MULTIPLICITY.

A depressing but splendidly written quote from the fine essayist Edward Hoagland:

But the survival of wild places and wild things, like the permanence of noteworthy architecture, or the opera, or a multiplicity of languages, or old shade trees in old neighborhoods, is not a priority for most people.

(From “Small Silences: Listening for the Lessons of Nature“, Harper’s, July 2004, reprinted in his new collection Sex and the River Styx.)

Comments

  1. “… is not a priority for most people.”
    Okay. And it should be because….. why? Because it would make Hoagland feel better about himself, about his karass?
    Have him check that yearning out among those wretched of the earth who have little and then get back to us.

  2. Not having a subscription to Harper’s, I can’t access the article, so I’ll have to improvise. The title reminds me of that old saying: “Styx and groans may break my bones, but sex will never hurt me”.
    vanderleun makes a fair point. I don’t imagine that the permanance of noteworthy architecture or the opera is a priority for most people, either.

  3. vanderleun, maybe instead of karass you meant granfaloon?
    My problem with the sentence is a different one: I can’t tell whether I’m supposed to be thinking about whether the survival of old shade trees, or the permanence of old shade trees, or old shade trees themselves, are priorities. It comes to the same thing semantically, but the structure of the sentence bothers me a little.

  4. I had a similar problem with that sentence, empty. I didn’t say so because I feared that people would accuse me of being “difficult”. It seems to be characterizing noteworthy architecture as a wild place, and noteworthy opera as a wild thing.
    I am not inclined to subscribe to Harper’s for $16.97 a year, if that’s the kind of prose I would be buying into.

  5. It’s very strange!
    First of all I have no problem with the sentence…
    “Survival” is the subject and “is” is the verb. The rest is a comparison that’s why the verb is in singular.
    “The survival of wild places and wild things (…) is not a priority for most people.”
    Am I wrong?

  6. Stu, I don’t mean to be difficult, but I think that your problem with the sentence is pretty different from mine.

  7. I think that your problem with the sentence is pretty different from mine.
    empty, I see the problems as similar in the sense that they’re all semantic problems: “what does this sentence mean ?”. People are falling back on syntactical analysis because there’s nothing else to fall back on. The sentence has become noticeable (auffällig), as Heidegger would say (the other two ways a sentence can cause problems are by becoming “annoying” and “uppity”).
    Apart from that, you wrote “it comes to the same thing semantically” although you “can’t tell whether I’m supposed to be thinking about …”. That’s pretty neat: you can understand a sentence whose meaning is not clear to you ! I would say that either we have similar problems with that sentence, or you too could be writing articles for Harper’s.

  8. Julia, your comment cleared things up for me. What the sentence means is: “most people don’t give a damn whether things change or stay the same”. The singling out of architecture and shade trees is intended to distract attention from the banality of the claim.

  9. you can understand a sentence whose meaning is not clear to you !
    No, but in some cases I think I can understand the gist of a sentence whose structure is not entirely clear to me.
    It seems to be characterizing noteworthy architecture as a wild place
    What do you mean by “characterizing”?

  10. Okay Stu, so our problems are similar, but I still think they’re pretty different.
    By the way, the second link gets you some context, in case you want to judge the sentence more fairly.
    Did Heidegger think that sentences shouldn’t cause problems?

  11. Have him check that yearning out among those wretched of the earth who have little and then get back to us.
    Down with art! Down with beauty! Viva La Revolucion!

  12. Did Heidegger think that sentences shouldn’t cause problems?
    Not “shouldn’t”, but rather “don’t usually” – thus making everything hinge on what “usually” means. He’s actually talking about Zeug, meaning “stuff”. I could paraphrase what he says like this: a happy, successful, usual life is mindless. It’s like sleepwalking: only when something goes wrong do we wake up = become conscious of it.
    There are three ways to wake up to stuff: 1) we notice it because it’s broken, or doesn’t do what it has been doing; 2) we are annoyed because we need it and it’s not there; 3) we are frustrated because we can’t achieve with it what we want.
    Heidegger presents our reactions to this as if they were due to stuff misbehaving, so he calls stuff acting this way auffällig, aufdringlich, aufsässig (noticeable/defective, annoying/importunate, recalcitrant/uppity). It seems to have occurred to nobody except me (Germans are so serious !) that Heidegger is having a little bit of professorial fun with us, by using such adjectives to describe “stuff”. Sticks-in-the-mud don’t notice that even Heidegger and Beckett can be funny.
    Zeug is intended to make you think of Werkzeug = tool. It is a trivial but brilliant move on my part to regard sentences as Zeug. You saw it here first !

