrete legal varieties, like zoning codes, transit strategies and the like, cost our economy dearly; Brooks quotes one estimate at 50%, which strikes me as high, but you don’t have to look at Minneapolis long to see that there’s a problem.

But it goes way beyond simple inclusion and economics:

American upper-middle-class culture (where the opportunities are) is now laced with cultural signifiers that are completely illegible unless you happen to have grown up in this class. They play on the normal human fear of humiliation and exclusion. Their chief message is, “You are not welcome here.”…

To feel at home in opportunity-rich areas, you’ve got to understand the right barre techniques, sport the right baby carrier, have the right podcast, food truck, tea, wine and Pilates tastes, not to mention possess the right attitudes about David Foster Wallace, child-rearing, gender norms and intersectionality.

The educated class has built an ever more intricate net to cradle us in and ease everyone else out. It’s not really the prices that ensure 80 percent of your co-shoppers at Whole Foods are, comfortingly, also college grads; it’s the cultural codes.

And the first rule of Urban Progressive Privilege club is, you never talk about Urban Progressive Privilege club.  You deflect to White, Male Privilege (where the Urban Progressive white male has already declared nolo contendere), and deflect like mad.

As is maddeningly common with Brooks, you should read the whole thing.

Blinded By “Science”

I sort of cringed when I watched the “Science March” – because “Science” is being dragged down the same Orwellian linguistic rathole that has claimed so many other once-useful/meaningful words.

At one point, science meant “You have a theory.  You frame a hypothesis.  You come up with experiments that can disprove the hypothesis.  You publish the theory, the hypothesis, the experiments, and the results, with an aim toward allowing other scientists to check your work and see if your results could be repeated.

Today?  It’s just another word for peer pressure (from the left).

Ben Shapiro on the appearance of the loathsome Bill Nye at the marches:

But this is demonstrative of the Left’s take on science: Science is actually just the name for anything the Left likes. Worried about the humanity of an unborn child? Concerned that fetuses have their own blood types and their own DNA? Stop it! You’re quoting science, not Science™! Wondering how it is that a genetic male is actually a woman? You’re worrying about science, not Science™!

This is the dirty little secret of the Left’s sudden embrace of Science™ — it’s not science they support, but religion. They support that which they believe but cannot prove and do not care about proving. Bill Nye isn’t interested in a scientific debate about global warming — how much is occurring, the measurement techniques at issue, the sensitivity of the climate to carbon emissions, the range of factors that affect the climate. He wants you to accept his version of the truth — not just that global warming is happening, but that massive government intervention is necessary in order to avert imminent global catastrophe.

Worse?  This is just one front in the battle for something more important than science – the battle for the language itself.

And the good guys are losing that one, too.

The DFL Dictionary: Third Edition!

One of the things that first put this blog on the map, back in 2002-03, was the “DFL Dictionary” – a compendium of DFL language translated into English.

The Dictionary first published in 2003.  The second edition came out in 2009.

It’s time for another!

If you see any new terms that deserve inclusion, add the terms and their definitions in teh comment section; likewise, suggest edits to older terms there, as well.

Posterity will thank us all.

What The Heck Ya Gonna Do?

I’ll cop to it – I’m a sucker for language geekery.  I focused a lot on Linguistics in college, and still enjoy the subject, even though I don’t actually do it for  any kind of a living.

Daniel Foster in NRO reviews two new books on the subject – with some fascinating insights tucked in.

While I urge fellow language geeks to read the whole thing, I liked this bit in particular:

Bergen’s treatment of slurs is slight and tentative compared with his coverage of other subject areas, but he’s Kanye West compared with Adams. Consider that Bergen’s first chapter is titled “Holy, F*cking, Sh*t, N*gg*r” sans asterisks. It hits like a freight train, producing first an uncontrollable guffaw and then a pupil-dilating scandal. But the formulation is actually much more innocent, a shorthand for the ingenious theory that all languages are sortable into four categories according to whether their most taboo words are blasphemous, copulative, scatological, or bigoted. Spanish, for instance, is a sex language, while the French, for all their fallenness, consider sacrilegious speech most offensive. German, infamously, is a language obsessed with “scheisse.” And English, Bergen argues, is among the relatively few languages where the biggest taboos are slurs.

It’s interesting, reading “Beowulf” and seeing how very comfortable English speakers in that era were with scatological talk, but how very carefully they avoided blasphemy.  Given we’re a nation of immigrant’s, it’d seem we are little hinky about pretty much all cursing, one way or the other.

