Because Internet.

That’s the title of a new book by Gretchen McCulloch, a linguist I’ve posted about a number of times (first, I think, here), and The Walrus has a lengthy excerpt that’s full of interesting stuff, for example:

Remember how you learned about swearing? It was probably from a kid around your age, maybe an older sibling, and not from an educator or authority figure. And you were probably in early adolescence: the stage when linguistic influence tends to shift from caregivers to peers. Linguistic innovation follows a similar pattern, and the linguist who first noticed it was Henrietta Cedergren. She was doing a study in Panama City, where younger people had begun pronouncing “ch” as “sh”—saying chica (girl) as shica. When she drew a graph of which ages were using the new “sh” pronunciation, Cedergren noticed that sixteen-year-olds were the most likely to use the new version—more likely than the twelve-year-olds were. So did that mean that “sh” wasn’t the trendy new linguistic innovation after all, since the youngest age group wasn’t really adopting it?

Cedergren returned to Panama a decade later to find out. The formerly un-trendy twelve-year-olds had grown up into hyperinnovative twenty-two-year-olds. They now had the new “sh” pronunciation at even higher levels than the original trendy cohort of sixteen-year-olds, now twenty-six-year-olds, who sounded the same as they had a decade earlier. What’s more, the new group of sixteen-year-olds was even further advanced, and the new twelve-year-olds still looked a bit behind. Cedergren figured out that twelve-year-olds still have some linguistic growth to do: they keep imitating and building on the linguistic habits of their slightly older, cooler peers as they go through their teens, and then plateau in their twenties.

* * *

Researchers from Georgia Tech, Columbia, and Microsoft looked at how many times a person had to see a word in order to start using it, using a group of words that was distinctively popular among Twitter users in a particular city in 2013–2014. As we’d expect, they noticed that people who follow each other on Twitter are likely to pick up words from each other. But there was an important difference in how people learned different kinds of words. People sometimes picked up words that are also found in speech—like “cookout,” “hella,” “jawn,” and “phony”—from their internet friends, but it didn’t really matter how many times they saw them.

For rising words that are primarily written, not spoken—abbreviations like “tfti” (thanks for the information), “lls” (laughing like shit), and “ctfu” (cracking the fuck up) and phonetic spellings like “inna” (in a / in the) and “ard” (alright)—the number of times people saw them mattered a lot. Every additional exposure made someone twice as likely to start using them. The study pointed out that people encounter spoken slang both online and offline, so when we’re only measuring exposure via Twitter, we miss half or more of the exposures, and the trend looks murky. But people mostly encounter the written slang online, so pretty much all of those exposures become measurable for a Twitter study. The researchers also found that you’re more likely to start using a new word from Friendy McNetwork, who shares a lot of mutual friends with you, and less likely to pick it up from Rando McRandomFace, who doesn’t share any of your friends, even if you and Rando follow each other just like you and Friendy do.

* * *

Research in other centuries, languages, and regions continues to find that women lead linguistic change, in dozens of specific changes in specific cities and regions. Young women are also consistently on the bleeding edge of those linguistic changes that periodically sweep through media trend sections, from uptalk (the distinctive rising intonation at the end of sentences?) to the use of “like” to introduce a quotation (“And then I was like, ‘Innovation’”). The role that young women play as language disruptors is so clearly established at this point that it’s practically boring to linguists who study this topic: well-known sociolinguist William Labov estimated that women lead 90 percent of linguistic change in a paper he wrote in 1990. (I’ve attended more than a few talks at sociolinguistics conferences about a particular change in vowels or vocabulary, and it barely gets even a full sentence of explanation: “And here, as expected, we can see that the women are more advanced on this change than the men. Next slide.”) Men tend to follow a generation later: in other words, women tend to learn language from their peers; men learn it from their mothers.

She discusses gender skew, age and race, clusters (sports fans, parents, etc.), strong and weak ties (more weak ties leads to more linguistic change), a computer simulation with a network of 900 hypothetical people (“The researchers concluded that both strong and weak ties have an important role to play in linguistic change: the weak ties introduce new forms in the first place, while the strong ties spread them once they’re introduced”), and the like; it’s well worth reading the whole thing. Thanks, Kobi!

Comments

  1. My (entirely anecdotal) experience has been that young women appropriate slang from gay men, who tend to appropriate it from drag queens and/or black women. I can think off hand of many gay expressions that have gone mainstream (“throwing shade”, “spilling the tea”, etc) and not a single one going the other way.

  2. The claim that, “Every additional exposure made someone twice as likely to start using them,” has to be a misstatement of the research results—firstly, because it is mathematically impossible; secondly, because it would be impossible to measure.

    I also want to push back against the idea that females are so disproportionately responsible for linguistic innovation. While it may be true that girls do innovate more than boys, there is also likely to be a serious reporting quality discrepancy. Novel usages favored by girls and young women are probably much more likely to be remarked upon (and castigated) than new usage patterns coming from males. New usages by boys and men may be scarcely noted, giving the erroneous impression that they are much less frequent.

    I remember noticing this as a teenager. New slang invented by boys, whether it ended up catching on or not, provoked relatively little comment. Part of what makes the distinction between male and female language possible is the extreme social segregation between teenage boys and girls.* It is routine for social circles to be completely single gender, and so teens’ linguistic innovations can evolve almost entirely in one sex. I had one male friend in high school who was considered somewhat odd, because he used a lot of expressions that were normally restricted to the girls.

    * I think adults often forget how strong this segregation is. For example, my high school had a two-round election for the student body president. The second round was a runoff between the top three vote-getters from the first round. Usually, this meant a runoff between two boys and girl or two girls and boy—and the candidate who did not have to compete against another student of the same sex practically always won. I inferred that there were simply a lot of electors who would reflexively vote for a candidate of their own sex. I noticed this phenomenon after a couple elections when I was a student, and so I went back and looked at previous years, to see whether the pattern held. It did, as far back as the records went; and it also continued to hold throughout the subsequent years that my two younger brothers attended the same school. However, almost all the adults that I brought this issue up to refused to believe that the numbers really could be that way. The overwhelming influence of gender on students’ voting was something they would not or could not accept.

  3. Brett, I appreciate your comment, but doesn’t it presupposes that all linguists are idiots. That they do not know what they are studying and rely exclusively on angry letters to the editor. How likely is that? The simpler explanation might be that for some reason innovations made by young women (and it’s not slang, the article mentions intonation and use of discourse words) get stuck with higher probability.

  4. Brett, men may be just as innovative but women are more involved in child raising and so female innovations are more likely to survive into the next generation and move from slang to normal speech, so women drive long term language change. If I understand the authors correctly.

  5. I can think off hand of many gay expressions that have gone mainstream (“throwing shade”, “spilling the tea”, etc) and not a single one going the other way.
    Polari goes both ways. See “east-end” (i.e. of London = Cockney) Polari vs “west-end” (where the theatres are = gay) Polari. Also what Brett says about phrases being more noticed coming from girls than from boys may also apply here.

    women are more involved in child raising and so female innovations are more likely to survive
    I don’t buy that children acquire language mostly from their mothers. My bilingual daughter seemed to learn equal quantities of English from me and Norwegian from her mother concurrently.

  6. PlasticPaddy says:

    The example of learning English from L1 English parent and Norwegian from L1 Norwegian parent may not be a good one. It might also be that boys would tend to imitate their Dad’s (my brother did this with my father’s speech impediment, then had to cancel it with speech therapy) speech and girls their mother’s. This is complicated in that men may have fewer contact hours with children and speak less or less richly during these contact hours.

  7. The example of learning English from L1 English parent and Norwegian from L1 Norwegian parent may not be a good one.
    Why not? I thought it was great! I could roughly track the rate at which she picked up words from each parent, give or take those she learnt in the parents’ conversations with each other: and those were in both languages.

  8. PlasticPaddy says:

    @ajp crown
    What I meant is that a child could notice a different level of facility and focus on the parent with greater facility: therefore English from L1 English parent and Norwegian from L1 Norwegian parent. Does your daughter speak English with occasional or predominant Norwegian accent or phonemes?

  9. English is always a bad example because it is a global language and there are huge social incentives to learn it, even in non-English speaking countries. All the couples I know in the US where the mother had L1 English and the father L1 not English, the kids are monolingual English. Where the mother had L1 something else (Portuguese, Spanish, and Russian are examples I can think of), the children are at least competent in the “mother tongue.” So based on anecdotal evidence, I am inclined to believe that mothers have much more influence.

  10. Does your daughter speak English with occasional or predominant Norwegian accent or phonemes?

    Oh, no way. Although she can do it really well as a joke if she feels like it. Her everyday English is sort of upper class-English accented, sort of like my mother’s (having skipped a generation in me). On request or if necessary on the phone, say, she can do convincing American accents too (yeah, the Americans here are not going to believe that, are they).

    English is always a bad example because it is a global language and there are huge social incentives to learn it
    Nah. She wasn’t that interested in the huge social incentives when she was a baby learning to speak. We didn’t have a TV then, there was no Netflix or Amazon (she’s 25), and if anything there would have been an incentive to speak the language that other people around here were speaking and that was Norwegian. So based on my own daughter’s behavior, all other things being equal I don’t believe that mothers have any more influence than fathers do, not with girls anyway.

  11. I also want to push back against the idea that females are so disproportionately responsible for linguistic innovation. While it may be true that girls do innovate more than boys, there is also likely to be a serious reporting quality discrepancy. Novel usages favored by girls and young women are probably much more likely to be remarked upon (and castigated) than new usage patterns coming from males. New usages by boys and men may be scarcely noted, giving the erroneous impression that they are much less frequent.

    […]

    So based on my own daughter’s behavior, all other things being equal I don’t believe that mothers have any more influence than fathers.

    Guys, I’m afraid actual scientific studies (and she’s not just reporting on one but on the consensus of many) trump both theoretical ruminations and personal experience. We can only learn if we set aside our preconceptions, bright ideas, and personal experience (“Look, the sun goes around the earth, I see it every day!”) and are willing to take in new and perhaps counterintuitive information.

  12. It’s a great read. Not 100% new stuff for us language buffs, but definitely one worthwhile insight per chapter.
    The second research in the excerpt you mentioned is available here.