  13. But did Heidegger play cricket? I think not. Beckett wins.

  14. Another obvious comment from my part.
    Grumbly, isn’t is that similar to the structuralist concept of ostranenie?
    It’s something they didn’t “invent” of course! they just gave a name to something that was always there in literature and art.
    The mannerist and baroque poets of the 17th century in Spain, at least (the only thing I know a little), always used that concept: call the attention by using the uncommon, the unused, the strange…

  15. Funny, I don’t have a problem with the sentence. It seems to me to be saying that there are a number of things that are not a high priority for most people (with the implication that such a state of affairs is sad), including A, B, C, D and E where A = “the survival of wild places and wild things”, B = “the permanence of noteworthy architecture”, C = “the opera”, D = “a multiplicity of languages” and E = “old shade trees in old neighborhoods”. I agree that the sentence is well written, and I share the sentiment.
    @vanderleun: Are you a troll?

  16. Have him check that yearning out among those wretched of the earth who have little and then get back to us.
    Wikipedia:

    The granfalloon technique is a method of persuasion in which individuals are encouraged to identify with a particular granfalloon or social group. The pressure to identify with a group is meant as a method of securing the individual’s loyalty and commitment through adoption of the group’s symbols, rituals, and beliefs. In social psychology the concept stems from research by the British social psychologist Henri Tajfel, whose findings have come to be known as the minimal group paradigm. In his research Tajfel found that strangers would form groups on the basis of completely inconsequential criteria. In one study Tajfel subjects were asked to watch a coin toss. They were then designated to a particular group based on whether the coin landed on heads or tails. The subjects placed in groups based on such meaningless associations between them have consistently been found to “act as if those sharing the meaningless labels were kin or close friends.”[1]
    Researchers since Tajfel have made strides into unraveling the mystery behind this phenomenon. Today it is broken down into two basic psychological processes, one cognitive and one motivational. First, knowing that one is a part of this group is used to make sense of the world. When one associates with a particular group, those in the group focus on the similarities between the members. This is different from people not in the group. For “outsiders” differences are focused upon and often exaggerated. A problem with the granfalloon is that it often leads to in-group, out-group bias. Second, social groups provide a source of self-esteem and pride, a form of reverse Groucho Marxism as in his famous remark “I don’t care to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”
    The imagined communities of Benedict Anderson form a similar concept. Therapist Grant Devilly considers that granfalloons are one explanation for how pseudo-scientific topics are promoted.

    Well done, Ø.
    Funnily enough, I’ve just started reading Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities.

  17. Sorry. I forgot to preview the indents.

  18. “not a priority”
    Bathos alert… Prose style ain’t what they used to be.

  19. @iching: I liked the sentence fine the first time around. But later I was mildly bothered when I realized that your D and E, and possibly also C in this context, are such that to make them a priority is specifically to make their survival a priority. Since A is the survival of something, putting A and D in the same list is a bit like saying “some people like apples and to eat oranges”.
    @Stu: For some of us, sentences might be more Spielzeug than Werkzeug. (The only other one I know is Flugzeug. It could be alarming if an airplane got uppity, but maybe even more so if it got downity.)
    What does it mean that the Germans have so many words for “stuff”.

  20. Yeah, that too.
    @iching: Although I interpreted the sentence as you did, I was caught by the fact that to make D [or E, possibly also C in this context] a priority is specifically to make its survival a priority. So that the sentence had the same problem as “some people like apples or to eat oranges”.
    @Stu: A sentence can be both Werkzeug and Spielzeug. I wouldn’t want a Flugzeug to get uppity, but downity might be even worse.

  21. Sorry.
    “that, too” was for Conrad.
    The repetition was because the computer machine told me me (wrongly) that my 8:45 comment had failed to post because it had no text in it.

  22. Damn you, Harper’s.
    I read it as a problem with everything, not a criticism of people. I’d like to live in a world where everyone had their basic necessities satisfied, and enough education to develop some sensibility to the fate of old trees, strange languages, and local cultures. I don’t. The peoples are not to blame, but nonetheless that sucks. Let’s meet at the bar & emo about it!

