UNEXPECTED LANGUAGES.

1) Corey Kilgannon has a nice story in today’s NY Times that begins thus:

The jolly trash man was going about his route in the Rockaways, Queens, when he spied a woman in front of her house. “Cé hé bhfuil tú?” he greeted her. Naturally, the woman replied, “Tá mé go maith.” “Ceart go leor,” the trash man shot back.
This exchange — roughly: “How are you?” “I’m fine.” “Ah, grand!” — was in Irish, the Gaelic language that survives only in parts of Ireland — and to a lesser extent, along the garbage route of Ed Shevlin, 51. The route winds through the Belle Harbor section of the Rockaways, where conversations were once commonly conducted “as Gaeilge.”
“I was amazed to find there were people I could speak Irish with, while picking up their garbage,” said Mr. Shevlin, a New York City sanitation man — a “fear bruscar” in Irish — who began studying the language a few years ago.

He studied in Galway, so he speaks the same Connemara dialect I studied myself several decades ago.
2) From the Washington Post, Linda Davidson’s “At French immersion school, a love for Russian“:

To find the public school with the largest reported number of tweens learning Russian, look not in New York City, Alaska or anywhere else known for enclaves of immigrants from that country.
Instead, peer into Room 213 at Robert Goddard French Immersion School in Prince George’s County, where a teacher on this particular day is bouncing a rag doll named “Tyoti Moti” on her knee. Dani Sanders is leading the seventh-graders in a silly song about the frustrations of this doll, her Aunt Moti…
In 2010, Sanders had 176 Russian students in eight classes, according to a survey by the Committee on College and Pre-College Russian, which has tracked Russian class enrollments since 1984. Goddard has the only full-fledged Russian public middle school program in the region. Of the nearly 300 schools at all grade levels that reported data, Goddard has the largest middle school program in the nation.
Often, the biggest Russian classes are filled with “heritage kids,’’ Sanders said. Not so at Goddard. At this school, where 82 percent of students are black or Hispanic, not a single person in Room 213 has a Russian background. Not even Sanders, who is from Bulgaria. …

I’m very glad to see Russian is not a vanished subject in this country.

Comments

  1. Angus-Michel says:

    The Irish is a bit mistranscribed (for instance, the greeting is actually ‘Cén chaoi a bhfuil tú?’), but I did quite enjoy that article, as well as the video with it. Good to see people going about their business in Irish in North America. I know that Queens is one of the few places in the world that I’ve actually been able to get bar service in Irish, which is, as they say, grand.

  2. marie-lucie says:

    Good news both! The Russian teacher sounds really good, the students are having fun.

  3. In the second link, the author refers to “heritage kids”. Two sentences later, this is explained for the given context as “having a Russian background”.
    “Heritage kids” is PC talk, I assume, but not a successful example of it. Someone could complain: “So born-and-bred American children have no heritage ?” PC devotees must lead a life of Buddhistic nervousness, taking careful steps to ensure they don’t tread on someone’s reincarnated migrant grandparents.
    The similar German catch-all expression which has become current in recent years is mit Migrationshintergrund, which however is about as neutral as you can get. I think the main failing of PC inventors is that they are bent on finding snappy, short phrases that can be spliced into sentences without thinking. Everyone is in such a goddamn hurry to hawk their opinionware, so they’re glad to have words which exclude any product liability.

  4. Stu, I only recently became aware of “heritage” whatever, but I think you might be reading it wrong. In the US, universities often have a special Spanish class, for example, for “heritage speakers.” This doesn’t mean Latinos; it means that they grew up in a Spanish-speaking environment or household and can speak some or a lot of Spanish and with a perfect accent. But they aren’t native speakers and are unaware of certain vocab words, make crucial grammar mistakes, and/or don’t know how to spell. Hence, a special class to address those needs.
    Another way of looking at it: Anglo students might be pissed to have Latino students in their elementary/intermediate Spanish classes who sound like they are perfect native speakers and who are, in their minds, probably just in the class to get an easy A+. The teacher, however, might probably be the ony person in the classroom who knows just how messed up the heritage speakers’ seemingly fluent Spanish is. Hence a separate class for such students.

  5. For example, a 19-year-old heritage speaker of Spanish asked me–a middle-aged gringo who couldn’t speak a word of Spanish at the age of 31–”How do you say ‘elbow’ in Spanish?” But any monolingual Anglo American would, upon hearing her, think that she was perfectly fluent in Spanish, even more fluent then myself.

  6. “Heritage speakers” may be euphemistic, but it is a common and accepted term for people who were exposed to a foreign language either via their immediate family or via early childhood experience in a foreign country where that language is spoken.
    Heritage speakers present both challenges and opportunities in foreign language classrooms: they often have a foundation of internalized language skills and good listening comprehension, but their skills in other areas may be very deficient. They’re often too proficient for introductory classrooms, but can’t keep up with the material in more advanced courses without preparation.
    The good news is that with specially designed curricula aimed at their needs, heritage speakers can easily outpace non-heritage language learners. They are also much likelier to acquire (or re-acquire) native-like proficiency.
    Given the number of first-generation, second-generation (and “1.5-generation”) immigrants in the US, heritage speakers are an extraordinarily valuable resource that universities, employers, and the government are only now becoming aware of.

  7. Well said, Wimbrel.
    And I’ll just add that I have big problems with white folk who instinctively bash supposed “PC language.”

  8. “I’m very glad to see Russian is not a vanished subject in this country.”
    Russian will survive. It still has some cultural cachet in the US. In fact in Eastern Europe it seems to be undergoing a bit of Rennaissance – it is a popular language in Austria. And I was told by a young woman in Poland that the generation of Poles in high school and university now is avidly learning Russian because the East is where Poles see business opportunities in the future. I worry far more about French. Both in the US and in Central Europe I increasingly encounter very dimissive attitudes towards this “irrelevant” language.

  9. I just bought a book about Nagaland, in northeast India, by Jonathan Glancey. It says: the Nagas have seventeen distinct languages, including Angami, Ao, Chang, Konyak, Lhota, Sangtam, Sema and English. And, of course, there are countless dialects. The Nagas won’t speak Hindi, for political reasons. They are headhunters. I’m thinking of bequeathing them my head when I die; it seems a shame to let it go to waste when I’ve had so much use out of it.

  10. michael farris says:

    I don’t mind ‘heritage’ being used to describe semi-native speakers. I do mind it being used (as I’ve seen it used) to describe ethnic background divorced from linguistic background.
    I’ve been in two classes with the former kind of heritage speaker.
    When I took modern greek almost half the class were moderately to pretty fluent in greek from their familes and were mostly there to fulfill their ‘foreign language’ requirement as easily as possible.
    I also attended a vietnamese class that was exslusively (except for me) heritage speakers. Before and after class they spoke to each other in English (often southern accented) but during class they all switched to vietnamese. More than anything it was a spelling class because they were all fluent in vietnamese but mostly illiterate and the class was mostly teaching them how to spell, which words are spelled with -n vs -ng or -t vs -c (they were southern vietnamese whee those finals don’t contrast most of the time). That was where I first heard the vietnamese way of spelling that almost sounded like singing (final, initial, tone then repeat the whole word).

