Tag: Language

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I prefer order. And predictability. Safe spaces are nice too, but not the ones we hear about on college campuses. Those are for once open-minded youths that have now been turned into feeble cowards who, 1) don’t know who they are yet, 2) don’t know what they truly believe, and 3) don’t know how to […]

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We live in an age of simple sentences. Some may say we have moved into an age of simple words, or even simple letters and numbers where smartphone texting rules all. Language embodies consciousness, and simple sentences embody simple states of consciousness. The ancient Greeks, and philosophers for the next 2,500 years after, expressed complex […]

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The genuine purpose of a dictionary is to preserve distinctions despite public misuse. A good dictionary functions as a ruler, as a constant unit of measurement for meanings to help people acquire a flexibility and subtlety of language and thought, for deeper and common communications and expressions. Preview Open

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Calling Things by Their Actual Names

 

In his memoir Fear No Evil, Natan Sharansky recounts his experience at the hands of the Soviet KGB during his years as a refusenik . A favorite tactic of the KGB was to torture prisoners with the intent of getting them to confess to false charges which could be used to justify their imprisonment. In a gripping account of one particularly brutal torture session, Sharansky describes how he was on the verge of breaking down and giving a false confession, when the memory of those who had come before him and refused to lie about themselves suddenly came to his mind. He remembered how his knowledge of the gritty refusal of others to speak untruths had enabled him, up until that moment, to stand up to his own tormentors. The realization came crashing down upon him that if he broke by giving a false confession, he might be doing great damage to those who came after him by failing to provide for them the same example that others had provided for him. That memory, in that terrible moment, was an ultimate game changer for Sharansky — he never did go on to bear witness to a lie.

It turns out that a commitment to the truth can yield surprising downstream effects.

A New York State of Language

 

New Yawk English. You know it when you hear it. It is unique and serves as a cultural marker.

“You Talkin’ To Me? The Unruly  History of New York English,” By  E. J. White tells the story of New York English. It is as much about why New Yorkers talk the way they do as about how they talk.

A study of New York linguistics, told by someone who is a linguistics expert, it is not a dry, scholarly tome. Rather it is as lively as Brooklynese, told with Bugs Bunny insouciance and Archie Bunker confidence. The book opens up with a study of New Yorkers’ favorite obscenity.  More than a term describing human reproduction, New Yorkers use it as an endearment, a qualifier, and an expression of respect. (Only in New York.)

Sex, Violence, and Marriage

 

I’ve been engaged in a pair of interesting conversations lately with people whose views are, shall we say, somewhere to the left of my own — and yes, I know that’s a pretty big crowd — about the meanings of words. Specifically, we’ve been talking about “sex” and “violence.”

The left is in the process of redefining sex to mean something other, something broader and less precise, than male or female. They do this by pointing to differences in the way human sexual traits are distributed, claiming that abnormal combinations of traits represent new sexes, rather than merely variations in distribution. (They also cite biological abnormalities, the rare genetic mutations that cause some people to actually be sexually ambiguous in their physiology.)

There’s a point to this redefinition. By stirring up mud and obscuring what we all pretty well know about normal sexual distinctions, they can marginalize those distinctions. That’s important, because their goal is to say that all differences of behavior and situation are the result of social constructs, arbitrary rules made up (by men) to achieve a social objective (the subjugation of women). Once biology is rejected, all that remains is injustice.

A Leftist Lexicon

 

A couple of years ago, I did a post called A Liberal Lexicon. Since then, every time I spotted a new bludgeoning of the language, I added it to the list. For some reason, the last few months have been a target-rich environment for new entries. With that and the recent posts from @tocqueville, “. . .words/expressions that have got to go!,” and @arvo, “Getting on the same page,” I think now is a good time to publish an update.

Since the people who believe these things are the epitome of illiberal, I’ve changed the name to more honestly reflect who they are. I’ve tried to give credit to other members for ideas that came from their posts or comments, but if I missed any, let me know.

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The immediate prompt for this rant is that the State of Rhode Island has dropped from its formal name “and Providence Plantations” because ignorant people cannot associate the word “plantation” with anything other than “slavery.” But there have been many other efforts to force businesses, real estate developments, and others to banish the word “plantation.” […]

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If I were being responsible right now, I would be just finishing an essay analyzing Brodsky’s cultural influences in Russian (as it is I’m 70% done with the essay and 100% done trying to connect my “ы”s to my “т”s while maintaining the proper stem), or reviewing my infinitives for my return to Hebrew tomorrow. […]

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I’ve had some conversations on Ricochet where setting clear  and measurable assimilation standards for migrants (specifically migrants from MENA to Europe, as refugees or not) has been raised. (@GrannyDude – see, I was listening.) There is a jurisdiction in the West that has done just that for migrants (and has recently kicked it up a […]

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Made-up Words? Covfefe, I Say!

 

I have two related thoughts that I think explain why the left and the youngs are the way they are.

An idea that penetrated from the heights of American culture down to elementary schools around the turn of the century was the idea that being judgmental was a vice rather than a virtue. This is contradictory because it is a moral judgment itself. It is the ethos of puritanical nihilism: the only morally correct way to live is not to acknowledge that right and wrong exist.

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Having solved the overuse of natural gas in homes problem now the city of Berkely has moved on. From USA today and other sources: Berkeley’s municipal code will no longer feature words like “manhole” and “manpower,” and instead say, “maintenance hole” and “human effort” or “workforce.” The measure passed unanimously Tuesday and replaces more than […]

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Linguistic Colonialization

 

My biggest pet peeve in the last two years is the term “Latinx.” It is the most ignorant neologism that I can think of from the last round of language revisions in the past few years.

I teach Latin, and so I am used to a gender structure to language. But I didn’t start out the way. My primary language is English, and most words in this language are genderless. What gender would you attach to “English” if you could? The only gender left in English is those words that are intrinsically gendered: man, woman female, etc. and pronouns.

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Here’s a light but difficult topic for a weekend: What are the rules of looking at people?  Learning when and how to look at people, what a stare or gaze communicates, is one of the unspoken lessons of any culture. I expect the rules vary between cultures as do rules governing distance between speakers, pacing […]

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I was reading this articlehttps://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2019/03/democratic_presidential_candidates_perfect_orwells_language_manipulation.htmland it had several fascinating quotes from George Orwell’s essay: http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit Preview Open

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https://www.ecolandscaping.org/03/landscape-design/when-your-contractor-is-not-familiar-with-ecological-design/ I was glancing over this article (I only link it to show I’m not imagining things) where pretty far into it, an issue came up that I had never expected in the sane world. So you don’t have to plow through it, essentially public construction work or at least landscape construction can end up […]

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In politics, language matters. (Here, I must insert an obligatory Orwell reference.) Marginal theories can seep into the mainstream when marginal vocabulary seeps into the mainstream. Such is the case with identity politics — and, in particular, the trendy phrase “people of color.” I’ve noticed, even within the conservative commentariat (Reihan Salam, I’m looking at […]

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