  23. @AJP: Since neither of us made it explicit, let me say that a granfalloon is a false karass, and that one is normally unaware of who is in one’s true karass or what its real work is.

  24. I’d like to live in a world where everyone had their basic necessities satisfied, and enough education to develop some sensibility to the fate of old trees, strange languages, and local cultures. I don’t. The peoples are not to blame, but nonetheless that sucks.
    Exactly. I’m pretty sure that was Hoagland’s point.
    @vanderleun: Are you a troll?
    I doubt it—probably just a tedious knee-jerk pseudo-populist. The shortage will be divided among the people, comrade!

  25. Not being able to read the article, does he mean Maurice Sendak wild things, or Troggs wild things or any old wild thing?

  26. I think Vanderleun isn’t a troll, he’s a Trot.

  27. empty: What does it mean that the Germans have so many words for “stuff”.
    Do they ? There are several German words and expressions that have “stuff” in them: dummes Zeug = cognitive bullshit. But English has “foodstuffs”, “the very stuff of history”, “stuff and nonsense”, Dream Stuff, “go stuff it” and so on.
    Julia, that’s a good point about ostranenie in literature and art. In particular it can work as a mnemotechnical aid. Heidegger’s three adjectives are easy for me to remember because they are strikingly funny in the context and to the point.
    The German WiPe says here (“Literary evolution”) that the Russian formalists Tinyanov and Shlovsky were interested exclusively in the “aesthetic” aspects of ostranie. Since I have never been able to figure out what “aesthetic” means, I can’t comment any further on that. The word has an anesthetic effect on me.

  28. Wikipedia: … the mystery behind this phenomenon [granfalloonery]. Today it is broken down into two basic psychological processes, one cognitive and one motivational.
    Are there other kinds of psychological process besides cognitive and motivational ones ? How curious: the mind/not-mind distinction reappears within the mind side of the mind/not-mind distinction. The statement has one foot in the Slough of Banality, and the other one in systems theory paradox.
    In his research Tajfel found that strangers would form groups on the basis of completely inconsequential criteria. In one study Tajfel subjects were asked to watch a coin toss. They were then designated to a particular group based on whether the coin landed on heads or tails. The subjects placed in groups based on such meaningless associations between them have consistently been found to “act as if those sharing the meaningless labels were kin or close friends.”
    These “subjects” were taking part wittingly in a psychological experiment, and were doubtless eager to perform to the satisfaction (or bemusement) of the experiment organizers – without knowing exactly what it was all about. They were asked to “form groups”, so they threw themselves into group behavior. These results are iatrogenic and contrived. The phenomenon itself is not.
    Therapist Grant Devilly considers that granfalloons are one explanation for how pseudo-scientific topics are promoted.
    And echt-scientific topics too, possibly ? Rheinberger, Latour, Knorr Cetina and many others have written extensively on this.

  29. I have never been able to figure out what “aesthetic” means
    Look, forget Kant etc., aesthetics is just the judgment of appearance. Ideas about beauty and taste are often involved. Formalism, or the ordering of form, is an aesthetically-motivated pastime.

  30. So what kinds of human activity are not aesthetically motivated ? I have no particular use for a particular word that applies to just about everything – like “real” or “annoying”. What is it about these people who are not content with “purty” and “ugly”, and write books entitled Ästhetik des Häßlichen ?
    My views are not motivated by philosophy. I still hold with “I don’t know art, but I know what I like”. Is that not an aesthetically motivated position ? It may not grab the attention of the high and flighty, but I don’t care for them either.
    I have no beef with the arts, but only with the purveyors and theorists of same. In much modern art, the less there is to see and hear, the more it is talked about. The curators now hold the reins of power, not the artists.

  31. Pffft. When I went to **** a **** this morning, it was not at all aesthetically motivated: appearances were the furthest thing from my mind.
    And of course Beckett is funny in his grim way. Who can read “Sucking Stones” and not laugh? There seems to be no complete, freely accessible, and easily readable online version, so I’ve cobbled one together on my blog.