  11. Can someone tell me how “fuckle” (Irish for “word,” from the video of the Irish-speaking garbage man) is supposed to be spelled?
    In this case, heritage speaker isn’t a PC term, but a lot of PC language is total BS, and Stu’s analysis of it is pretty much on the mark. JR’s race-baiting response (“white people”?!) only serves to confirm my suspicion that the PC-language/racist-language continuum is actually a circle that meets at the extremes.

  12. @marc: focal, from Latin vocabulum.

  13. “And I’ll just add that I have big problems with white folk who instinctively bash supposed “PC language.”
    Well, we agree you have a proplem with mind-reading if you think people on a linguistics blog are “instinctively” bashing any kind of language. Maybe someone can find a clue stick to use on you. But until they do, you are too clueless to even follow Stu’s comment, obviously.

  14. Interesting to see, in the Irish-language class shown in the video, that the good old Buntús Cainte teaching material is still apparently in use!

  15. Rodger C: thanks!

  16. Charles Perry says:

    A couple of years ago I listened to the guys who were reroofing my house in Los Angeles and realized they weren’t speaking Spanish. It was a Maya language. The workmen had neither English nor Spanish and communicated exclusively through their foreman. It turned out that lot of roofers in L.A. are Maya speakers, just as our doughnut shops are largely run by Cambodians.

  17. It turned out that lot of roofers in L.A. are Maya speakers, just as our doughnut shops are largely run by Cambodians.
    Man, I love that stuff.

  18. J. W. Brewer says:

    Russophone “heritage kids” in the U.S. are overwhelmingly going to be white, which makes JR’s racialization of the terminological question especially puzzling. Of course, a nontrivial number of Russophone “heritage kids” in the U.S. are going to be ethnically Jewish and there are unsavory folks out there on the internet who think that would make them non-white . . . And since an absolute majority of self-identified “Hispanics” in the U.S. also self-identify as “white” (at least if you give them a form that allows them to do so), presumably a quite substantial percentage of Hispanophone “heritage students” ditto.
    On the first story, I wonder if the relevant Canadian local governments have any Scottish-Gaelic-speaking employees picking up garbage up in Cape Breton and if so whether an exchange could be arranged to see if mutual comprehension with the Rockaway Irish were achievable.

  19. J. W. Brewer says:

    A lot of roofers in the NYC area in the ’90′s were Albanian-speaking immigrants, hence the awesomely-titled book: “Be Not Afraid, for You Have Sons in America: How a Brooklyn Roofer Helped Lure the U.S. into the Kosovo War.”

  20. Wimbrel: “Heritage speakers” may be euphemistic, but it is a common and accepted term for people who were exposed to a foreign language either via their immediate family or via early childhood experience in a foreign country where that language is spoken.
    OK, I overshot the mark on that one. I didn’t know that “heritage speakers” is a common and accepted term. Apart from that, I hold to my analysis of PC language as an attempt to wriggle out of product liability, i.e. responsibility for clearly formulated opinions.
    Given the number of first-generation, second-generation (and “1.5-generation”) immigrants in the US, heritage speakers are an extraordinarily valuable resource that universities, employers, and the government are only now becoming aware of.
    The gummint and the country as a whole went to sleep at some point on this subject. Is this the price to pay for patriotism ? I think not: in the 19C and even up until WW2, many Americans knew enough German or French to study in Leipzig or Paris.
    But today’s incurvatio in se, the lack of interest in communicating with other people on their terms, in their languages, turn and turn about, is a sad feature not only of middle America. You find it in Germany and France too.
    Little did McLuhan know what “the global village” would turn out to be: the standard small-minded village of yore. In the global village everybody stays home, because they can order what they want from Amazon to be delivered to their door, and can watch opinions on TV.

  21. One thing you discover, when you learn a “foreign” language and and thereby familiarize youself with the culture of the people who speak it, is that people everywhere are NOT the same. Shock ! Libyans are not backward Americans. Horror ! Can “our” values withstand this experience ? Fragen über Fragen …

  22. I’m jolly glad Amazon exists. The choice of English-language books sold around here is limited to the top-ten bestselling something-or-others and books about styling your house and or food. There are one or two ok bookshops in Oslo, but nothing like what you’d find in England or New York (or apparently Boston).

  23. J. W. Brewer says:

    Leipzig for some reason stopped being an attractive destination for Americans interested in studying abroad somewhere during the 20th century . . . But there was a post-WW2 peak in American schoolchildren studying German around 1970 (several generations after Woodrow Wilson et al. squashed that particular set of “heritage speakers”), and the story since then is not really decline in interest in foreign languages in general: it’s Spanish way up; French mostly steady; German substantially down; everything else up fairly dramatically from a very small base. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d04/tables/dt04_057.asp I regret that my old school district (where I studied German from ’79 though ’82 in 9th through 11th grades) no longer offers the language, but what can you do? Now they offer Italian, which they didn’t used to.

  24. I’m a semiliterate, grammatically faltering heritage speaker of Japanese, by virtue of having grown up in Japan, and have never found any regular Japanese class to meet my many but scattershot needs. Third-year Japanese was too easy and boring, despite filling in a few blanks in my earlier acquisition, while a newspaper-reading class much later was too much for me, because I was having to learn too much new vocabulary and discourse structure, on top of essential literacy.
    Many years ago, I began taking Korean, for which prior knowledge of Japanese should give me heritagelike advantages (esp. for the multitude of Chinese loanwords in both languages as well as the many grammatical similarities), but the program I was in didn’t allow home-heritage speakers (if detected) in beginning classes, so as not to discourage bare (usually nonheritage) beginners. But then it magnified the gaps between heritage and nonheritage learners by concentrating most heavily on grammar and spelling rather than basic conversational skills in the beginning classes.
    So second-year classes contained conversationally adequate heritage speakers who had been denied the chance to improve their nonstandard grammar and spelling, mixed with nonheritage products of year one who could spell and parse sentences better than their heritage classmates, but couldn’t carry on basic conversations. What they should have done in year one was to concentrate on conversational skills to get nonheritage speakers up to heritage levels, *then* spend more time in year two on the grammar and writing that both kinds of learners needed. (In my beginning class, an old newspaper reporter & I were the only students who knew what an adjective was.)
    Most of my beginning classmates dropped out of year two, and I eventually dropped out of my third-year class, which was chock full of fluent heritage speakers with faulty grammar and spelling (whose Korean was like my Japanese).
    The ideal solution would have been a 2-track system, with heritage speakers in one track and people new to the language in the other, but hardly any universities (apart from maybe UCLA) had enough demand for Korean by nonheritage learners. BTW, there are many people of (part-)Korean ancestry who cannot be really be considered heritage speakers: most adoptees, and many 3rd- or 4th-generation Americans with maybe just one Korean grandparent.