  13. set aside our … personal experience (“Look, the sun goes around the earth, I see it every day!”) and are willing to take in new and perhaps counterintuitive information.

    “Tell me,” he asked, “why people always say ‘it’s only natural to assume that the Sun goes round the Earth rather than that the Earth is rotating’?” His friend said, “Obviously because it just looks as though the Sun is going round the Earth.” Wittgenstein replied, “But what would it have looked like if it had looked as though the Earth was rotating?”

    Seriously, you expect me to set aside personal experience and believe what I’m told? Not being a geneticist yourself you’d have just taken Nott’s & Gliddon’s word for it that black Africans were a stage between chimpanzees and ancient Greeks? Nott & Glidd were social scientists, an anthropologist and an Egyptologist, but their conclusions weren’t correct. When my daughter was sixish a girl in her class refused to believe the world was round because she could see it wasn’t. It was flat. Everyone else laughed at her and made her feel ashamed, but I told her she had the right attitude (I think she’s a photographer now).

    actual scientific studies
    Heaven forbid you should acknowledge the difference between social sciences, that use a scientific method but aren’t really sciences, and natural sciences. Or do you believe there’s no difference in credibility between the evidence that comes out of a particle accelerator and the conclusions drawn from it versus, say, a survey made by statisticians based on first-quarter housing starts? There just seems to be way more room for hypothesis being taken for truth in the social sciences. Look at Sapir Whorf or poor old Chompski in Linguistics, gods cast off like squeezed lemons. As for Economics, the only way that Keynes and the Chicago School have equal credibility is because despite all the (optional) math there’s no real proof of anything. Social science is sometimes hocus pocus (no disrespect to anyone here intended).

  14. PlasticPaddy says:

    @ajp crown
    I think you are being overly pessimistic. The problem is that large studies, even if one suspects their design was flawed, are difficult to repeat. But if enough small studies cast doubt on their conclusions, the large studies will be repeated (or their conclusions will no longer be accepted unquestioningly). Having not read the study, I do not know what threats to validity arise from the design.

  15. Paddy, You are right, I’m sure. My niggling has all been about comments; I’m not critical of the study itself which sounds interesting. Also I ought to have a logo next to my name inscribed to say that I know next to nothing about Linguistics, certainly not enough to be pontificating, though I did once read a quite difficult Norwegian book that Trond kindly gave me.

  16. January First-of-May says:

    Wittgenstein replied, “But what would it have looked like if it had looked as though the Earth was rotating?”

    Aside from the koan-like quality of this quote – which is admittedly probably the point – one common answer to this is “then we’d be thrown off the Earth by the rotation”.

    The surprising response to this answer is that technically we are thrown off the Earth by the rotation – it’s just that the gravity pulling us towards it is about a thousand times stronger, so the effect is negligible.

    (Actually measuring this effect is complicated by the fact that Earth is also throwing itself off by its rotation, so the parts farther from the axis of rotation are also slightly farther from the center, and this turns out to make the effective gravity lower by more than the rotation itself.
    But the math itself is trivial – the centrifugal acceleration throwing us off is |a|=r*ω²≈20000/π km/day²≈0.0086 m/s², less than a thousandth of the gravitational acceleration pulling us in. The full combined effect comes out to about 0.3% of the gravity.)

  17. Wittgenstein replied, “But what would it have looked like if it had looked as though the Earth was rotating?”

    Good place for an old Soviet anecdote (a joke, often with elaborate set up)

    A Soviet leader travels by train, which unexpectedly halts
    Lenin: goes outside and gives an impassioned speech to the workers on the need to get the train moving
    Stalin: orders Kaganovich to shoot everyone around if the train is not moving in five minutes
    Brezhnev: orders to move the scenery and rock the train

  18. “My (entirely anecdotal) experience has been that young women appropriate slang from gay men, who tend to appropriate it from drag queens and/or black women.”

    Well, most drag queens are gay men, so it’s hard to see how gay men are appropriating anything. And as for black women, this has been proposed but I’ve never seen it demonstrated. It’s probably accurate though. It is however rather new, within the last 20 years or so. I don’t know how deep it goes either. A lot of gay slang is in fact Polari-based..

  19. “Guys, I’m afraid actual scientific studies (and she’s not just reporting on one but on the consensus of many) trump both theoretical ruminations and personal experience.”

    This was a possible methodological problem they pointed out

  20. J.W. Brewer says:

    There are lots of different sorts of language change. Many of the examples consistent with the females-lead/males-follow claim involve shifts in pronunciation or in morphosyntax (e.g. in one of the examples given the transition from -eth to -s as the 3d-person-sg. marker for present tense verbs) that occur over fairly longish timescales. It’s not just about who innovates catchy new slang words or phrases. And of course the demographic pattern in “who has innovated this year’s catchy new slang” may turn out to be different than “who has innovated the smallish subset of this year’s catchy new slang which will end up enduring rather than fading and will 50 years from now just be an unremarkable part of the lexicon.”

  21. January, you left out the 2π in your ω; the centrifugal acceleration at the equator actually comes out to 0.034m/s². The net difference in gravity between the equator and the poles, as measured, is about 0.53%, which implies that the difference is about 2/3 due to the Earth’s rotation and 1/3 due to the equatorial bulge.

    An even better answer to Wittgenstein’s question is “Foucault pendulums would rotate once per day (obligatory xkcd), atmospheric circulation would be broken into belts causing trade winds, and hurricanes would have consistent rotation depending on hemisphere.” Those are all things Wittgenstein could have known.

  22. Foucault’s pendulum only rotates once per day at a pole, where the plate is straightforwardly rotating underneath it. At lower latitudes, the actual motion is surprisingly complicated to describe. (This makes the Foucault’s pendulum problem hard to teach, I have found.)

  23. Even if most drag queens are gay men, that does NOT mean most gay men are drag queens. So, yes, gay men can get something from drag queens. (Whether the verb “appropriate” is accurate in this case is rather beside the point in this discussion.)

  24. David Marjanović says:

    two boys and girl or two girls and boy

    Speaking of innovations!

    all other things being equal I don’t believe that mothers have any more influence than fathers.

    All other things being equal, that may well be true. But usually few other things are equal.

  25. January First-of-May says:

    January, you left out the 2π in your ω; the centrifugal acceleration at the equator actually comes out to 0.034m/s².

    I’m… not actually sure how I messed this up; in retrospect, of course, I should have noticed that the Google calculator was giving me an unrealistic 0.00086 instead of a vaguely plausible 0.0086 (and I edited out the initial version where I manually transformed the units, and should also have caught the order-of-magnitude mismatch).
    It didn’t help that I vaguely remembered the 2/3 and 1/3 distribution, but forgot which part was which – and thought that the 0.03ish figure (I remembered it as “1 part in 297”) was the full difference.

    The correct figure, for the record (and now with slightly simpler math), is |a|=vω≈80000π km/day²≈0.034 m/s² (where v≈40000 km/day comes from the old definition of the kilometer, plus assuming that the Earth is roughly spherical; and the “day” should really be the sidereal one, but it rounds up to 0.034 one way or another).

  26. Stu Clayton says:

    That raises the fascinating possibility that anyone might give a good goddamn about the De Morgan relationship between drag queens and gay men.

  27. Stu Clayton says:

    All other things being equal, that may well be true. But usually few other things are equal.

    This is almost equivalent to the principle of identity of indiscernibles. “Usually” introduces a nice twist.

  28. “So, yes, gay men can get something from drag queens. (Whether the verb “appropriate” is accurate in this case is rather beside the point in this discussion.)”

    Ellen,

    Yes. That was my point. We get a lot from drag queens, some of it verbal but “appropriation” doesn’t fit.

  29. Stu Clayton says:

    What is all this about drag queens ? I learned tongue-lashing from El Paso’s best when I was 14. But they are all flies in amber now. If any are still buzzing around, they must have been resurrected by Jurassic Park heteros. The natural habitats of the 60s have long gone.

  30. Surely drag queens don’t have flies, amber or any other color.

    Those are all things Wittgenstein could have known.
    Sure, as long as you understand that the point he’s making is quite different. It’s that what we see is just as consistent with the Earth’s rotation around the Sun as it is with the Sun going round the Earth. We were never being misled by the evidence, scientists merely misinterpreted it. Just because it’s based on evidence scientific hypothesis doesn’t necessarily hold any more truth or insight than any other human activity does.

  31. D’oh, sorry, Brett is right about the period of the Foucault pendulum.

    Aristotle and Ptolemy did recognize that they needed to ask what would it look like if the earth moved (because some of Aristotle’s rivals said it did), they just didn’t have the tools to find the right answer—they thought it would make 1000mph winds at the equator and that projectiles thrown to the east would go farther than those thrown to the west. Which they do, slightly, but Aristotle had no way to quantitatively calculate the effect.

    what we see is just as consistent with the Earth’s rotation around the Sun as it is with the Sun going round the Earth.

    If we look *only* at what Aristotle could see, yes. If we have a telescope, large-scale weather map, etc., then no. A scientific hypothesis suggests what *further* evidence is needed to decide between it and its rivals. The heliocentric model predicted that Venus has phases, impossible according to Ptolemy: Galileo looked and found them.

    A lot of scientific training is learning to make your assumptions explicit and to know how they could be disproved, which means asking and answering questions like Wittgenstein’s all the time. That’s the kind of insight that science brings.

  32. kt: A lot of scientific training is learning to make your assumptions explicit and to know how they could be disproved… That’s the kind of insight that science brings.

    Same with lawyering. Same with TV detective. Most of us have a reverence for the singular qualities of our profession, and it’s always slightly irritating for everyone else (you should hear architects on themselves, sometime). It’s part of the skillset we are taught in school. Not that it’s untrue, just that it doesn’t apply solely to [insert job here].

  33. January First-of-May says:

    they thought it would make 1000mph winds at the equator and that projectiles thrown to the east would go farther than those thrown to the west. Which they do, slightly, but Aristotle had no way to quantitatively calculate the effect.

    [deleting the entire “projectile” section due to huge physics confusion, will repost later]

    As for the winds – now I’m wondering why it wouldn’t. I mean, we know it doesn’t because that’s not what is observed, but what’s the physics of the effect?