  32. So what kinds of human activity are not aesthetically motivated?
    Pornography is motivated by money.
    Spaceflight: they only put a window in the first US spacecraft to indulge the pilot.
    Eating is motivated by hunger and a need for nourishment. Aesthetics comes a poor third.
    Pornography, spaceflight and food, do I have to go on? Money? Most of the social sciences? Mechanical engineering (heating, air conditioning, electrical wiring)?
    I still hold with “I don’t know art, but I know what I like”. Is that not an aesthetically motivated position ?
    Yes. But the more you study art, the more things you might find you like.
    In much modern art, the less there is to see and hear, the more it is talked about.
    You may be better off looking at it than talking about it.
    The curators now hold the reins of power, not the artists.
    Making art isn’t about holding the reins of power.

  33. I recall from Chekhov’s letters that he had much the same æsthetic position as you, Grumbly—“I can’t explain _why_ I like Shakespeare better than [popular author of the day], I just do”. It’s probably a very common æsthetic position; art or beauty is that which I find enjoyable.
    Personally I like “æsthetics” or “beauty” as a concept opposed to “utility”; mainly because I think our culture separates the two all the time in many ways, and most past cultures didn’t, and I’m interested in how and why that happened (and what we’re losing). (The recent separation and division of labor between words like “art”, “craft” and “technique/technology” is symptomatic of this cultural change.) For example, “The design of everyday things” is a classic book of product design that carefully isolates beauty away from usefulness, and focuses on the latter. The author later changed his own opinion and wrote (on “Emotional design”) of the many ways in which beauty and utility interact.

  34. Words for “stuff”:
    I wasn’t being especially serious. I am intrigued by the word Zeug because it has no very good counterpart in English, though there must be more to it than that because I know very well that that is the rule rather than the exception.
    I believe German Zeug is related to English toy.
    Maybe Zeug and Stoff between them pretty much cover the territory of English stuff.
    Then there’s Zeugnis (witness?). Which reminds me of the fact that of the (at least) two German words for “thing” one of them , Sache, can refer to a legal matter and is related to English “sake”.
    Things and stuff.

  35. Cwown: aesthetics is just the judgment of appearance. Ideas about beauty and taste are often involved. Formalism, or the ordering of form, is an aesthetically-motivated pastime.
    It was in response to that, and in particular “judgment of appearance” and “ordering of form”, that I wrote “So what kinds of human activity are not aesthetically motivated ?”. John remarked that tak*** a shit in the morning is not aesthetically motivated. But it is for me, when we include – as we surely must – physical enjoyment as an aethetically motivated pastime. Along with drinking that first cup of strong coffee, smoking a cigarette and reading another chapter of Zauberberg.
    I had written that I can’t figure out what-all is meant by “aesthetics”. But that’s OK, isn’t it ? It’s just a word. I also don’t know what-all is meant by “philosophy”.
    I would consider it a waste of my time to participate in a discussion about what these things “are” or what the terms “mean”. I occasionally use the term “philosophy” to conjure up certain writers and certain kinds of writing conventionally associated with the term, but I don’t expect to make any discursive headway by using it, and drop it as soon as possible.
    I can’t use “aesthetics” in that way, though, because for me it’s even vager than “philosophy”. As I indicated, I don’t believe any serious charge can be brought against me for not piling every available concept on my plate. That would not be an aesthetically pleasing sight.

  36. Pornography is motivated by money.
    Huh? Only if you’re Larry Flynt.
    I have -ahem- some experience of said product, and I’m pretty darn sure that the motivations of most porn consumers are very intimately connected with what is pleasing to the eye. It may, in fact, be the quintessential aesthetic experience (as even its detractors and dour exponents of “the male gaze” tend to acknowledge).

  37. Grambly, don’t use it if you don’t want to. I find it quite useful from time to time, though it’s not one of my favorite words. It’s certainly not a woody sort of a word.
    laowai, if you see everything only as a consumer then you’ll miss the point. There’s more to life than aesthetics.

  38. J.W. Brewer says:

    Although I would deny being either a Trotskyite or a troll, the quoted sentence did elicit an extremely negative reaction from me. It came off as smug and self-satisfied, and reminded me that there’s naught so provincial as the literary intellectual who devotes time to decrying the supposed philistinism of his fellow citizens by way of unsubtly calling attention his own superiority. Indeed, it reminded me quite powerfully of why I long ago let my Harper’s subscription lapse. What’s the commonality among opera, shade trees, and exotic languages (and thus their speakers), unless they are all reduced to bobo lifestyle accessories?
    By the way, shade trees do have a natural life cycle. My very leafy little town has something of a looming structural problem which is that many of our largest trees (which look awfully impressive but can also do an awful lot of damage if they come down in a storm) were planted as saplings about a hundred years ago when the housing stock was being built up and are, I am informed, from species that can’t be counted on to last more than 80-120 years. If you view the “death” of languages as regrettable and something other than an inevitable part of the natural order of things, you will want a different analogy.