  25. I myself am somewhat of a heritage speaker of Spanish. I grew up in Mexico (to American parents), and I’m in the category of people who can speak with ease as far as grammar goes but forget the obvious words.
    I was in Mexico last summer and went into a stationary shop wanting crayons for my kids. I didn’t know the word for crayon, so I asked. “Disculpe, se me ha olvidado como se llaman, pero estoy buscando algo como lapizes, pero de cera y vienen en muchos colores. Se venden en cajitas. Son para mis niños que quieren dibujar.” [Excuse me, I've forgotten what they're called, but I'm looking for something like pencils, but made out of wax and they come in lots of colors. They're sold in little boxes. They're for my kids who want to draw.]
    The lady asked “Crayolas?” and gave me a look like I was absolutely nuts.
    If I had said it with an American accent, I don’t think I would’ve gotten that look at the end.

  26. I have run into a different, more truly euphemistic, use of the word “heritage”. If one of your parents is a graduate of, say, Harvard, then as a “heritage” applicant you will have a leg up on getting admitted there yourself.

  27. Thirty years ago we were house-hunting in East Anglia had walked down the back garden of the house of interest. I said something to my wife and a voice from the garden next door announced “I admire your tongue”. He and I then chatted in playground Scots – I’d shed 30 years in a flash. My wife beamed at the entertainment. Later she said “Are you going to tell me which village he’s from? And perhaps the street, and number?”

  28. I take it back. It just came to me: the term is “legacy”.

  29. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but my impression of JR’s point was not that ‘heritage’ speakers are likely to be non-white, but that PC-bashers are more likely to be white. Is the idea that white people are more likely to be anti-PC than others a totally false one? Or is this just another racist perception?

  30. @Joel
    I experienced a similar situation but in a totally different context.
    When I first came from Japan to China to study Chinese, I went to a Chinese-language school attached to a university. The placement tests were heavily based on reading and writing skills. As a result, the beginning classes were solidly packed with people from languages which had no Chinese background. The advanced classes were solidly packed with people from Japan and Korea, who were literate in Chinese characters (and myself, who could read and write Japanese).
    The result was that the people in the beginning classes started from basics and learnt to speak quite quickly. The advanced classes were packed with people who could read and write the characters, but whose pronunciation was atrocious, skills of expression were heavily biased in favour of japonesque usage, and whose conversation skills were extremely poor. I wasted a year in that environment. Going to a lower class would have meant, of course, dealing with a lot of lower-level stuff (including uselessly learning characters I already knew), but looking back I would probably have been better off going down a few levels.

  31. It’s coming back to me. Only the beginning levels were packed with non-kanji users. Intermediate and higher levels were all packed with Japanese. The main difference with the highest level was that the Japanese in the class had been in the school for several terms. Their spoken Chinese was still not the best.

  32. Stu,
    There is always a market for short snappy you-know-what-I-mean-so-I-don’t-have-to-spell-it-out expressions. “PC” seems like a good example.

  33. Are you saying that “PC” must be useful because people use it ? Or that PC must be useful for that reason ?
    I have nothing against short, snappy expressions. But I do deprecate the desire to snap them into sentences without thinking, and the claim that only these expressions are an acceptable mechanism for fastening your thoughts together on certain subjects.

  34. @Grumbly Stu: People who use PC expressions very rarely “claim that only these expressions are an acceptable mechanism for fastening your thoughts together on certain subjects.” Really what you’re railing against here is your own insecurity.

  35. “Insecurity” ?? Anything but, when it comes to political correctness. At most I expected to be charged with something contrary to insecurity, say cocksureness.
    On many subjects – “race relations”, “gender attitudes” – I myself am often unsure of how to assess the various opinions and behavior of myself and other people. I claim that many people find themselves in that condition, but are not honest about it.
    In discussions I prefer to be open about what I think. Other people prefer to hide behind PC phrases, so that they appear to be thinking what currently counts as acceptable thoughts.

  36. “Maybe someone can find a clue stick to use on you. But until they do, you are too clueless to even follow Stu’s comment, obviously.”
    How did I not follow his comment? I understood it quite well, probably better than yourself, as bathrobe and 0/ seemed to have confirmed.
    As for race card: Uh, I am not the one who brought politics and race into this. That was the Grumbly One, who, afaik, is a white American living in Germany, and who has a great knowledge of German and German philosophy. For such a blessed and privileged person to be complaining about totally, fucking petty things like “heritage kids” and PC-language is a joke.

  37. I was trying to cutely suggest an analogy between on the one hand your own behavior — your easy use of the term “PC” — and on the other hand the behavior that you are railing against. My point is that it’s too easy to dismiss something as “PC talk”: just snap the term “PC” into your sentence without thinking overmuch, and your fellow PC-bashers can nod and cheer without thinking overmuch either.
    But I don’t think the analogy holds up all that well.

  38. I am actually old enough to remember when “PC” was a snarky insult that we on the left use to use against other people on the left who were “holier than thou” in their leftist orthodoxy. (That would have been the mid-80s). Then the right appropriated the phrase to attack the left, and now some on the left actually use “PC” as a badge of merit.

  39. empty, I myself believe I am perfectly entitled to criticize the language of political correctness as a hypocrisy. Others are free to criticize my criticism. Here, however, it has become clear that some people believe there is something inacceptable about criticizing political correctness at all.
    Have you forgotten that “political correctness” was originally a satirical term used by people who don’t think much of that practice ?

  40. Good point, vanya. I had forgotten the details.

  41. No, I think you did well, 0/. Stu seemed to be assuming that readers here are of the same race or political persuasion as himself. So, yeah, I read it as him assuming a nodding audience.
    But at least he is honest and admits to being confused: “On many subjects – “race relations”, “gender attitudes” – I myself am often unsure of how to assess the various opinions and behavior of myself”
    Why that is, I dunno. After reading lots of his comments here, I’m guessing dude would benefit from getting a bit more down to earth. I’d suggest a sojourn in Mexico. I love Germany, but, yeah, it just about the most exact opposite from Mexico that I can think of. In short, Mexico is the perfect antidote to too much Germanification, compadres! :)

  42. I’m guessing dude would benefit from getting a bit more down to earth. I’d suggest a sojourn in Mexico.
    What a load of bullshit. Is there now a politically correct kind of tourism ? I grew up in El Paso, ese, and am a “heritage speaker” of Spanish, which I was easy with before I had learned a word of German. It was precisely my experiences there that, on later reflection, made me see that I don’t know-it-all.

  43. Is there something wrong with wanting to replace “mentally retarded,” “Oriental,” “Negro,” etc, with some other terms?
    Oh, but no, it’s all just a “badge of merit for the leftists.” Has nothing to do with what those minorities think and how they dislike the terms the majority placed on them.