  34. January First-of-May says:

    OK, I’ve looked more stuff up regarding eastward vs. westward projectiles, and while the direction of the effect that you gave is correct in reality (a simple quick explanation in modern terms: eastward projectiles have higher orbital speed at the same height, which means higher apogee), I suspect that Aristotle-level physics would probably expect the opposite to be true – i.e. that westward projectiles would go further, because the Earth rotates towards them as they go.

    That said, I hadn’t read the actual “refutation” (if it is even extant) – which direction is it in, and why?

    In any case, the effect is negligible at small speeds (according to a forum thread I found, about 0.03% at 20 m/s), and is for that matter probably significantly dampened by air resistance.
    In addition, as far as I’m aware, Aristotle’s tech level didn’t really provide a way to consistently throw projectiles at the same speed (and/or manually measure their speed), so any measurement of the effect would have been overshadowed by errors in that.

  35. Furthermore, Aristotle’s laws of motion entailed that the motion of a projectile was the vector sum of its natural motion (down, towards the earth that it shared the same material with) and its unnatural motion (sideways, provided by the thrower). So he almost certainly thought that projectiles moved in a straight line diagonal to the Earth’s flat surface.

    Torsion catapults in Greece were contemporary with Aristotle, and tension catapults much older. (Traction catapults like trebuchets didn’t reach Europe till the +4C.) So the notion of repeatable projectile trajectories was definitely well understood by artillerymen at the time.

  36. The heliocentric model predicted that Venus has phases, impossible according to Ptolemy

    But possible (with geocentrism) according to Tycho.

  37. January First-of-May says:

    So he almost certainly thought that projectiles moved in a straight line diagonal to the Earth’s flat surface.

    Surely even Aristotle would have known about throwing a stone over a wall – either manually or with a catapult, depending on the sizes of the stone and the wall – and might well have done the former personally.

    I wonder how were such obviously-not-straight trajectories explained (if they were at all, of course) in his version of physics…

    But possible (with geocentrism) according to Tycho.

    IIRC, the Tychonian system is basically just the Copernician system in the Earth’s reference frame, and is thus (pre-Einstein, at least) technically equally valid (though not as convenient, as it involves a lot of fudging the observable physics with Coriolis forces and the like to make objects outside the Earth behave as though they are not actually rotating).

    (I’m saying “pre-Einstein” because I’m not sure what it does to general or special relativity. On second thought, I’m sure that exotically-accelerating reference frames are possible even there, but it probably involves further [observable] physics fudging that I’m not familiar with.)

  38. January First-of-May says:

    IIRC, the Tychonian system is basically just the Copernician system in the Earth’s reference frame

    That is to say, in the reference frame in which the Earth is not rotating; if we consider the reference frame in which the Earth is static but rotates (which is effectively what satellites operate in), we get the model proposed by Nilakantha of Kerala, where the Sun rotates around the Earth with a period of one year.
    The same fudging effects apply, though on a much lesser level as the rotation to be counteracted is far slower.

    We don’t really need the next stage – a model where the Sun is static [or, rather, wobbles with the motion of the planets; the barycenter of the system is static] is what we have now, to most practical purposes.
    In reality the Sun does accelerate towards the galactic core, as part of the galaxy’s rotation, and apparently in other directions as well; the total acceleration had been measured as about 8 mm per second per year, or roughly a quarter of a nanometer per second squared.)

  39. PlasticPaddy says:

    Wouldn’t Aristotele have thought the trajectory of stone over wall was (a) one diagonal line upwards until the initial thrower up impulse was used up and (b) one diagonal line downwards until ground is met and initial thrower across impulse was used up? You could even explain empirical range VS elevation tables (if Greeks did not have them, I am sure Romans did) with this theory. But Archimedes probably knew the real path☺

  40. January First-of-May says:

    Wouldn’t Aristotele have thought the trajectory of stone over wall was (a) one diagonal line upwards until the initial thrower up impulse was used up and (b) one diagonal line downwards until ground is met and initial thrower across impulse was used up?

    Possibly; I hadn’t done the math to see whether it checks out. Though I think the angles won’t be quite right.
    (Besides, in practice air resistance would make a mess of the theoretical parabola, so it’s not quite as obvious what the math looks like.)

    But Archimedes probably knew the real path

    One hilarious thought I had while writing those comments is that technically I see the parabolic trajectory (actually see it, as a visible line) every time I try to piss while insufficiently flaccid.

    For the Greeks it was probably an even more common sight – if admittedly perhaps not something that any sensible scientist would try to make an analogy from!

    [EDIT: on second thought, of course you can also do this with a garden hose, but I don’t think the Greeks had garden hoses. On third thought, I’m fairly sure the Greeks did have fountains…]

  41. J.W. Brewer says:

    The parabola is said to have been discovered by Menaechmus, who was a contemporary of Aristotle’s, but noticing which natural phenomena may not have occurred immediately …

  42. every time I try to piss while insufficiently flaccid

    Hence the expression Archimedean screw.

  43. Aristotle specifically stated that curvilinear motion only existed in the heavens, through the revolutions of the stars and other bodies. He really believed that Earthly projectile motion was piecewise linear. The fact that this is so obviously untrue is one of the reasons that I basically detest Aristotle.

  44. Not to mention that he claimed that men have more teeth than women.

  45. David Eddyshaw says:

    Ah, it’s easy to mock, but the relevant research project is quite unacceptable ethically. I mean

  46. David Eddyshaw says:

    No respectable Stagirite wants to acquire a reputation as a counter of women’s teeth. That sort of thing is best left to Cynics.

  47. Stu Clayton says:

    Could be a metaphor. Or perhaps women didn’t smile that much, so the claim would an untenable extrapolation from what he knew. He must have known from tongue-kissing young men that they have a lot of teeth.

    A. is good on ideas (leaving piecewise linearity aside), but not on teeth. I can live with that. I wouldn’t expect much from Sloterdijk’s barber either.

  48. David Eddyshaw says:

    The necessary detachment to actually count teeth in such circumstances (while enviably philosophical) is something that I would associate more with the school of Zeno.

  49. Stu Clayton says:

    Detachment ? I would have thought that engagement with reality is the disposition required to count teeth.

  50. David Eddyshaw says:

    You say engagement, I say detachment. All is but opinion.

  51. Stu Clayton says:

    Zeno would not have been able to finish counting.

  52. Detaching teeth is best left to specialists; you wouldn’t want your local philosopher trying it.

  53. David Eddyshaw says:

    Not that Zeno … he would indeed, as you imply, point out that it is mathematically impossible to know how many teeth a woman has. Or a man. Even.

    The Phoenician one. That’s him.

  54. Zeno of Citium, not to be confused with Zeno of Elea.

  55. Not to mention that he claimed that men have more teeth than women.

    They probably did: “Jedes Kind kostet die Mutter einen Zahn.” A 2008 study showed that for women in the U.S., the more children, the more tooth loss on average. What’s more, the function is worse than linear, and of course it’s even worse for the poor (4+ kids = 8 teeth) than the rich (4+ kids = 5 teeth). Modern dentistry conceals, but does not abolish, this correlation.

    Of course, some women have extraordinarily good or bad teeth. I’ve known one of each.

  56. Lars (the original one) says:

    the De Morgan relationship between drag queens and gay men

    — is complicated. Some drag queens of old would probably be trans women now, you’d have to ask them, Some straight men like to cross-dress, which now comes under the umbrella term of genderqueer, not gay. (The transvestite self-designation was restricted to cross-dressing gay males at some point, so the straight men just call themselves cross-dressers now).

    Barry Humphries (Dame Edna Everage) is four times married and has four children, while Thomas Neuwirth (Conchita Wurst) is a self-described gay male and drag queen.

    The whole straight/gay distinction is breaking up a bit these days, but especially for transgendered people you have to think about how you want to apply it. Personally I know two young trans men who are partners, and if you ask them they are gay-as-fuck boys. So that’s how I think of them. Another trans boy was dating my firmly cis-het stepdaughter for a few years, he wanted a traditional girl-boy relationship with all the trappings — so heterosexual is the only word that fits.

    Digging back into how you imagine their sexualities might have been if they hadn’t transitioned, and what you would have called it, is no help to anybody. In fact most trans people know that they are transgender before they know if they like boys or girls, so the question is moot. (Sorry for the soapbox climbing, I don’t see anybody here trying to argue otherwise but it’s something I find myself having to explain a lot off-line)..

  57. Stu Clayton says:

    — is complicated

    Anything can be made more complicated. I regard pretty much all gender discourse as leftovers theory – how to repackage the dibs and dabs of previous meals in novel ways.

    Praxis suggests theory, theory suggests practice, people get upset and then blow it off, people find consolation and then want out. Round and round we go again. Psychoanalysis too had its heyday.

    I don’t take that crap talk seriously, unregenerate and gay-as-fuck as I am. Talking with an individual person full of those ideas, I tend to warn against being taken for a ride by them. Reassurance I offer none – bin ich Jesus oder was ?

  58. Stu Clayton says:

    Conchita Wurst, I suspect, makes less mischief than Judith Butler. There’s more of a flash in the pan effect with Wurst than with Butler, ideas are slow-burning.

  59. The whole straight/gay distinction is breaking up a bit these days, but especially for transgendered people you have to think about how you want to apply it. Personally I know two young trans men who are partners, and if you ask them they are gay-as-fuck boys. So that’s how I think of them. Another trans boy was dating my firmly cis-het stepdaughter for a few years, he wanted a traditional girl-boy relationship with all the trappings — so heterosexual is the only word that fits.

    Digging back into how you imagine their sexualities might have been if they hadn’t transitioned, and what you would have called it, is no help to anybody. In fact most trans people know that they are transgender before they know if they like boys or girls, so the question is moot. (Sorry for the soapbox climbing, I don’t see anybody here trying to argue otherwise but it’s something I find myself having to explain a lot off-line)..

    Thanks for that; as an old straight guy who isn’t personally acquainted with any trans people, though of course I’ve read lots of discussions, I need all the help I can get, and I found your discussion very helpful.

  60. who isn’t personally acquainted with any trans people

    How would you know? The first trans woman I knew to be such, I found out about because of a mutual (blabbermouth, he can’t help it) friend. Otherwise I would have simply tagged her in my mind “woman”, and perhaps noted her slight peculiarity of always wearing long dresses, no matter the weather.