  39. You’re reading the “decrying” and the “philistinism” into it. He’s making a simple and incontrovertible statement about most people’s priorities; he’s not saying those priorities are wrong, even if they’re not his. Don’t make a straw man of a unique writer based on one sentence.

  40. Don’t let them chop down your trees. Can’t be counted on to last more than 80-120 years means they’ll die, not they’ll blow over. Woodman, spare that tree!

  41. Crown, I didn’t know that trees of some species kick the bucket on their own initiative. As presented on TV, either they are chopped down in the prime of leaf or they live for thousands of years. Can suburbs be planted for sustainable shade, by planning for tree rotation ?

  42. Hat, your spam detectors are cramping my style. In my last comment I originally wrote “Can 0ne plant a suburb”, but couldn’t post it because:

    Your comment could not be submitted due to questionable content: 0ne pl

  43. I don’t know, but as I was recently telling Ø, my neighbor wanted to chop all the big trees down around our houses in case they blew over. He’s a dreadful worrier, prepared for all sorts of things that will never happen. I say, as long as you’ve got insurance, bfd. They’re not very likely to fall ON someone, and most people, if they want to prolong their life, would be far better off exercising and giving up things they enjoy than chopping down big trees. Sorry, this has become the pet peeve of a sad, sad old bastard (me), but I do love big decrepit creaking trees.

  44. Hat, your spam detectors are cramping my style.
    Sorry, apparently at some point I was getting spam from a URL whose business end was one.pl. I’ve deleted it from my blacklist. Go nuts!

  45. @J.W.Brewer: What languagehat said.
    It’s interesting how different people can read different implied messages in the same sentence. I read it as a simple statement of a personal emotional reaction, with no adverse judgment on others. It was rather vanderleun’s comment that got up my nose, coming across as “smug and self-satisfied”. I really thought it was so outrageous and offensive that I strongly suspected vanderleun of being a troll. So the “wretched of the earth” have or should not have any aesthetic sensibilities? What tripe.
    And what does the natural life cycle of shade trees have to do with the price of fish? If you are assuming that the words “survival” and/or “permanence” are supposed to apply to subsequent clauses, I didn’t read it that way. If that means comparing apples with oranges then so be it.
    Hence I took the quote as meaning that the existence of exotic languages is to be celebrated (not their survival, still less their permanence). That is surely not a controversial view in this forum. Although I am sure you did not mean to equate an interest in exotic languages with “bobo lifestyle accessories” your statement could easily be misread with that interpretation, which also would not go down too well with most contributors here in my opinion.
    At the very least I should be grateful to this post by expanding my vocabulary by three words: karass, granfaloon and bobo. Although I was a little taken aback at the first Google hit definition for the latter as “fellatio” (from Wikipedia) until the Free Meriam-Webster Dictionary set me straight

  46. In my previous comment, “have or should not have” should read “do not have or should not have”.

  47. J.W. Brewer says:

    In deference to our host, I went to the trouble of reading the excerpted sentence in context (through the amazon preview feature which required me to remember a password and everything), and will admit that the sentence has much less of the vibe I complained about in context — although that may be in part because the opera/shade-trees/languages analogies sort of come out of nowhere and make (IMHO) not particularly much sense in context. I don’t think from the page or so I read that I particularly want to read more of Hoagland or at least of this essay, but the reasons I might give for finding him irksome or unsatisfying would be different from those I theorized based on the sentence in isolation, which should thus be considered provisionally withdrawn. And that may be, as I previously hinted at, in part because of the Harper’s connection, because I read into the sentence various things associated with my negative memories of L. Lapham’s prose style and general literary persona.

  48. Fair enough, and I entirely agree about Lapham.

  49. Hat, in service to your commenters you ought to go through your blacklist and prefix every “.” with a “\”. As things stand, “one.pl” matches “one plan” because “.” means “match any character”, whereas “\.” means “match a dot”. So if you change the blacklist entry from “one.pl” to “one\.pl”, you will continue to blacklist “one.pl” without affecting “throne plot” or “nonemployable” or what have you.
    This has been a public service message from your friendly neighborhood Unix hacker.