  44. Stu, what is your obsession with “political correctness?” I mean, yeah, for Sarah Palin types I could understand. You saying you one of them? That you thought I was advocating “PC tourism” is astounding.
    In any case, uh, dude, El Paso is not Mexico. Also, you saying you are a Latino?

  45. Has nothing to do with what those minorities think and how they dislike the terms the majority placed on them.
    What about “white Americans” ? Is that OK because it is a neutral term applied to a majority by a minority ? You should be far enough along now to see that this whole business of name-calling is problematic.

  46. Also, you saying you are a Latino?
    You’re asking to see my merit badges ? You show me yours, I’ll show you mine. I wonder whether you are a Russian general in retirement.

  47. Is there something wrong with wanting to replace “mentally retarded,” “Oriental,” “Negro,” etc, with some other terms?
    I’m old enough to remember when every one of these terms was a euphemism itself. In fact, when I was at Indiana U it had an Oriental Student Association. But I left grad school the year Said published his book, after which the word took on connotations that, afaik, had never had any connection with anyone’s actual usage.

  48. Come on, guys, this is silly. Nobody here is oppressing the multitudes, we’re just opinionated toilers in the vineyard of language discussion.

  49. I’m not even white. Grey with pink splotches, is more like it.

  50. A friend of mine told me the following story: in high school he struck up a conversation in Spanish (which he was studying) with some roofers working on his parents’ house. One of them said that his native language was actually not Spanish, but Native American language that he had recently begun studying in earnest. “And what is your people’s tongue?” my friend said the roofer asked him. “Yiddish, I guess, if you go back far enough,” said my friend. And that is what pushed him to start studying Yiddish – he now speaks it fluently and is a full-time employee for a Yiddish cultural organization. Roofers ftw!

  51. *a* Native American language (my friend gave a specific name of a language, I just don’t remember which)

  52. “Is there something wrong with wanting to replace ‘mentally retarded,’ ‘Oriental,’ ‘Negro,’ etc, with some other terms?”
    I’m old enough to remember when every one of these terms was a euphemism itself

    Good point. All these terms were once just as neutral as “intellectually disabled”, “Asian”, or “African-American” today. I think Steven Pinker called that the “euphemism treadmill”.
    That would seem to show that language choice, or “replacing the terms”, cannot make us more tolerant, our intolerance as a species simply infects the language.

  53. J. W. Brewer says:

    So no one ever wanted to talk about Gaelic in Rockaway?

  54. When the word for where you take a shit keeps changing, that’s the euphemism treadmill. People don’t want to talk about shit, but sometimes they need to. Words keep getting replaced because they sound like they are about what they are about. It’s funny.
    A similar treadmill effect operates on words for groups of people. Sometimes this has to do with not wanting to talk about something, but there’s a lot more to it than that. If a word feels like a slap in the face to a whole lot of people, then it’s probably time to stop using it, even if the replacement word may eventually come to feel the same way. Making everybody suddenly switch words won’t suddenly make everybody kinder–some will use the new word as a slap in the face–but it may make some people a little kinder; and in any case in the short run it will help those who had come to hate the old word.

  55. And that’s not so funny.

  56. If a word feels like a slap in the face to a whole lot of people, then it’s probably time to stop using it
    In my opinion people don’t want to be put in groups by other people no matter what the current name is. That’s been my own experience.

  57. J. W. Brewer says:

    What prior originally-well-intentioned term was used instead of “heritage kids” or “heritage speakers” and who were the people to whom it came to feel “like a slap in the face”?

  58. We got on to this topic because Stu took “heritage kids” as an example of PC talk. But apparently it is not an example.

  59. J. W. Brewer says:

    And I think GrStu accepted that it wasn’t, after Wimbrel and others so explained, quite a ways upthread. Which makes the subsequent inter-primate feces-flinging puzzling to me. It does seem that the original news story’s “heritage kids” (to be fair, in a quote) is a less felicitous phrasing than the perhaps-more-standard “heritage speakers” (which usefully picks out a group with specific pedagogical issues) because the former can be unhelpfully understood as tending toward conflation of the genetic with the linguistic. The default situation is the U.S. is not to lack any “heritage” (to be, as it were, a heritage-less kid), it’s to be a heritage speaker of English, which for most people is nothing to be ashamed of but also not noteworthy in an educational system that (in most parts of the country) assumes the default student is an Anglophone from an Anglophone household.

  60. You don’t label a person of Russian background her-something out of respect LOL.
    Generally language immersion programs usually use culture immersion too, and it may be hard to make it appealing for an average American kid with some Russian roots. Because their families belong to all kinds of ethno-religious and cultural minorities, who may find it really hard to agree on what events and holidays are worth celebrating, what foods and drinks are worth cultivating, etc. The lowest common denominator is the language itself; enriching it with the cultural elemants just makes it less palatable.

  61. marie-lucie says:

    “Heritage” is not a linguistic term, so “heritage kids” (not a common phrase, hence the quotation marks in the article) is short for “heritage language kids”, itself short for “kids who are enrolled in a heritage language program”, that is, a program teaching them the language of their forebears, which they might know some of or not. Depending on the local situation, this might be Polish, Chinese, Punjabi, Gaelic, you name it, and the program might also enroll those like young not-yet-grumbly Stu who picked up Spanish on the street. This type of program is a relatively new phenomenon, and there is nothing PC or non-PC about it.
    The default student does not have English as a “heritage language”, because the term is applied to an additional language besides English. Only if English-speaking children were transplanted to Germany or Mexico or China and taught in the local language could they be said to have English as their heritage language.

  62. The term “politically correct” was originally used in earnest by the sorts of leftists whom later leftists would mock by their use of the term. Even in Berkeley in the mid-80s, I ran across a few uses of earnest leftist use of the term “politically correct”. The right used that term, mockingly, far more than did the left, either earnestly or mockingly.

  63. The only people I encountered in those days who used the term “politically correct” with a straight face were Natlfeds.
    Heaven knows we’ve about done this topic to death, but I just wanted to say that I agree substantially with Ø. Nevertheless I can’t forbear recalling the classic statement of the Euphemism Treadmill by Jules Feiffer (from memory, as all the online versions I’ve found have been bowdlerized): “We Afro-Americans want to be called ‘Blacks.’ Which replaced ‘Negroes.’ Which replaced ‘coloreds.’ Which replaced ‘darkies.’ Which replaced ‘n****rs.’ Which replaced ‘Blacks.’”

  64. J. W. Brewer says:

    Just on the history of the expression, I remember first encountering “P.C.” in this sense during the ’84-’85 academic year (the same year Hegel convinced me to write off philosophy and major in linguistics instead!), because a fellow who was a senior that year had named his cat P.C. (or perhaps PC, I don’t recall seeing it spelled out) to play off both “political[ly] correct[ness]” (probably intended in an intra-Left sardonic kind of way, in the inside-baseball kind of way that people like him who hung around the fringes of the folk-dancing scene in college towns tended to know about) and the still-fairly-new initialism for “personal computer.” He was I think an English major but he knew a little bit about computers and you didn’t have to be all that credentialed to get a computer-related job in those days. He graduated and went off to Seattle to take a job with a newish company called Microsoft and I’m not sure what became of him thereafter.