  61. By “personally acquainted” I mean “know in person, not over the internet,” and my circle of such acquaintances is by now limited enough I can be pretty sure.

  62. I meant “in person” too, but good point — you haven’t been rubbing elbows with randoms at the office for some time now.

  63. Exactly.

  64. (Not for fifteen years, in fact. Good lord.)

  65. Lars (the original one) says:

    Stu, I’m not sure what you think people are taken in by — if you are saying that there are a lot of theories about gender identity and performance/performativity that don’t necessarily help anybody, I will beg out because I have never seriously investigated those as theories. But from a cursory skim of her Wikipedia article, Judith Butler doesn’t seem to be very far from the facts on the ground as I see them.

    But, if this was your point instead, I don’t think you can simplify the various combinations of gender identity and sexuality back into the old male/female, gay/straight normativity. There are people who it doesn’t fit, and they don’t want to try to wear one of the straitjackets any more. In this case, pluralitam necesse habemus.

  66. I suspect Stu is simply épatant les bien-pensants as usual, not realizing that nobody around here is likely to be épaté.

  67. Yeah but Stu is the only one we know who has driven a Harley through the hot Texas desert night in nothing but a shear pink nightdress and goggles.

  68. Oh, I have the utmost respect for Stu. He’s lived the life!

  69. Stu Clayton says:

    I don’t think you can simplify the various combinations of gender identity and sexuality back into the old male/female, gay/straight normativity.

    I said not a word that could be reasonably taken that way. I will now trouble myself to make explicit that I don’t believe that, or anything like it.

    My comments were directed at high-flying notions that I consider faddish. I urge caution.

  70. Stu Clayton says:

    Crown has tastefully tarted up details of that night ride. I did not wear goggles, it was a mini-skirt from St. Vincent de Pauls not a sheer pink nightdress, and those high heels were killing me.

  71. I remember reading about a person who was born anatomically male, but always considered herself female. She transitioned non-surgically as an adult and now considers her a lesbian who has penile-vaginal intercourse with other lesbians. My gut reaction to this situation is that someone insisting on that terminology in her situation is being kind of silly. However, those are her preferences, and honoring them had no meaningful effect on me. She, in contrast, has probably endured quite a bit of stress and anguish in coming to these conclusions about herself, which is all the more reason to accept the identity that makes her comfortable with herself.

  72. Yeah, I didn’t think anyone could ride a ‘cycle without footwear of some sort. In It All Started With Columbus, the Leftpondian 1066 And All That, one section begins “Davy Crockett wore a buckskin shirt and a coonskin cap. It is presumed that he wore trousers of some sort; however, they are never metioned.” (from memory)

  73. Lars (the original one) says:

    said not a word — well, the comment about making things more complicated, I thought there was an implied ‘than necessary’ and I didn’t know if that was about theories or about self descriptions. Now I know.

  74. Stu Clayton says:

    @Lars: yes.

  75. it was a mini-skirt from St. Vincent de Pauls not a sheer pink nightdress, and those high heels were killing me.

    I don’t know, Stu. With that imagery, I’m beginning to see you on a Vespa.

  76. Do Texans ride Vespas?

  77. Do vixens ride Teslas?

  78. David Eddyshaw says:

    (a) The biggest Vespas in the world.
    (b) No self-respecting vixen would be seen dead in a Tesla.

  79. David Marjanović says:

    seen dead in a Tesla

    How about Porsche’s electric sports car? It goes from 0 to 100 km/h in three seconds, despite weighing two tonnes.

  80. David Eddyshaw says:

    More vixen-friendly, admittedly. But it still gives off a rebarbative vibe of social responsibility.

  81. David Marjanović says:

    Butbut, it’s a Porsche. Porsche has been the most trusted manufacturer of dick enlargements for half a century. It caters exclusively to men with a desperate need to show off.

  82. But vixens are not men (as I am shocked to have to point out).

  83. David Eddyshaw says:

    No true vixen would be impressed by a mere electric Porsche. It is the high calling of the vixen to demonstrate to these poor fellows that however hard they try, it will never be quite enough.

  84. David Marjanović says:

    But vixens are not men (as I am shocked to have to point out).

    But, if I understand the stereotype right, they’re the kind of accessory men with a Porsche are looking for.

    the high calling

    Good point.

  85. But, if I understand the stereotype right, they’re the kind of accessory men with a Porsche are looking for.

    Thanks, that tipped me off to look in UD. For old farts like me, vixen applied to women refers to someone quarrelsome or ill-tempered; it’s a word of condemnation.

  86. David Eddyshaw says:

    The UD definition was new to me. I was thinking more Russ Meyer (and possibly Roger Ebert.)

    I presume that here in Brexit-land, our equivalent of NSA sex is GCHQ sex. I would imagine doilies are involved. (Cheltenham.)

    TIL (thanks, JC) that “doily” is another “shrapnel” word.

  87. David Eddyshaw says:

    I should perhaps state for the record (before I am excommunicated by the other Calvinistic Socialists) that I have not in fact seen the film Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens. That would destroy the romance. It would be like actually visiting Canada, instead of flying over it.

  88. It’s probably obvious, but I’ll state for the record that I chose vixen purely for its sound, with no particular sense in mind.

  89. David Eddyshaw says:

    There are no coincidences. It’s all part of the Plan.

  90. The name of Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens obviously contains references to Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Valley of the Dolls, but I feel like there’s at least one more allusion that I am missing. Where does the “Ultra” come from?

  91. J.W. Brewer says:

    Via the google books corpus one can find “ultra-vixen” attested as early as 1868. Unfortunately, like all other pre-1970’s citations, that one appears to be an OCR misreading of the standard legal jargon “ultra vires.”

  92. Wittgenstein replied, “But what would it have looked like if it had looked as though the Earth was rotating?”

    Aside from the koan-like quality of this quote …

    Sorry, I’m a long way behind this thread. Apologies if someone’s already said this. But that is not a quote. Or not from Wittgenstein.

    It’s a made-up quote from Tom Stoppard’s play “Jumpers”. I don’t think Wittgenstein himself would have said anything so trite.

    Further apologies if you all already know this, and the level of satire here is escaping me.

  93. PlasticPaddy says:

    It might not be a published quote and might be too trite… but he appears to have said it:
    Dabei fällt mir eine Episode des Philosophen Ludwig Wittgenstein ein, die von seiner Schülerin Elizabeth Ascome [sic: should be Anscombe] überliefert ist:

    [Ludwig Wittgenstein] begrüßte mich einmal mit der Frage: »Weshalb sagen die Leute, es wäre ganz natürlich, zu denken, dass die Sonne die Erde umläuft, statt dass sich die Erde um ihre eigene Achse dreht?«
    Ich antwortete: »Ich vermute, weil es so aussieht, als würde sich die Sonne um die Erde bewegen.«
    »Nun«, fragte er, »wie hätte es denn ausgesehen, wenn es so ausgesehen hätte, als würde sich die Erde um ihre Achse drehen?«
    Source: http://www.schriftsonar.de/2011/06/die-sterne-bewegen-sich-nicht-es-ist-die-erde-die-sich-dreht/

  94. Thanks for the apology, Ant. It’s slightly slippery because it’s not written in the Tractatus, or anything, it’s merely attributed, and the wording varies. But it predates Jumpers and Stoppard. The first (that I know of) is by Elizabeth Anscombe, here p.151. That gives a background that I, at least, don’t regard as trite. Elizabeth Anscombe was Wittgenstein’s student who figures in some of the the biographies of Witt. An American philosopher Nathan Salmon, b.1951, has said (Yale Philosophy Review, 2008, Issue 4, p.81): “The anecdote is included in Tom Stoppard’s philosophical play Jumpers. Elizabeth Anscombe personally assured me that the anecdote is absolutely true.”

    (Incidentally I think Paddy’s link is mildly deceptive, because unless it was Popper and although he wrote in German, Wittgenstein conversed during his forty-odd years at Cambridge with English speakers in English. I like Popper’s and Anscombe’s use of “shew”, btw. By the end of the 1960s that had died out, as far as I know, and now it looks awfully dated.)

  95. Stu Clayton says:

    “doily” is another “shrapnel” word

    Oilymead farm.

  96. PlasticPaddy says:

    I just looked it up in German coz I assumed it was difficult to find in English. But I should have waited for the expert☺

  97. Stu Clayton says:

    From the article on Anscombe: # For years, I would spend time, in cafés, for example, staring at objects saying to myself: ‘I see a packet. But what do I really see? How can I say that I see here anything more than a yellow expanse?’ … I always hated phenomenalism and felt trapped by it. #

    This reminds me of a similarly frustrating experience I had around at around the age of 18 in Austin. I was sitting in a diner with a young guy from the same philosophy class. He was absolutely scrumptious, my plan was to exchange a few token philosophic pleasantries and then get into his innocent pants. But he sat there with a long-suffering face, explaining his difficulties understanding “what an object is”. I did not succeed in prying him loose from the topic.

    Philosophy is the chastity belt of great bods.

  98. Also incidentally, the White Pages has 6,152 records for Dick in Larchmont, NY.

  99. Stu Clayton says:

    Archibald Hastie Dick Jr, age 80+.

  100. Thanks, I’m no expert, Pad.

    Stu your anecdote will feature in Stu: The Pre-Grumbly Years.

  101. I don’t think Wittgenstein himself would have said anything so trite.

    I don’t see why it’s trite; I remember it struck me with some force the first time I ran into it. Of course it’s trite to someone who’s been familiar with it forever, but from God’s perspective everything is trite.

  102. Stu Clayton says:

    Information informs only once. Then repetition is the name of the game. Ok, Team Shannon, your move.

  103. “There’s a trillion aliens out there cooler than you” — burn!

  104. On a mailing list devoted to a certain type of communication, usable between computers but also in other contexts, there was a particularly determined and repetitive advocate for another means, which he claimed was shorter and therefore better. His preferred means indeed has its points, but only for communication between computers. He attempted to demonstrate its virtues by giving examples of the same message specified each way for comparison; the second one was shorter because it left more that the receiving computer could reconstruct from context, in the manner of one of those highly terse telegrams like “Monotremes oviparous ovum meroblastic” in which I delight.