  50. What John says, with a reservation: you should check with your blog provider as to the exact rules for specifying what you want to be recognized as “spam expressions”. You may have a recognition software that was cobbled together by a klutz – such as that which my German email provider provides – so prefixing a “\” to “.” would not necessarily produce the desired result. At worst, it would no longer recognize even “one.pl”.
    However, what John and I see happening is that whatever-you-specified leads to identification of “one.pl” as well as “one pl”. So we expect that specifying “one\.pl” instead will solve the problem. To put it technically, we expect that your recognition software supports “Perl-like regular expressions”.
    I mention the programming language Perl because the WiPe article on regular expressions (which is what we’re talking about here) quotes a literary-cum-linguistic remark by Larry Wall, the guy who created Perl:

    ‘Regular expressions’ [...] are only marginally related to real regular expressions. Nevertheless, the term has grown with the capabilities of our pattern matching engines, so I’m not going to try to fight linguistic necessity here. I will, however, generally call them “regexes” (or “regexen”, when I’m in an Anglo-Saxon mood).

  51. Thanks, guys. I may give it a try.

  52. Speaking of ‘decrying’, did you know that it is from French decrier ‘cry out, announce’, and that the English sense has been coloured by the perception that de- means ‘down’? At least, that’s what Online Etymology Dictionary says.

  53. Hat, I was hoping you would utter on whether “regexen” is plausible as an Anglo-Saxon plural of “regex”.

  54. I don’t think there could have been an OE word *regex (though I am not an Anglo-Saxonist), but had there been a weak noun regexa it could have had a plural regexen.

  55. “regexen” probably is related to “Vaxen” as the plural of “Vax”, which was probably suggested by “Vax” resembling “ox”. A sample of computer science in-group humor: any legal method of forming a plural should be applicable to any noun in a language described by a context=free grammar, or at least to any noun ending in x in this case.
    Another way to put it, the existence of “oxen” implies the existence of a production rule
    PluralNounx -> SingNounx en
    which can be applied to any SingNounx (the set of singular nouns ending in x) even if there is also another rule
    PluralNoun -> SingNoun s
    applying to all singular nouns.
    You can see why so few computer scientists have gone on to become professional comedians.
    (“Vax” was the Virtual Address eXtension model of the DEC PDP-11 minicomputer. It was a very popular model with computer researchers in the early 1980s.)

  56. Sticks-in-the-mud don’t notice that… Beckett can be funny.
    Sticks in the mud, indeed.

    This time I know where I am going, it is no longer the ancient night, the recent night. Now it is a game, I am going to play. I never knew how to play, till now. I longed to, but I knew it was impossible. And yet I often tried. I turned on all the lights, I took a good look all round, I began to play with what I saw. People and things ask nothing better than to play, certain animals too. All went well at first, they all came to me, pleased that someone should want to play with them. If I said, Now I need a hunchback, immediately one came running, proud as punch of his fine hunch that was going to perform. It did not occur to him that I might have to ask him to undress. But it was not long before I found myself alone, in the dark. That is why I gave up trying to play and took to myself for ever shapelessness and speechlessness, incurious wondering, darkness, long stumbling with outstretched arms, hiding. Such is the earnestness from which, for nearly a century now, I have never been able to depart. From now on it will be different. I shall never do anything any more from now on but play. No, I must not begin with an exaggeration. But I shall play a great part of the time, from now on, the greater part, if I can. But perhaps I shall not succeed any better than hitherto. Perhaps as hitherto I shall find myself abandoned, in the dark, without anything to play with. Then I shall play with myself. To have been able to conceive such a plan is encouraging.
    Beckett, Samuel (2009-06-16). Three Novels: Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable (pp. 174-175). Grove Press. Kindle Edition.

    Beckett is the greatest modern English prose stylist, period.

  57. That’s from Malone Dies, I just realized the Kindle attribution did not make clear.

  58. Actually, the rule is broader that you make it: your version accounts for Vaxen, Unixen, boxen ‘generic cοmputers’, and (if we take it to be activated by pronunciation rather than spelling) Emacsen — but it doesn’t cover Macintoshen.

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