  65. J. W. Brewer says:

    To make the implicit explicit, both senses of “P.C.” were sufficiently un-lexicalized among generic undergraduates of the time that he had to explain the point of the cat’s name with some frequency.

  66. My nickname during three years of graduate school was PC. It stood for Pork Chop. My friends from that time (1977-80) still call me PC or Chop. We never associated it with Mao’s phrase “politically-correct thoughts”, though I’m sure we would have known of it.

  67. It seems to me that the sense of “politically correct” has followed some such progression as this:
    1. earnest way of talking in rigid hard left circles
    2. mocking way of talking about rigidity of certain comrades’ views in hard left circles
    3. ironic gently mocking way of talking about one’s comrades, and even about oneself, in soft left circles, with emphasis on fear of giving offense by using wrong words and/or revealing unapproved opinions
    4. same thing but totally without affection or sympathy, used now by outsiders about those same circles
    I first ran into it in sense 3, around 1979, among classmates of my sister at Oberlin.

  68. John Emerson says:

    Ø: You forgot “5. Jeering insult beaten into the ground by the lowest grade of ignorant conservative when you fail to laugh at their racist jokes”.

  69. Some great replies here. I’ll just say two more things and then shut up and get back to lurking:
    1. There are like 8 states in the US that are now trying to push harsh immigration laws primarily directed at Latinos. In Alabama, which recently passed a very draconian law, this led to Latinos fleeing the state, hiding at home, and not sending their children–even though they might be legal citizens–to school. This has also led to bullying in schools by white kids towards any Latino, even if they may be legal citizens. It also led to white Alabamans saying things like: “Those people are ruining our country!” Imagine, the people at the absolute bottom of society are what is ruining America! Another thing these white Alabamans are crying about, and that I saw echoed in Grumpies post, is: “Those poor Latinos are getting special privileges!”, which, as I noted, is a joke. Also, I live in a right-wing state that is trying to pass similar laws. And I also work with 2nd-4th grade Latino students in their heritage Spanish language skills in this super white state that might soon get rid of them. So, yeah, I took it personally that somehow my little kids were getting special treatment.
    2. I like it when Grumbly sticks to philosophy and his other interesting esoteric thoughts.

  70. 3. I also like Grumbly’s posts about German, since I’ve been away from that country for some time.

  71. John Emerson says:

    I used to be anti-PC about 30 years ago, but as time went on the anti-PC forces grew stronger and stronger until we now have serious Presidential candidates talking about how slavery wasn’t such a bad thing after all, and speaking to groups dedicated to the preservation of America’s white heritage, and I decided that PC is a very lesser evil.
    The effective scope of PC was always limited to a few bureaucracies in specific contexts, plus the discussion groups of powerless young radicals and do-gooders, and there was and is a small industry dedicated to finding ludicrous examples of PC and broadcasting them. (One excessively detailed college behavior code meant to prohibit date rape got tons of publicity without ever being put into effect).

  72. John Emerson says:

    The date rape code was at Antioch, and if you google it you’ll find a lot of anti-PC gloating that Antioch fell on hard times.

  73. I decided that PC is a very lesser evil.
    It’s still an evil, though.
    I don’t care if the person who’s trying to make me use a euphemism is rightwing (“powder room”) or leftwing (“physically challenged”), euphemisms disguise social problems, temporarily, to some extent, they don’t ever solve them.

  74. Why is it evil to try to keep people from feeling lousy? If you know someone prefers to be called “physically challenged” and hates the world “cripple,” is it really evil to use the former, and virtuous to use the latter? You seem to be fixated on the idea that there is some cabal of nasty prigs inventing ever more recondite forms of prissy euphemisms and cackling as they foist them on their hapless victims, when in fact the “euphemisms” come from the true victims, the powerless people trying to regain some respect. You may feel that it’s all in vain, that the new term will just be tainted with the negative connotations of the old one, but if the immediate effect is to make some people’s lives a bit better, where’s the evil? After all, nobody’s forcing you to use the terms if you don’t want to.

  75. You seem to be fixated on the idea that there is some cabal of nasty prigs inventing ever more recondite forms of prissy euphemisms and cackling as they foist them on their hapless victims,
    Huh? I think you’ve misunderstood what I wrote.
    but if the immediate effect is to make some people’s lives a bit better, where’s the evil?
    It’s patronizing, as is your comment. There was nothing wrong with being called ‘crippled’ until a bunch of do-gooders decided it didn’t sound quite nice. ‘Crippled’ was what everyone called my great-uncle who was paralyzed. He had such bad rheumatoid arthritis as a child that all his joints seized and he was rigid, as stiff as a board. In those circumstances, having some asshole tell you you’re ‘physically challenged’ is a sick fucking joke. My uncle’s dead – perhaps you’d prefer ‘passed away’, whatever – and of course nowadays I can’t call anyone crippled, it’s been made into an insult. I make do with ‘handicapped’, but ‘crippled’ is what my uncle was.

  76. John Emerson says:

    I don’t think that Grumbly and Crown, living in Europe, understand how this issue works in the US.
    There’s an entire industry of anti-political-correctness. PJ O’Rourke and Ann Coulter write almost nothing else. Limbaugh and Beck and O’Reilly do anti-PC for several hours a night each. A certain very common type of person makes a cute little game about how un-PC they are, and 90% of the time they turn out to be utterly abhorrent bigoted pieces of shit. You really can’t really get away from it, and when you meet new people you are well advised to check them out on their PC level before befriending them. Otherwise you risk being subjected to lynching and rape jokes.
    I would love to live in a European nation where I was barraged with PC instead of being barraged with coded racism. Unfortunately, I am not regarded as a desirable immigrant.

  77. I’m not getting into a pissing contest with you about who’s got the better leftwing credentials. If you don’t think I understand how this issue works in the US then why are you sending me abusive “fuck you Crown” messages on facebook?
    If you & Steve can only see English language issues in relation to the US it’s not my problem, thank God. Anyway, I’m going to find a better way to waste my time; enjoy your twilight years.

  78. John Emerson says:

    Don’t drag Steve into it AJP. He said what he said and I said what I said. I haven’t been coming here much, and apparently coming back wasn’t that great an idea.

  79. J. W. Brewer says:

    Should we switch over to denouncing the bigoted European governments that apparently don’t want John Emerson within their borders? (Although, um, has he actually been to Europe in the last few decades? Don’t be the provincial rube that thinks foreigners are all “sophisticated.”)