Two Americas

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

I question whether Liberals and Conservatives hear the same things.

 

When a Liberal says “Joe Doakes is a racist,” I suspect other Liberals hear “Joe Doakes is dangerous.”  That triggers a fight-or-flight response.  The listening Liberals know they should shun me – at a minimum – and fight me if they can do it from a place of safety.  Thus, we get unfriended on Facebook, one-star Amazon reviews, one-star Yelp reviews and secondary boycotts to pressure employers to fire the accused.

 When a Liberal says “Joe Doakes is a racist,” I suspect Conservatives hear “Joe Doakes is a poopy-head.”  That triggers a scornful response.   The listening Conservatives know they should ignore the Liberals – at a minimum – and actively support me, even if it brings Liberal wrath down on them, too.  Thus we get Trump’s cabinet nominations.

 This may be the new litmus test.  When a politician hears someone called “racist,” watch how they react.  If they react like Liberals, then they are Liberals at heart, regardless of which party affiliation they wear at the moment. 

 When everyone is a racist, no one is a racist.  The term as no longer has an agreed-upon meaning.  Does this mean I hate Black people and want them to die?  No, it means the word is worn out from overuse.  Find another word.

Joe Doakes

They will.  They will.

Appropriate

Why, no, Ms. Social Justice Warrior, I’m not appropriating Latino culture by eating a burrito.  This is a Pølse – a lefse (potetkakke, to be precise) wrapped around meat, vegetables and sauces to taste.

Not a freaking burrito.

Check your privilege.


We have offically hit Peak Social Justice:

In a piece for the Patriot, the school’s official student newspaper, Leah Power explains that although she has “attempted to build up a thick skin towards the insensitive jokes, stereotypes, cultural appropriation and overall ignorance” that she sees around her, she just cannot help but get very upset every time she hears someone who is not from the South use the word “y’all.” Power writes that she remembers traveling outside of the South when she was young and having to deal with “people joking about my accent and the stereotypes of the dumb, inbred, redneck hicks who made up the southern states,” but that “sometime in the last year or so, [‘y’all’ has] gone from a redneck pronoun to a socially acceptable form of addressing a group of people.”

Well, Ms. Power, all I can say is “d’uuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhh”.

Yes, it has.  And I’ve contributed to it.  And I will continue to contribute to it.

English is one of very few languages without a second-person plural.   In German, the singular you is “Du”; if you’re referring to more than one person, it’s “ihr”.  (In formal situations – another thing English lacks – it’s “Sie” and “Ihnen”).

But for English – since the demise of “Ye”, anyway – we have no word for second-person plural.

And there are times that causes problems.

Enter “y’all” – the southern dialect group’s great contribution to grammar.  It is a second person plural.  And unlike the Northern dialect group’s “Youse”, it’s  not phonetically awkward; it’s easier to go from an “L” to most other sounds than from an “S”.

So yes Ms. Power; by your leave (or even without it), I’m going to use “y’all”.   I’m also going to appropriate any parts of southern culture that suit me – Tom Petty, a sarcastic “yee haw” on occasion, Emmylou Harris, rockabilly, cheese grits, whatever.

And not just southern culture, either.  I will take whatever parts of other cultures and incorporate them into my life in any way I see fit; I’ll listen to R&B, Jazz and black Gospel music; I’ll incorporate words like “Boondocks” (stolen from the Philippines) and “Cojones” (Mexico) and others into my vernacular;  if something in another culture makes my life better and more interesting, I’m going to take it,and I’m going to dare you to do anything but whine about it.

Because that’s how all human cultures throughout history have formed, intermingled and grown.  Western European culture is the result of 2,000 years of various levels of mixture of Latin, Gallic, Frankish, Saxon, Anglic, Teutonic, Slavic,  Near Eastern, Nordic, Greek, and countless other cultures, customs and languages, none of which existed anymore in the original forms, because they all appropriated each other, and themselves, out of existence.   And it’s the same for every other culture on the planet – African, Asian, you name it.  The only exceptions are tribes in the impenetrable wilds of New Guinea or the Philippines that have gotten through these last 2,000 years with no other human contact.

So save us the jabbering about appropriation.  Every culture appropriates every other culture, always has, and always will.  Take what you need and leave the rest.

Or whine.

Your call.