All posts for the topic: Language

It’s time to ditch politically correct right wing euphemisms

Est Reading Time: 2 min While reading through volumes and volumes on Brexit I checked out the Wikipedia page for UKIP to find out a bit more about them. The intro paragraph described it as a “Euroskeptic” party. What a great euphemism for a party who aren’t far from being actual Nazis, hey? Political correctness is usually an accusation wielded by right wingers against basically trying to be decent. Recently though, there’s been an increased awareness that right wingers engage in plenty of political correctness themselves — in ways that can have much more impact than the standard (urban legend) usage. Euroskeptic is a perfect […]

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How abusers take advantage of the social contract

Est Reading Time: 4 min [CN: abusive behaviour.] Imagine that I don’t have the slightest intention of ever having kids but have a family member who is very concerned that I haven’t had kids. Telling her my decision directly will really upset them so imagine I have this conversation instead: FAMILY MEMBER: So, when are you having kids???ME: Well…not everyone can have kids! What just happened here? Welcome to the world of pragmatics, the study of what gives language meaning other than the literal words we use (ie. socially and culturally-mediated context). The norms implied in the above exchange are probably not universal, but I […]

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How do you know someone’s vegan? They’ll tell you!

Est Reading Time: 5 min I’m sure you’ve seen the one-line that’s the title of this post: Although the above joke is about vegans, it’s a standard template used against lots of other groups (as we’ll see below). An interesting connection to the vegan version of the joke is the countless times I’ve seen LGBT people accused of “flaunting” their sexuality, shoving it in people’s faces and even imposing it on others. This is often set off by the most indirect factors, like someone having a picture of their same-sex partner at their desk at work. And it’s not like the increasing public support for […]

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The internet IS real life: against the terms online- & cyber-

Est Reading Time: 4 min I’ve got some breaking news: the internet is here to stay. Discounting major catastrophes, it’s going to become a larger and larger part of the lives of everyone on earth. So it’s time to stop treating it as some novel, completely separate part of human experience. One way we do this is with language that has modifiers for the online version of an activity. To be sure, if you can do something both online and offline, there will be a difference between the two. But if you look at the way online modifiers are used in culture, it’s often to […]

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How to use bad science to trash ereaders

Est Reading Time: 5 min Studies of ereading Studies about how reading paper books compares to reading electronic devices like a Kobo have gotten some attention in the media. Which makes sense because it’s often a chance to have a great moral panic about how technology is now ruining reading, or maybe even cognition. I’ve posted about technology panics before but ereader stories deserve a special, dishonourable mention. Here’s the story from August 2014 in the Guardian: Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds. I’ll quote a large chunk to set the context. A new study which found that readers using a […]

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How would a world with trigger warnings work?

Est Reading Time: 8 min Last week, I posted a defence of trigger warnings/content notes (and an attack on the anti-arguments). This is unfortunately where the debate is at – whether the culture should be more accommodating of people who want to know a few extra things about a piece of content before they consume it with informed consent. A much more interesting discussion is the practicalities of how this could be implemented, how it would start up. Here, I’ll try to propose something concrete. Ad-hoc labelling by content creators This is a content creator who wants to create a content note out of their […]

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Trigger Warnings/Content Notes: An Epic in Two Acts

Est Reading Time: 9 min Because the internet NEEDS another opinion on trigger warnings/content notes! Act 1 A long time ago in a parallel universe, writing was AuthenticTM. A host of manly men created great literature and disseminated them to the public. Everything was great and everyone got a true cultural experience. Along came an agitator. “You know what would be great?” the agitator whined entitledly. “There should be a short description of what each text contains as a teaser. You know, a little preview or blurb (maybe at the back of a book?) so we can decide what’s likely to appeal to our tastes […]

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Against the term “offensive”

Est Reading Time: 3 min I have a pet peeve: the use of the term “offensive”. Ok, it’s more than a pet peeve – I think its use in public discourse is misleading and harmful. To start, here are some uses of “offensive” that are particularly cringeworthy: You don’t have a right not to be offended It’s good and important to be offensive The PC crowd is desperate to be offended He’s a #bravehero who doesn’t worry about causing offense Do I offend you? Tough Often what follows is rank bigotry. What provides it cover is the conflation of offensive’s two meanings. The first is […]

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Yes, it really can take a year to learn how to look up a Chinese character

Est Reading Time: 4 min I’ve posted about some of the difficulties non-Chinese speakers may face with the language before. Recently I’ve read a wonderful 1991 piece called Why Is Chinese So Damn Hard? by none other than Moser, a professor of Chinese studies. It’s very interesting and worth a read in full, although decent rebuttals do exist. One item from the article that really highlights the difficulty is that it can take a really long time to even learn to look up a new character in the dictionary. So I thought I’d go through the process involved in looking up one character. Because I […]

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Rosetta Stone making highly questionable claims about language learning

Est Reading Time: 4 min A while ago, I saw a full page ad for Rosetta Stone (a language learning software company) in the Scientific American in an Istanbul hostel. I had to take a photo because I was so shocked at the content. (Transcript is on this page.) I’ll ignore the wordiness. It probably makes sense for the Scientific American. And the disclaimer is that I have no idea how Rosetta Stone works and the degree to which it is effective. But boy are the claims questionable. Research shows that merely using putting a picture of a brain or irrelevant neuroscience information will make […]

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