  80. John Emerson says:

    That was a joke, JW, not necessarily a funny one.
    But when you start seriously thinking of emigrating from Limbaughland, you start getting objective assessments of your international desirability, and mine is low.
    My son has spent a fair amount of time in Germany and Scandinavia and he was very happy to be in a place where there are ordinary neighborhood people who are socialists. It allowed him to relax a little. In the US you end up not talking about your politics because you want to have pleasant conversations instead of arguments.

  81. There was nothing wrong with being called ‘crippled’ until a bunch of do-gooders decided it didn’t sound quite nice.
    That’s for the crippled folk to decide, not for you and me.
    ‘Crippled’ was what everyone called my great-uncle who was paralyzed.
    But are you really quite sure that he was happy about it?

  82. J. W. Brewer says:

    In the U.S., we generally no longer say “handicapped,” perhaps because we have decided as a nation not to discriminate against people who uncritically swallow false etymologies that have been disseminated via the internet.
    http://www.snopes.com/language/offense/handicap.asp
    See also the wiki article on “People-first language” and draw your own conclusions as to whether naive-at-best pop-Whorfianism is a better justification than false etymology.
    Not that I’m suggesting that changes in language should be resisted just because they’re irrational or illogical or anything like that . . . It is perfectly plausible that for euphemism-treadmill-type reasons prior words for certain groups might accumulate over time negative semantic baggage that is simply sort of a social fact not susceptible of logical analysis. Just be skeptical about claims that the proposed replacements have any objective superiority other than the happenstance of not yet having acculated such baggage.

  83. John Emerson says:

    I’m sorry I became so irate, especially at Crown who didn’t deserve that which was really excessive. The whole anti-PC is a very touchy one for me for the reasons I said, but nothing here should have triggered my outburst.

  84. not yet having acculated such baggage
    On a lighter note, J.W., being one of our more impressively articulate commenters, just made me look up “acculate” in the dictionary — you know, just to be sure.

  85. John Emerson says:

    I don’t see how anyone could have any problem with the actual historical progression “nigger” [etc.]-”colored”- “negro” – “black”. It didn’t cause, but coincided with and was part of a massive improvement in the conditions of the people in that group. There’s some magical thinking in the so-called PC committee, and there are always questions about whether some name needs changing, but I don’t see anything to justify strong objections.

  86. No problem, John. I now see the discussion in the US is one in which I have kno knowledge or experience. It wasn’t a right & left thing when I was last living there. Calling someone a nigger has so much baggage, so saying it’s “to avoid being PC” seems to me an absurd excuse.
    …Scandinavia and he was very happy to be in a place where there are ordinary neighborhood people who are socialists. It allowed him to relax a little.
    Stay away from the Labour Party island summer camps.
    I’ll be reapplying for your friendship on facebook.

  87. ‘Crippled’ was what everyone called my great-uncle who was paralyzed.
    But are you really quite sure that he was happy about it?

    I can’t ask, but there was no stigma attached to the word ‘cripple’ as far as I know (he died in 1970). The stigma of the name arrived when somebody said X is the bad word and new Y is the good word. Prejudice against being crippled or handicapped is something else; it doesn’t go away by changing the name, I doubt that that even helps.

  88. Prejudice against being crippled or handicapped is something else; it doesn’t go away by changing the name, I doubt that that even helps.
    Oh, I quite agree.

  89. “As for race card: Uh, I am not the one who brought politics and race into this. That was the Grumbly One, who, afaik, is a white American living in Germany…”
    So Stu pulled out the race card by being white???
    I’m down with calling people whatever they want to be called (a position I recall causing me some grief on this site when I said I didn’t mind calling Myanmar Myanmar), but that isn’t what’s irritating about PC language. The language treadmill is a reality. Getting irritated about that is silly. Language changes, sometimes in ways people might not like. Deal, is my attitude.
    What’s irritating is the frummer-than-thou attitude of the self-appointed PC police who think they can see “coded racism” in the language of people who haven’t updated the PC-term files in their brains. Older people tend to come in for a lot of undeserved flack because simply by using terms they’re used to using, they’re using older terminology. As someone pointed out, “negro” used to be the nice way of saying it. But if an elderly white man says “negro” today, watch out for the language police! He’s going to get branded “racist” faster than you can say “but he’s using the word he learned to use as the non-racist term!”
    And why isn’t it surprising that JR brings up immigration laws? All Alabama and Arizona are trying to do is bring their immigration laws and enforcement up to European standards. :)

  90. My mother was crippled. If anyone had called her “handicapped” she would probably have been tempted to reply “No, I’m legicapped”. It caused her routine physical pain and great emotional pain, none of which was assuageable by patronising twerps fiddling with the words.

  91. What’s irritating is the frummer-than-thou attitude of the self-appointed PC police who think they can see “coded racism” in the language of people who haven’t updated the PC-term files in their brains.
    I don’t doubt that this happens sometimes, but I see it a lot less often than what got John Emerson worked up. Which is not the use of older terms to express coded racism, but the ubiquitous coupling of ridicule for PC sensitivity with advocacy for policies that are themselves racist.

  92. “Those who are most sensitive about “politically incorrect” terminology are not the average black ghetto-dweller, Asian immigrant, abused woman or disabled person, but a minority of activists, many of whom do not even belong to any “oppressed” group but come from privileged strata of society. Political correctness has its stronghold among university professors, who have secure employment with comfortable salaries, and the majority of whom are heterosexual, white males from middle-class families.”
    Unabomber’s Manifesto

  93. And god knows the unabomber is just who we all want to be taking as gospel about U.S. society!

  94. Of course, Bathrobe was just providing a shocking, salient example of the coupling I’d just mentioned.

  95. The advocates of “politically correct” language have achieved something which is rarely discussed openly as a goal of their advocacy, and may not be even be intended as such in all cases. That achievement is to deter the deployment of stock generalizations about races, genders, bodily conditions and so on, out of fear of offending someone’s feelings, losing your job, incurring a suit for discrimination.
    It doesn’t make much difference whether one year you are supposed to say “blacks”, and a few years later “Afro-Americans”, to refer to X. The main thing is to keep everyone guessing and full of uncertainty when they are in the mood to air their prejudices. That goal has been achieved – unfortunately, though, at the cost of never knowing what people really think.
    But since we never know anyway what people really think, that cost is negligeable. It’s all very life-in-Versailles, as I remember from reading a book on the Sun King when I was about 14. There were constantly changing court conventions as to what counted as proper behavior. At one point, a person was not supposed to knock on a door, but rather to scratch its surface three times with the small finger.

  96. Here is an amusing article about some Educated Travelers (ETs) visiting Versailles just this month:

    Thousands of ambitious courtiers lived at the Chateau in cramped quarters. Louis kept them occupied by imposing strict rules that governed every aspect of life at Court. (We think this was the seed of the dreaded French bureaucracy)
    One result of these rules was the fashion of growing the pinky-finger nail very long — because according to protocol, the correct way to announce yourself at someone’s door was to scratch upon it with your pinky.
    The ETs have inspected these doors. No one inside could possibly hear the pinky scratch. Surely, waiting for the door to be answered drove desparate courtiers to potty behind the gilded screens. This is called educated historical interpretation, and we became adept at Versailles.