    I retorted that on his own principles, his sample message (an earlier one of his with the same purport) could be reduced to the author’s name, the rest being left to the (human) audience on the mailing list to reconstruct from context! He sent me a private note conceding the point, and we heard less of him thereafter.

    (For techies: XML vs. ASN.1 PER.)

  105. Stu Clayton says:

    His argument: a word to a computer suffices. Your reply: a word (his name only) to a human does not suffice. His response was to back down, showing that a word to the wise suffices – sometimes.

    Suffices in what respect ? That the wise man has nothing more to say. A more quick-witted person might succeed where wisdom wimps out.

  106. The sap in “verbum sap” is, after all, a sap.

  107. David Eddyshaw says:

    Herodotus iii 46:

    When the banished Samians reached Sparta, they had audience of the magistrates, before whom they made a long speech, as was natural with persons greatly in want of aid. When it was over, the Spartans averred that they could no longer remember the first half of their speech, and thus could make nothing of the remainder. Afterwards the Samians had another audience, whereat they simply said, showing a bag which they had brought with them, ‘The bag wants flour.’ The Spartans answered that they did not need to have said ‘the bag’; however, they resolved to give them aid.

  108. Stu Clayton says:

    Resolved this day: henceforth to use “wants flour” when asking for more information.

  109. the Spartans averred that they could no longer remember the first half of their speech, and thus could make nothing of the remainder.

    Spartans preferred short speeches. One word, if poss. Less is more.

  110. “If”.

  111. David Eddyshaw says:

    If.

    I recall reading somewhere that technically, at any rate, the Spartans never submitted to the Romans, either.

  112. If.

    Those not familiar with the allusion should see the “Uses” section here.

  113. I was making ze little joke but I wonder whether there’s some truth to it too, that Spartans had decided that Pericles for instance was a bit of a drama queen.

  114. January First-of-May says:

    I recall reading somewhere that technically, at any rate, the Spartans never submitted to the Romans, either.

    Wikipedia agrees, and says that Sparta was instead kept around as a tourist attraction, where the locals performed “Spartan customs” for the benefit of visiting Romans. A bit of an ironic end for the once-proud city.

    (Then the poor place got looted by Alaric in 396 AD, at which point the locals didn’t get much of a choice of whether to submit or not.)

  115. I don’t think Wittgenstein himself would have said anything so trite.

    I don’t see why it’s trite; … Of course it’s trite to someone who’s been familiar with it forever,

    Wittgenstein had substantial scientific education before dabbling in Philosophy. If there were only two heavenly bodies (earth and sun), then an observer on the surface of the earth couldn’t distinguish sun orbitting earth vs earth spinning under sun. But even the ancients could see many more than two bodies, and that their motions apparent to an observer on earth could not be explained as everything orbiting the earth simpliciter. Aristarchus of Samos (310 – 230 B.C.) developed “a heliocentric model placing all the known planets in their correct order around the sun” [wp on geocentrism]. LW himself I’m sure could point to what Aristarchus could/did observe to distinguish what would look different between the two hypotheses.

    (And thanks to AJP for the reference to Anscombe’s corroboration. I see we don’t have exact wording, nor even certainty about which language. I wonder if LW was making some deeper point — but badly expressed as usual for him? With all due respect to Anscombe, she (like Russell) just didn’t get Wittgenstein.)

  116. Wittgenstein had substantial scientific education before dabbling in Philosophy.

    But he wasn’t making a deep scientific point, he was making a snappy comeback designed to get his interlocutor to think. With respect, you’re reminding me of Charles Babbage.

  117. January First-of-May says:

    With respect, you’re reminding me of Charles Babbage.

    I know that Simon Singh is infamous for doing a similar thing (though admittedly that particular song was kind of asking for it), but I didn’t realize that it went as far back as Charles Babbage.

    Come to think of it, did they actually have the stats in those days (the early 1840s) to estimate the figure Babbage gave as “1 1/16” any more precisely than “obviously over 1”?

  118. What that version doesn’t say is that Tennyson’s first edition used the precise term minute. Only after receiving Babbage’s letter did Tennyson weaken it to moment, a very fine solution.

  119. January First-of-May says:

    What that version doesn’t say is that Tennyson’s first edition used the precise term minute. Only after receiving Babbage’s letter did Tennyson weaken it to moment, a very fine solution.

    …Yeah, that’s a pretty big difference – it allows assuming that the “moments” in the two lines are of different lengths.

    For that matter, surely the worldwide birth rate (and death rate, for that matter) would have been far above 1 person per minute even by the 1840s? More than 1 person per second, I’d guess, though it’s less obviously certain.
    I wonder why Babbage didn’t point that out instead.

  120. I agree with Language, but did he really have substantial scientific education? I remember only that before he wrote to Russell or Whitehead at Cambridge he was at Manchester University studying mechanical engineering, which I believe in this case was something to do with early aeroplane design, specifically propellers, and that was to gain some experience related to the family metal business. I think they were mostly suppliers of aluminium. Before that in 1910 he’d messed about – if that’s the right expression because he was exceptionally good at it – with architecture, with Adolf Loos, chatting in Vienna cafés. Probably Karl Kraus too (the chatting). He (Wittgenstein) designed some gates and a doorway and then gave it up because he figured he’d got all he could out of architecture…I’m not sure anyone really GOT Wittgenstein. He was quite cruel and a complete pain in the arse. I’m glad I never met him (I’d have been happier to meet Gilbert Ryle).

    I wonder why Babbage didn’t point that out instead.
    Perhaps because Malthus already had.

  121. Wittgenstein had substantial scientific education before dabbling in Philosophy.

    But he wasn’t making a deep scientific point, he was making a snappy comeback

    Was he? Stoppard thinks he was. I’m unconvinced anything LW said was “snappy”. I think of him much more as tortured and constantly searching and fumbling towards answers he never quite reached. Somewhere there’s a story of his encounter with Turing. They ended up having a furious row over some arcane point of logic, and never met/communicated again. Neither of them were able to accurately articulate their differences — either at the time or later. I think neither of them were of a temperament to be “snappy”. Instead all they could do was call each other “wrong”.

    With respect, you’re reminding me of Charles Babbage.

    Unfair! (Although I’d be happy to take the compliment.) I’m not quibbling over minutiae. I’m not suggesting the innocent observer could deduce Newton’s Laws of Motion from merely watching the Sun/Moon/Planets; I’m merely suggesting they could falsify geocentrism, as did Aristarchus with nothing but the naked eye.

    I’m certainly not criticising using that alleged remark in “Jumpers”. It works brilliantly in the play. It works just as brilliantly whether Wittgenstein said it or said something not quite it or said nothing like it. Just like the opening episode in “Death of Stalin”, where the truth of Stalin requesting a recording is utterly irrelevant. It ‘feels’ true.

  122. I’m not sure anyone really GOT Wittgenstein. He was quite cruel and a complete pain in the arse.

    I’m certainly not claiming to GET Wittgenstein myself.

    He was a homosexual in a country that even as late as 1954 forced (in effect) Turing to commit suicide for his homosexuality. And he was hugely misunderstood. And his family dynamics were just awful. I doubt he could talk to anybody about any of that.

    So cut him some slack.

  123. Aristarchus had no evidence that we know of. All we know is what Archimedes told us in the Sand-Reckoner, that Aristarchus brought out a book that claimed that as a consequence of certain assumptions (not “hypotheses in the modern sense) heliocentrism followed logically.

  124. Aristarchus had no evidence that we know of. … (not “hypotheses in the modern sense)

    Hat will accuse us of going full Babbage …

    In the modern sense that hypothesis is testable: by stellar parallax. Merely it was that Aristarchus had to wait for the invention of the telescope. Wittgenstein was speaking when heliocentrism was well-established. How did heliocentrism get established? Because — precisely — the heavens do “look different” under the different hypotheses.

    Perhaps Wittgenstein was phrasing it as a rhetorical question? Where he already knew the answer. And he was doing the Socratic dialogue business? (Doesn’t sound like his style, but still …)

  125. There’s no evidence that Turing killed himself because of his homosexuality. There were as many gay people around in the early 50s as there are now and they didn’t often kill themselves because of it. I’d say it’s far more likely he did it because he’d been chemically castrated by the Orwellians running the judiciary. It’s a similar motive but, you know. Different.

    Cut Witters some slack for being the only gay in the village? Nah. Wouldn’t that be a bit patronising? I cut him slack for his generosity, intellect and original thinking. I’ve also concluded that I, at least, have to separate the biographical info we have about some of these people – esp. Witt., Descartes, Heidegger and JS Mill in my case – from their writing. Otherwise I mix up the ideas with the men and it all gets messy and speculative. I still do it with some unusual characters like Jeremy Bentham, Andy Warhol and Wm Blake whose personality is part of the work.

  126. Stu Clayton says:

    Cut Witters some slack for being the only gay in the village? Nah. Wouldn’t that be a bit patronising?

    A big patronising. What this country needs is a good 5 cent cigar, not slackers.

    I’ve also concluded that I, at least, have to separate the biographical info we have about some of these people – esp. Witt., Descartes …

    Golly, even regarding D ! But actually it’s no different from loving someone, and having to live with their smelly feet. Nobody really needs further education in how to get along in a world not completely satisfactory to that nobody. Tradition recommends dismounting from the high horse or soapbox, as a first step.

  127. True. Although there is an army cure for smelly feet: wash them with water only, never use soap. It works.

  128. Stu Clayton says:

    And don’t even stand on a soapbox either. Makes sense.

  129. There’s no evidence that Turing killed himself because of his homosexuality.

    AJP, you and I are going to get into some serious disagreement. You seem to be an appalling person with even less sense of shame than the UK government — which belatedly officially apologised to Turing a few years ago, because of the appalling way the judicial system had treated him. Turing was found guilty of ‘cottaging’ — which was why he submitted to the penalty of chemical castrating. It also meant he lost his security clearance. He was therefore debarred from working on computers — which were still at the time classified as top-secret. Because Cold War.

    OK so not because of his homosexuality directly, but because of the consequences.

    I conspicuously didn’t request sympathy for Wittgenstein only because he was gay, nor because he was the only gay (ridiculous idea), but for a list of reasons.

    Are there any reasons in mitigation for your own being ” quite cruel and a complete pain in the arse.” I’m waiting for your apology to Turing, and to W.

  130. You seem to be an appalling person […] I’m waiting for your apology

    Could you please not do this here? I realize it’s normal discourse in most parts of the web, but this is an ad-hominem-free zone, or at least I try to keep it this way. AJP is a great person, he gets testy at times as do we all, but he’s said nothing to warrant that kind of attack. You say “OK so not because of his homosexuality directly, but because of the consequences,” and that’s exactly what AJP said. Stand down.

  131. Stu Clayton says:

    Crown is an appealing person.

  132. Hat, you can look at the usual tenor of my posts. Even of my posts on this thread responding to you. My remarks to AJP are not “normal discourse” for me; and I steer well clear of those parts of the web with such discourse.

    My “seem to be” was not ad-hominem, but ad- the content of AJP’s post. If I wrote “Anybody making such remarks seems to be …” would that acceptable as mere being ‘testy’? The UK government has apologised; I think it reasonable to ask others acknowledge the grounds for that apology.

    This from AJP seems to demonstrate ad-hominenmity

    He was quite cruel and a complete pain in the arse.

    So is ad-hominem acceptable round here providing the target is dead?

    This also strikes me as ad-hominem from Stu

    Nobody really needs further education in how to get along in a world not completely satisfactory to that nobody.

    Where clearly I was the referent of the “nobody”. So is ad-hominem acceptable if couched so obliquely?

  133. I’ll spell it out, Ant: You say he was “forced (in effect) to commit suicide for his homosexuality.” Turing didn’t kill himself because he was gay. He’d had a gay private life at Cambridge, he’d been gay all his life and he didn’t suffer from periodic deep depressions. What caused him to decide death was preferable to life was the weird & brutal choice of castration or prison offered to a man of great achievement and a modicum of academic status by some smug old fart in a wig and furry red dressing gown who’d quixotically, a mere 15 years before it was decriminalised, taken on “sexual deviance” as a societal threat. We’re not miles apart on this. I just don’t like your implication that being gay inherently might justify suicide, because that’s blaming the victim.

    Having your face on stamps while you’re still alive just advertises that you’re in an untenable position of political power, and if you’re dead, it won’t help you.

  134. So is ad-hominem acceptable round here providing the target is dead?

    Yes, of course it is. Is it really that hard to see the difference between insulting, say, Ronald Reagan (about whom I say terrible things every time I get the chance) and someone who’s right there in the room with you? Jeez.

  135. Stu Clayton says:

    Where clearly I was the referent of the “nobody”.

    Nope. You’re clearly just touchy. I was responding to Crown’s comment. I don’t pay much attention any more to your comments.

    As the author of the sentence in question, I state that by “nobody” I meant nobody, and ending the sentence “that nobody” was a mild joke. “Anybody is a nobody”, kind of thing.

    Crown might have felt he was meant – given his earlier tirades against Descartes because the guy cut open a living dog and let it die, or something horrible like that, and didn’t think animals deserved better treatment than sticks.

  136. I just don’t like your implication that being gay inherently might justify suicide, because that’s blaming the victim.

    I had no such implication in mind, and if you took that sense, I apologise for expressing myself badly. You seem not to be acknowledging that not only was he faced with an awful choice between castration vs prison; but that he would not be able to continue working in the very discipline he had founded. (Please do read the substance of the UK’s apology.) I dislike your choice of word “justify” suicide, but I can empathise that Turing would feel there was nothing left to live for. The smug old fart wouldn’t have been able to force that on Turing (and we would not be having this conversation) if it weren’t that homosexuality was illegal at the time, and that Turing was homosexual. I’m not blaming Turing (as victim); I’m blaming the law and the shit-face in the wig.

    Is it really that hard to see the difference between insulting, [dead people] and someone who’s right there in the room with you?

    OK your house, your rules. I’ll try to remember them. In my house, if something/someone’s terrible, I call it terrible whether it’s 70 years ago or right there in the room. And I’m failing to distinguish how AJP’s (and Stu’s) remarks were not insulting if you’re saying mine were.

  137. I don’t pay much attention any more to your comments.

    Please explain how saying this out loud this doesn’t count as insulting to someone right there in the room.

    You’re welcome to ignore my comments. Except clearly you’re not doing.

  138. Stu Clayton says:

    You accused me of obliquely referring to you. I replied giving the simple reason why that is unlikely.

    Your comments may continue to fly beneath my radar without restraint, unless I notice one is heading at me, at which point I’ll shoot it down.

    I don’t do oblique.

  139. OK so not because of his homosexuality directly, but because of the consequences.

    Sorry, Ant. I missed seeing that. Obviously you can disregard much of my last comment.

    I haven’t seen a good fight with threats & name calling on the internet for literally years. I think everybody got bored with it.

    Here’s an opportunity for me to seem appalling (probably, you never know):
    the UK government — which belatedly officially apologised to Turing
    These third-hand apologies and the calls for them are preposterous and grotesque. No one thinks David Cameron, the man who fucked a dead pig at the Bullingham Club, caused Turing’s suicide. What is gained by an apology? But if you insist, then you should apologise, Ant, for a few things, starting with the disastrous damage caused to the flora & fauna of New Zealand by European immigrants who brought their cats with them, but also for British rule in India and then for the Second Opium War. I’ll let you off for the Battle of Adwa (for now). And if you DON’T apologise, I’ll… vigorously remonstrate.

  140. Sory, sorry. I seem to be constantly one step behind in the comments. The rain is causing our internet to slow down, unless it’s the wind.

  141. Stu Clayton says:

    I think everybody got bored with it.

    They still are. But I see an incoming wave of being bored with being bored. When I go out, I have an impression of raised hats, and people rushing to get their surfboards out of the shed.

  142. Stu Clayton says:

    Sometimes, when it rains strongly here for a few days, my (half-wireless) internet does seem to slow down – and then sometimes even vanish for a while. I think relay towers fail, and the remaining ones get overloaded.

  143. When I go out, I have an impression of raised hats, and people rushing to get their surfboards out
    What were you wearing?

    We lost our internet for 2 weeks when the house was struck by lightning.

  144. Stu Clayton says:

    See if you can guess from this what I was wearing:

    # “Go to the window, Willie,” the Oueen
    exhorted her Consort, fixing an eye on the last trouser button that adorned his long, straggling legs. #

  145. I have always thought that one of the most unhappily ironic elements of the events leading up to Turing’s death was how he ended up outing himself. A male companion he had had back to his flat stole some things on the way out, and Turing duly reported it to the police, including explaining why they had been together. From there, things snowballed.

  146. David Eddyshaw says:

    Nothing comes to mind.

  147. David Eddyshaw says:

    (replying to Stu)

  148. I’m guessing he was wearing trousers.

  149. With buttons.

  150. Stu Clayton says:

    # A male companion he had had back to his flat stole some things on the way out, and Turing duly reported it to the police, #

    Oh dear, this triggers another anecdote from the pre-Grumbly years, this time with a connection to a former Außenminister. Wild horses will not drag me to relate it.

    Let me just boast that I was as naive as Turing.

  151. Bring in the wild horses!

  152. J.W. Brewer says:

    Now I am merely curious as to whether the pre-Grumbly years segued smoothly and gradually into the Grumbly years or if there was some dramatic cusp event that led to the sudden manifestation of substantial and enduring Grumbliness.

  153. We can do some digs and look for evidence of a meteor strike.

  154. Stu Clayton says:

    No cusp. I have always let everyday circumstance be my guide. Just like most everybody else free of consuming ambition, as far as I have been able to make out. It’s only the telling that tells, if it does.

    These anecdotes are low on distinctive, edifying content. I try only to make them good for a giggle.

  155. Just like most everybody else free of consuming ambition

    The older I get, the more it seems to me that humanity can be divided into those with or without consuming ambition; assholery is much more heavily concentrated in the latter former group, and sensible people avoid them as much as possible (especially once they start climbing the ladder).

  156. Stu Clayton says:

    Ain’t it the truth.

  157. Seriously,
    assholery is much more heavily concentrated in the latter group, those without consuming ambition?

    Then I’ve been reading the entire world wrongly all this time. You’ve got to admit Hitler – some would call the thousand-year Reich an ambitious project – was a tiny bit of an asshole. Or Macbeth? He was never very popular.

  158. Woops, I meant “the former”! I’ll go change it now; thanks for catching it.

  159. Stu Clayton says:

    In my case, a parasitic semantic gap must have snapped into place automatically to cancel the original one, i.e. I didn’t notice.

  160. Yes, Stu’s confirmation convinced me I was mad.

  161. Well, don’t be too quick to conclude that you’re not. [Reference: Slade.]

  162. No, the sight of Noddy Holder is enough to make anyone report to the bin.

  163. David Eddyshaw says:

    a parasitic semantic gap must have snapped into place automatically

    They can be safely extinguished by the practice of the Way of Subtraction. Pystynen the Aposiopetic can lead you in the Path.

  164. Stu Clayton says:

    I just ran across a New York Magazine article that amplifies my remarks about caution:

    When the ideologues come for the kids

  165. David Marjanović says:

    I experience Internet by cellphone network 3 times a year. Electrically charged clouds slow it down dramatically, even if no thunderstorm actually happens.

    Yes, of course it is. Is it really that hard to see the difference between insulting, say, Ronald Reagan (about whom I say terrible things every time I get the chance) and someone who’s right there in the room with you? Jeez.

    That is not obvious to two kinds of people.

    First, the huge crowd that insists on de mortuis nil nisi bene – allegedly because the dead can’t defend themselves, as if they wouldn’t always find enough living defenders; historically so their ghosts don’t haunt you.

    Second and arguably opposite, well, me. If my time machine got in the same room with the mostly living Reagan, I’d probably stop before the “, and that makes you an asshole, so I hate you” part (omit needless!), and I’d try to explain in more detail than to an audience that already agrees, but – yes, I’d really try to make sure to tell him how catastrophically wrong certain things were that he’d been doing.

  166. David Marjanović says:

    When the ideologues come for the kids

    I stopped reading in the first quote.