  97. With the small finger? Those must have been some thin doors, and quiet halls, if you could be heard scratching — thrice — with your pinky!

  98. Once again Grumbly — and his damn historical interpreters — have beaten me to it.

  99. Ain’t enough to be young, boy, you gotta be fast and furious !
    Louis kept them occupied by imposing strict rules that governed every aspect of life at Court.
    I am more or less convinced that many heated public discussions have the function of keeping people busy, so that they don’t have the time or interest to inquire into what politicians are doing. It’s a modern equivalent of the Roman circus games – for the thinking classes.

  100. Stu,
    The advocacy of enforceable rules against certain kinds of discrimination and harassment is sometimes ridiculed as “PC”. Sure, these rules can lead people to hesitate before speaking “when they are in the mood to air their prejudices. Good. Not that I don’t see the downside if people never speak their minds on a subject, but surely there are some setting where it is good to have restraints in place.
    The practice of introducing new names for “races, genders, bodily conditions and so on” is also ridiculed as “PC”, but this is a rather separate matter. This is about trying to avoid giving unintentional offense, not about trying to prevent people from giving intentional offense.
    I don’t anyone ever refrains from making a racist slur because they’re not sure what this year’s polite word for nigger is.

  101. I wonder if many a courteous visitor in Versailles might have been mistaken for a rat.

  102. Empty: I don’t anyone ever refrains from making a racist slur because they’re not sure what this year’s polite word for nigger is.
    Since the onset of PC, whether an expression is “a racist slur” or “unintentionally offensive” seems often to be a matter of interpretive fashion for bystanders at whom the expression is not directed. To that extent I think the opinion of the Unabomber was not far off the mark when it was made.
    Dyed-in-the-bull racists are not the primary target of “politically correct” speech-injunctions. These are promulgated by “patronising twerps fiddling with the words”, as dearie put it, and directed at other such twerps.
    That’s the way it seems to me, viewing from afar the turmoil on this subject in America. As Crown said, though, “I now see the discussion in the US is one in which I have kno knowledge or experience. It wasn’t a right & left thing when I was last living there.”
    After making my initial comments, I read the English WiPe article on “political correctness”, and was astounded at the acrimonious, leftwing/rightwing character it has acquired in America.

  103. marie-lucie says:

    long pinky fingers in Versailles
    I have never heard of such a thing. The king and his family would not have had people scratching at their doors, they would have had doormen instructed as to who could and could not be admitted when and why.

  104. Of course, Bathrobe was just providing a shocking, salient example of the coupling I’d just mentioned.
    Never mind, I got my whackos mixed up. In the Unabomber’s case, ridicule for P.C. sensitivity was coupled with, well, bombs.

  105. marie-lucie: The king and his family would not have had people scratching at their doors, they would have had doormen instructed as to who could and could not be admitted when and why.
    My goodness, could it be that the pinky-scratching story is another piece of urbane legend ??

  106. Just because these things don’t work doesn’t mean they didn’t happen, G. Braided nose hair was used as a deterrent during the Great Plague of Seville.*
    *(I might be wrong about this.)

  107. Stu, dearieme, Crown: Your exasperation with the name-changing — I feel that, too, and for many of the same reasons. I really do.
    But it’s no good to dismiss this as entirely the work of a bunch of patronizing twerps or do-gooders with too much time on their hands. That’s much too broad a brush. A lot of real thought can go into the choice of new terms, among those who actually know something. Thought and debate. Among, for example, people who teach the blind, or more generally the visually impaired. Some of whom are themselves visually impaired. Or who teach children who are (what used to be called) mentally retarded, or children with what are called learning disabilities, which is not the same thing. Or among people working with adoptive parents and children. (Google “Positive Adoption Language”. You will undoubtedly find some of this stuff gets laughable, but it’s far from true that the change comes more from outside do-gooders than from people living it.)

  108. Fiddling with the words is also used as an excuse for not acting. Thus when my last University employer spent God-knows-how-much revising its Statutes and Ordinances to make them “gender neutral”, one of my female colleagues made an outburst to the following effect. “There’s a bloke in the Chem Labs who molests his female research students and postdocs. Everyone knows he does it; nothing is done about it. The twerps fiddle about with unimportant wording instead, just to show that they are on the side of the angels.”
    She was right too, my fiery wee chum. We needed less word-fiddling, more deployment of castrating rings.

  109. That’s much too broad a brush.
    I agree. But linguists ought to be consulted about alternative names. “Visually impaired” is better than “blind” in the sense that it covers all the relevant people, on the other hand “the visually impaired” sounds to me more like an adjective than a noun and “visually-impaired people” is very cumbersome. You could come up with an entirely new word, like Exxon, but it would be hard to introduce it with any likelihood of success without a big advertising budget.
    Dearie, I’d say the bloke in the Chem Labs who molests his colleagues and having gender-neutral language are different issues and both are worth dealing with. I’ve got a daughter who might want to go to a British university in a couple of years; I wouldn’t want all the laws to be addressed to men, and God knows Cambridge (if that’s where you’re talking about) is a rich university.

  110. “Visually impaired” … “the visually impaired” … “visually-impaired people”
    Do you know about people-first language?

  111. No, I didn’t. That’s a great linguistic example.
    People-first language is a form of linguistic prescriptivism in English, it says in the Wikipedia article. Well, maybe, but it’s the first example of prescriptivism I’ve heard that isn’t actually pointless; and I prefer “people with disabilities” to “disabled people”, though I wouldn’t want to make a whole movement out of the idea.
    I enjoy discussing the PC examples, but I realise that if by using a pre-PC term I’m going to upset someone when I’m talking about their colour, illness etc. I won’t do it. My argument is with the language. Things aren’t always clear cut, though. In some circumstances I might use “ladies” even though in others I’d prefer “women” – but that’s no different from other synonyms.

  112. But, AJP, the laws weren’t “addressed to men”, save anything concerning the Bishop of Ely, and that no longer addresses only men because the facts have changed. It was sheer fantasy that the rules needed to be touched at all (but had it been advisable, needless to say I had a much superior, cheaper solution to hand). Moreover your argument that there is no logical connection between the groper in the Chem Labs and the rewriting of the laws misses the point that in some matters logic has little to do with it. Bureaucrats and academic politicians really are capable of defending themselves from charges of inaction on one topic by pointing to irrelevant action on a different topic. That’s how these creatures behave.
    P.S. “molests his colleagues”: it was much worse – he was molesting women over whom he had authority.
    P.P.S. “Cambridge..is a rich university”: entirely irrelevant – there were better uses for the money. Hell, if the money had been entirely gash we could just have stuck it in the Assistant Staff Pension Fund.
    Note to third parties: when AJP and I say “Chem Labs”, “Cambridge” and “Bishop of Ely” we are, of course, cunningly disguising the actual identity of the parties involved, be they innocent or guilty. Naturally.