    1) Install some kind of intransparent panels between the urinals. One of the few cultural conventions I’ve really internalized is a real physical inability to piss if someone, absolutely anyone, could plausibly be able to see it. Like, I don’t feel the pressure in the bladder anymore. I can’t use urinals unless I’m alone in the room and think I’ll stay alone for long enough, or if there are panels between them. I know I’m not the only one of the male persuasion who is like that.

    (I have no trouble talking while I piss, though. There are people who can’t do that.)

    2) If a door can be kicked in, it’s not a fucking door, it’s a fucking curtain. Install a fucking door.

  167. Second and arguably opposite, well, me. If my time machine got in the same room with the mostly living Reagan, I’d probably stop before the “, and that makes you an asshole, so I hate you” part (omit needless!), and I’d try to explain in more detail than to an audience that already agrees, but – yes, I’d really try to make sure to tell him how catastrophically wrong certain things were that he’d been doing.

    That’s not insulting him, that’s disagreeing with him. Skipping the “asshole” part is the entire point.

  168. David Marjanović says:

    But it changes so little in the actual argument that I’m prone to overlooking it.

  169. I’ve taken a couple of days away from this thread, to reflect.

    I haven’t seen a good fight with threats & name calling on the internet for literally years. I think everybody got bored with it.

    I apologise that in my ire I attacked the speaker, when I should have attacked the words/content. Explanation for my ire below. I am rather with David M, though:

    But it changes so little in the actual argument that I’m prone to overlooking it.

    AJP: Here’s an opportunity for me to seem appalling (probably, you never know):
    the UK government — which belatedly officially apologised to Turing
    These third-hand apologies and the calls for them are preposterous and grotesque.

    I’m not so much appalled as troubled how you seem to have misapprehended what’s going on. Does it break the rules to say you seem at the very least insensitive? I want to say ‘insensible’.

    No one thinks David Cameron, the man who fucked a dead pig at the Bullingham Club, caused Turing’s suicide.

    It was under Gordon Brown’s administration that the apology was made initially. There was a later Bill to pardon all who’d been prosecuted/persecuted under the legislation that imposed such harsh penalties. I daresay Gordon Brown is not lily-white either, but he apologised on behalf of the UK government/judiciary. It was not him who initiated/advocated for the process which lead to the apology. It is entirely irrelevant that noone alive today “caused Turing’s suicide”. The institutions that caused it are still alive; the current office-holder takes on the responsibility for apologising. The apology is not from Brown/Cameron personally.

    What is gained by an apology?

    For those who are still alive, clearing the names of their relatives. Specifically, I had a (much older) cousin who cut himself off from our family. Many years later, after his parents had died, his sister traced him and found what it turned out was his (male) partner; the cousin had killed himself. He couldn’t live a lie with his family; he couldn’t live without his family.

    Then I can speak from personal experience that I see nothing preposterous or grotesque about an apology from the authorities. It touched me. It touched the sister; indeed she’s still struggling to come to terms with it. She never knew why her brother left/never got the chance to show her love to him/never got a chance to support his choice of sexuality.

    For (to take a New Zealand example) the descendants of the Maori, an opportunity for acknowledgment and restitution over the unlawful killings, unlawful confiscation of land and very grave harm done both physically and to their ‘mana’ — that is, the dignity/self-respect/cultural values of a people that values ancestry and history far more than you seem to. For them it’s personal down the generations; just as it’s personal for me, even though I was still a child when I last saw my cousin.

    Then the licence round here allowing ad-hominems (even untruthful and unjustified) against dead people (who might well have living relatives, even those in the room); but forbidding ad-hominems against those in the room (no matter how appalling and provocative what they say) … the only way I can view that is as duplicitous and hypocritical. I always speak of people as if my words will reach them (alive or dead). This doesn’t hold me back from insulting people who deserve to be insulted (dead, alive or in the room).

    But if you insist, then you should apologise, Ant, for a few things, …

    The NZ government has indeed apologised for a large number of things. For example, Helen Clark’s government apologised for the terrible treatment here of the Chinese communities during the C19th.

    Certainly I can see how appalling it was; certainly I can build bridges to the Maori and Chinese communities, as I do. But since I don’t speak on behalf of the government, my personal apology is of no value. Why don’t you see that?

    starting with the disastrous damage caused to the flora & fauna of New Zealand by European immigrants who brought their cats with them, but also for British rule in India and then for the Second Opium War. I’ll let you off for the Battle of Adwa (for now). And if you DON’T apologise, I’ll… vigorously remonstrate.

    I can and do and did speak up that British rule was shameful. Specifically that Thatcher should not have been so spineless in handing back Hong Kong to the PRC; shame added to the shame of the Opium Wars that led to British Rule there. Further shame now that the UK government has no moral authority left to intervene on behalf of the HK people — what’s happening now was clearly going to happen sooner or later given Thatcher’s total failure to take any responsibility.

    I was out on the streets of Britain demonstrating frequently during Thatcher’s hegemony. I could see Major/Blair were going to be no improvement. I eventually ‘protested with my feet’ by leaving the bloody country. A pox on’t and its shameful history. I feel no obligation to apologise personally for the consequences of Thatcher’s reign: I opposed everything she did at every turn.

    Hat: I’m unable to tell whether AJP says this stuff because he genuinely believes it, or because he thinks “you can call the cat a bastard” gives him licence to be outspoken and provocative. If he chooses to be provocative (and it seems to be knowingly), I choose to be provoked. I am entirely unable to fathom the rules by which the stuff he said drew no comment from you, but my comments did.

    The only difference I can see is that “AJP is a great person, ” (is he? why?) whereas some “don’t pay much attention any more to your [AntC’s] comments.” This seems like double standards on an ad-hominem basis.

    Again, your house, your rules. And if I can’t cope with them I guess I get handed my coat.

  170. PlasticPaddy says:

    @AntC
    You seem to be carrying a lot of resentment, which you seem to choose (or feel compelled to) discharge anonymously (and at some length) when “provoked”. As Hat said, try to “stand down. Did you get bereavement counselling at any stage? No doubt you are a highly competent and able person, but we all need help sometimes. Please do not feel I am being sarcastic or patronising.

  171. Thank you Paddy for your sympathies.

    Many governments in recent years have been apologising for and seeking to remedy in some small way historical wrongs (that is, historical actions regarded nowadays as having been wrong). Has your government? Do you find that “preposterous and grotesque”?

    We’re a long way from the language-y purpose of the forum; so let me take the thread title ‘Because Internet’:

    Is AJP proud that his remarks will live forever-ish on the Internet?

    There’s no marker of sarcasm I can see — either in the post with those words, or in his earlier remarks. (The lack of >sarcasm< marking is a particular problem with Internet posts.) Presuming AJP intends his remarks to be taken at their face, “preposterous and grotesque” seems to me provocative language on any topic. I do own that I chose to express my provokedness.

    “anonymously”? Are you sure that’s the word you mean? I think I could hardly have been more onymous.

    And thanks for asking, but I’m fine. Concrete actions such as the apology are of much more help than submitting to the talk-therapy ‘industry’. Been there. Done that. (I might find common caustic cause with AJP on that topic.)

  172. David Marjanović says:

    While I’ve never been to talk therapy, I have found it shockingly easy to find thoroughly incompetent psychologists. They’re out there in large numbers.

    But it changes so little in the actual argument that I’m prone to overlooking it.

    I have, in fact, found myself using personal insults almost deliberately – for emphasis, to really drive a point home.

  173. @Brett:

    The name of Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens obviously contains references to Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Valley of the Dolls, but I feel like there’s at least one more allusion that I am missing. Where does the “Ultra” come from?

    The title’s third allusion is to Supervixens, which Meyers released some years before Ultra-Vixens. AFAIK the latter is no more a sequel to the former than to Apes or Dolls.

    I think “hyper” rather than “ultra” is the most common prefix for ‘beyond “super”‘, but I don’t think it amounts to a standard.

  174. PlasticPaddy says:

    I have a vague impression ultra has to do with actual or perceived size expansion in lifestyle, productivity, industrial and agricultural output, etc., following WWII. The prefix über was introduced in the 60s and there was a Japanese kids series “Ultraman”. Or maybe some speakers or languages like to make everything big (or small). I remember an Italian friend laughing when I said “ladrone” (Spanish ladron) instead of “ladro”

  175. the only way I can view that is as duplicitous and hypocritical.

    I’m sorry you feel that way, but I’m not going to start calling you names because you (by your own rules) insulted me. I don’t go looking for insults to resent.

    I am entirely unable to fathom the rules by which the stuff he said drew no comment from you, but my comments did.

    There are no “rules”; there is only my life experience (a matter of many decades) and my experience with internet communication (a couple of decades). AJP is just sounding off in his usual vivid manner; he doesn’t mean any harm, but sometimes he gets up on the wrong side of the bed, as do most of us, myself included. You, on the other hand, were being openly and personally insulting, and it does no good to say that you can’t see the difference — everybody else can, so if you want to participate, you need to learn it. I’m sorry if you feel you’re being “shown the door”; I have no desire for you to go away, since I’ve enjoyed your presence here over the years and would regret your absence. (And lest you feel that it’s a matter of cliquishness, I’d intervene just as vigorously if someone were attacking you the way you’ve been attacking others.) As PlasticPaddy says, you seem to be carrying a lot of resentment, and I hope you can figure out how to deal with it other than being touchy and vituperative.

  176. David, urinals wouldn’t exist but for the fact that they take up much less space in high-rent buildings than stalls do (esp. handicapped ones). If they were invented nowadays the idea would be sniggered over and dismissed. They’re only socially acceptable because most of us had no choice but to use them at school.

    Ant, you’re rambling. I do it myself but wish I didn’t. We should try to be like Language and David whose comments are brief, verging on laconic. The reward is that others are more likely to read them. I find public apologies at best worthless and sometimes they trivialise serious subjects. Demanding an apology is for when a stray golfball shatters the glass of your greenhouse roof. It’s irrelevant when millions have been murdered in a holocaust to demand an apology, let alone one from a bureaucrat who wasn’t born when the events took place.

  177. (I have no trouble talking while I piss, though. There are people who can’t do that.)

    It’s very taboo for American men to talk in a public toilet at all except in cases of absolute necessity, like “Got a roll of toilet paper?” or “Watch out!” (There is an exception if you come in with someone and are already talking with them.) Breaking this taboo can provoke homophobic violence. Quite otherwise for American women, though.

    If a door can be kicked in, it’s not a fucking door

    In the war of gate vs. battering ram, the gates lost long ago.

    But it changes so little in the actual argument

    It changes a great deal in the social aspects of the argument. “Attack measures not men” is the rule in all debating societies, because people aren’t as identified with their proposals as they are with their social standing. Say it’s shortsighted not to fight in situation X, and reasonable people can reasonably disagree; call them cowards, and they’ll never listen to you again. That’s what happens when your species replaces social grooming with talking.

    a dead pig

    At least it was dead. Then again, the whole thing may well be a slander motivated solely by revenge.

    For those who are still alive, clearing the names of their relatives.

    I find it appalling that the U.K. government still refuses to set aside the convictions of the soldiers judicially murdered in WWI because they had PTSD (the unreasonableness of it aside, the trials were conspicuously unfair, often without defense attorneys of any sort). The “Shot at Dawn” memorial had to be erected on private land as a result.

    acknowledgment and restitution

    Indeed; or as it is called elsewhere, confession, contrition, and promise of amendment. In matters of land and wealth the offense is indeed ongoing, which is why I favor restitution to the descendants of the enslaved. If there had been freedom in the 1780s or 1790s with restitution, some of them might have been Old Money today.

    I have read at least one alternate-history novel in which a modern member of that anti-British terrorist organization, the Sons of Liberty, is convinced that if his ancestors had won their rebellion instead of being betrayed by Washington and Hamilton, the free Americans would have had to abolish slavery forthwith instead of only in 1830.
    (As I have said before, I think that an Empire still full of Southern slaveowners in 1830 would never have passed Wilberforce’s Act, or if they had, would have promptly been faced with a smaller but nastier American Revolution.)

    allowing ad-hominems (even untruthful and unjustified) against dead people

    There’s good reason for the legal rule that there is no defamation of the dead: the interest of the descendants or other relatives of a deceased person in his good name is not considered to outweigh the interest in establishing historical truth, given that to establish truth one may have to publish what turns out to be falsehood.

    Thatcher should not have been so spineless in handing back Hong Kong to the PRC

    She had little choice: a contract is a contract, and the lease had expired. The problem was the same thing that happened in Maryland: James II and VII was legally advised that he could set aside the royal charter by which the Calverts held the colony and make it royal, provided that he continued to pay the proprietor his annual profits. He did so, regardless of the fact that the charter had become a written constitution for 160,000 inhabitants (excluding the enslaved).

    I find public apologies at best worthless

    “Unless it was by accident that I had offended someone, I never apologized.” —Quentin Crisp, self-described “stately homo of England” and for many years my neighbor (well, in the next block).

  178. She had little choice: a contract is a contract, and the lease had expired.

    Yes, the problem was not that she handed it back (it was, essentially, stolen property) but that during the entire time the British ruled it they did so autocratically, with not even a fig leaf of democratic institutions; in the very last years they stuck on a fig leaf, but it was too little, too late, so that instead of China having to take away democratic institutions they could just continue the autocratic rule the British had established.

  179. (Lest anyone think I’m Amerocentric, I feel the same way about US rule over Puerto Rico.)

  180. David Eddyshaw says:

    I have always maintained that the UK government should simply have offered to trade Hong Kong for Liverpool. I just can’t see a downside to this.

  181. PlasticPaddy says:

    What about NI?
    1. Chinese are Confucianist/Taoist/Atheist so no immediate identification with Loyalists or Nationalists.
    2. Let Chinese deal with post-Brexit and relations with the South.
    3. Hongkongers can be expected to be grateful, and for some time immune to begrudgery.

  182. Well, a little better. PR’s problem is that it’s not a state and Congress can push it around, and the same for DC. There is no one to give either of them back to (except maybe Maryland). There is no constituency for independence in PR, and the inhabitans, though not citizens by jus soli, are so by a special Act of Congress. But they can’t vote in presidential elections unless they come to the U.S., and they can’t borrow to get out of their current infrastructure disaster because Congress won’t let them.

    I don’t know enough about the situation in Guam, except that there are movements for union with the Northern Marianas (which has the same commonwealth status as PR and apparently wants to continue with it), for union with Hawaii, for independence, and for their own commonwealth. The U.S. Virgin Islands hasn’t had a status referendum since 1993, but only about 30% of the eligible voters turned out then and the vote was voided. (If the nascent U.S. had had a status referendum, about the same result would be expected.) PR has a self-chosen Constitution; the other three have U.S. federal “Organic Acts” that serve as constitutions and include U.S. citizenship. (DC has a mayor and a council, but otherwise is directly ruled by Congress.)

    American Samoa is in the worst case: its residents are stateless “American nationals” unless one parent is a U.S. citizen (or a citizen of somewhere else). They are suing now to get birthright citizenship, but I don’t think they’re going to win: at most they may be able to get an Organic Act eventually with Congressionally-assigned citizenship, like the other four territories.

    For one thing, if American Samoans are birthright citizens, so is everyone born in the Philippines before 1946 as well as their children and grandchildren, and neither the U.S. nor the Filipino government wants to see that. For another, the American Samoan Senate is essentially a House of Lords, composed of the 18 traditional matai ‘chiefs’ (there are elections, but they are the only electors), and the Supremes might not like that if AS became an incorporated part of the U.S.

    That said, all five territories have functioning representative democracies with no more than the usual amount of nepotism and corruption, which was way more than Hong Kong ever had until 1990, seven years before the end. But by contrast, all residents of U.K. territories (except those on the sovereign bases on Cyprus) are now British citizens.

  183. Just one universe away, the Scandinavian Realm swapped part of Amager Island for Tsingdav (where the beer comes from). Seems to work for them, although it is a little strange to hear of people named things like Bingbing Tav de ny’er Fan, the famous Scandinavian actress and singer.

  184. It’s very taboo for American men to talk in a public toilet at all except in cases of absolute necessity

    This taboo does not hold at sporting events, or at least at sporting events where alcohol is consumed. It is also not universally observed at bars and night clubs for the same reason.

    On television dramas and Hollywood movies, American office bathrooms are often the scenes of weighty and dramatically significant conversations. Visitors to the US should be aware that this is a fictional convention.

  185. Then there’s the Vancouver twin urinal.

  186. This taboo does not hold at sporting events, or at least at sporting events where alcohol is consumed.

    Alcohol seems to lower all taboos.

  187. And at Old Comiskey Park they had a pee trough that is well described here and that was not conducive to dignified silence; I assume the facilities at the replacement ballpark, which I have not visited, are more conventional.

  188. Whoa, and you can see a brief clip of action footage at the equivalent facilities at Wrigley Park here (warning: drunks in urinal). I’ve been to both parks, but somehow the troughs at Comiskey stood out more in my memory.

  189. David Marjanović says:

    It’s very taboo for American men to talk in a public toilet at all except in cases of absolute necessity

    Even more so here, where after all one does not simply talk to a stranger. I was talking about talking to someone outside (who may or may not be able to see me, just isn’t able to actually see what I’m doing).

  190. David Marjanović says:

    action

    X-)

  191. Long stainless steel troughs were a staple of country pubs in my youth. That, or multi-person ceramic urinals consisting of a channel on the floor and a backsplash extending to just above waist height. Unlike with the Vancouver twin urinal, everyone using the facility would stand side-to-side and look in the same direction, so you could stare at the wall and pretend to be pondering important thoughts while you took care of business.

    As long as you had consumed a sufficient quantity of beer, there was generally no difficulty making use of the facilities.

  192. Here’s a current version of the Vancouver urinal, made in India. With four together the design begins to make more spatial sense (with only two they’re better off having one in either corner), and I do think part of the problem, to the extent that there is one, is that it’s boring and unnatural to stand pissing against a wall (and it takes longer & longer standing facing the wall as one gets older).

    I like the Liverpool idea although wasn’t it Shanghai that was meant to look like Liverpool? Perhaps I just got that from J. G. Ballard.

  193. To the ancient Israelites, pissing against the wall was an idiom for being a boy. Thus the KJV:

    1 Samuel 25:22: “So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.”

    1 Samuel 25:34: “For in very deed, as the LORD God of Israel liveth, which hath kept me back from hurting thee, except thou hadst hasted and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.”

    1 Kings 14:10: “Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone.”

    1 Kings 16:11: “And it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he slew all the house of Baasha: he left him not one that pisseth against a wall, neither of his kinsfolks, nor of his friends.”

    1 Kings 21:21: “Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel,….”

    2 Kings 9:8: “For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel:….”

    So the idea is that the people in question are being wiped out to the very last boy child.

    In more modern times we have this:

    Mother: “Yossi, why are you peeing on the sidewalk?”

    Yossi: Stam, ima. ‘No reason / That’s just the way it is, Mom.’

    (ObHat: The -a in ima is the old marker of the emphatic state in Aramaic, now just the normal construction, so this is an Aramaism.)

  194. Speak your mind, huh.

    Turn it around and it becomes

    Mind your speech

  195. Pissing against the wall was an idiom for being a man. It excluded females and boys considered too young for military service.

  196. There is no one to give either of them back to (except maybe Maryland).

    Logically speaking, Puerto Rico could be given back to Spain.

    Surely Puerto Rico was part of Spain more recently than DC was part of Maryland.

  197. There turns out to be a huge amount of commentary, which boils down to:

    1) Boys are meant, and boys will not be killed unless men are (the first one I encountered).

    2) Men or males in general are meant.

    3) Dogs are meant as a metaphor for evil men.

    4) God hates you because you piss against the wall.

  198. For some reason, I read this comment as:

    1) Boys are mean
    2) Men or males in general are mean
    3) Dogs are mean

  199. God hates you because you piss against the wall.

    Like me, God as we know is a New Yorker as well as an Englishman. Late at night a friend of mine south of Chambers Street has been known to turn spotlights on to the businessmen pissing against the walls in the parking lot next to her loft. They scurry off like the roaches, back the next evening. No one likes the lingering smell but she also resents the male advantage and the presumption (now known as entitlement).

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