  113. Am I now to describe myself as “a person who programs computers”?

  114. We could take it a step further and describe human beings as “beings of humanity”.

  115. Talking of the Bishop of Ely, Hugo de Balsham founded Peterhouse – the oldest Cambridge college and, until recently, a weirdo extreme-right men-only Harry Potter-type place where the dons practised witchcraft and plotted to overthrow the government – in 1200-something…and several of my family (including the great-uncle I keep mentioning)are buried in Balsham churchyard. Coincidence? I think not. Oh well, ok, yes.

  116. I’m a King’s man myself. I spent about 5 months there in 1976/77, and I still get mailings trying to encourage me to feel like a member of the Friends-of-Cambridge-in-America community and presumably to give $$$ to the dear old College. (Do British institutions of higher learning depend on donations from devoted graduates in the same way that US ones do?) And my rooms weren’t even in the College, properly speaking: they were in some Annex where they were sticking a bunch of the foreign students, over by the Quaint Old Cobblestoned Fruit and Vegetable Market … Actually it wasn’t bad. I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving dinner that we young temporary ex-pats held, after first writing home to our various Mommies for recipes. That was before the days of email and cell phones, of course … Oh, and the introductory tour of the College for some of us newbies. Three tours, really: one tour of the buildings and grounds in general, one of the Chapel, and one of the College silver. This doddering old fellow, well, probably Fellow, lovingly showing us the Articulated Wine Trolley and so on, … but I digress. What did I want to say?
    Oh yes, just that of course Harry Potter has nothing to do with the right wing or men-only.

  117. Did you know someone called Tony Bryant? He was doing maths at King’s at about that time. Julien Temple? School friends. I get begging letters from Columbia University all the time, also from my school in England, like they haven’t had their money out of me already. They live in some dreamworld.

  118. No clue about your school friends, Crown. It’s been a long time, I was only there for a few months, and I wasn’t really a very sociable creature.
    I met a few people, but they weren’t so much the math people. There was this guy who looked and talked like William F. Buckley, forked tongue and all, only English. I recall that once he was laying wagers that he could get a certain woman into bed. She was a student of literature, intelligent and sad. I hope he didn’t succeed, I think. And some guy half-heartedly studying Classics, whose father was a distinguished Classicist. And that Russian woman: she was a postgraduate math student, and she was in love with my friend, and she taught him to make borscht the one true way: one of the steps was to fry some carrots and onions “in good oil”, I recall. Oh, and this older guy who made a pass at me … that was a new experience.
    Sorry. I don’t know what’s got into me.

  119. This Julien Temple?

  120. @Marc: “So Stu pulled out the race card by being white???” Uh, yeah, you and Grumpie both did this. Funny that you find the need for 3 question marks for that, though not surprising.
    That you tell us simply that “Getting irritated about that is silly” is indicative of your and Stu’s immature stance.

  121. Site was slow, hence the triple post. Disculpas!
    Stüchen: “The advocates of “politically correct” language have achieved something which is rarely discussed openly as a goal of their advocacy, and may not be even be intended as such in all cases. That achievement is to deter the deployment of stock generalizations about races, genders, bodily conditions and so on, out of fear of offending someone’s feelings, losing your job, incurring a suit for discrimination.”
    PC advocates? What on earth are you talking about?! Oh, and “stock generalizations” are something to be protected? Sorry, but this is blatent racist shit.
    And I’ve been meaning to tell you this for some time, but when you say things in English like–”to deter the deployment of stock generalizations”–it sounds pretty laughable, like you are trying too hard to prove something about your Texan self, Schätzl. ;)

  122. Are you related to JR Ewing?

  123. Yes, Ø, it’s that Julien. We were in the same class at school until we were about 13. He always came top in every subject except woodwork and I was near the bottom, but top in woodwork. During that period of his life Julien was a brass rubber.

  124. Oh, and “stock generalizations” are something to be protected? Sorry, but this is blatent racist shit.
    What I wrote is “deter the deployment of stock generalizations”. You do know what the word “deter” means, right ? And the expression “stock generalizations” ? How do you manage to read into that that I am trying to “protect” such things ?
    Nothing I wrote even remotely suggests that I have the attitudes you are charging me with. Just to be absolutely clear: I don’t hold them, not even covertly.
    It appears that you are verbally or logically challenged. But that’s the kind of challenging that PC advocacy encourages, so nothing really suprising there – hate-filled, hysterical intolerance.
    My thing, in contrast, is mockery. No hate, no intolerance, no womb-brandishing.

  125. I suppose I should explain: a “womb” is a terminus ad quim.

  126. Stu, if you’re anti-PC and you say that PC is meant to deter X then you are pro-X. For JR it is as simple as that.

  127. JR, please knock off that crap. We can disagree without being that disagreeable.

  128. So the Unabomber doesn’t object to being called a Polack nutbag?

  129. empty: Stu, if you’re anti-PC and you say that PC is meant to deter X then you are pro-X. For JR it is as simple as that.
    Thanks, now I see. There was a certain kind of reasoning involved after all ! Hmmm … I’m going to cancel my subscription to Logic In Everyday Life, since apparently the fashion is now to roll your own.

  130. “Do British institutions of higher learning depend on donations from devoted graduates in the same way that US ones do?” No, but they have ambitions in that direction.

  131. So the Unabomber doesn’t object to being called a Polack nutbag? sounds like a pretty good cryptic crossword clue.

  132. Crown, do you do that “Times crossword” kind of thing ? Almost all of the clues are too cryptic for me nowadays. I used to be able to make some headway with them, but now that I can’t anymore I have decided that actually the whole thing is beneath my contempt.

  133. I haven’t done the London Times for 30 years. I wouldn’t want to do it now; thinking about its being a waste of time would remove any enjoyment I could derive. Back then I never finished one, but once at school a group of about five of us completed the whole thing in about ten minutes. The Daily Telegraph used to be almost worth buying for its cryptic crossword, and Private Eye‘s was notable for often having bland-sounding clues that produced obscene words.

  134. Speaking of unexpected languages, I was speaking with the mother of one of my daughter’s school friends at a party recently. I guessed she was Indian from her accent, looks, and attire, and when I asked where in India she was from, she said, “from the South” (I forgot to ask where, but she said the language of the area was Kanada), and – here comes the surprise – when I asked her what language her family spoke at home (in India), she said, “Urdu”!
    Turns out she’s Muslim, but she doesn’t cover her hair, and for formal occasions she dresses in sari (and sari-type outfits that I will simply describe as Indian-looking since I am sartorially challenged).
    I had no idea of the language-religion connection in India. That sounds incredibly naive as I write it, but what I mean is that I simply assumed that Muslims in Kanada-speaking areas would speak Kanada, not Urdu, which originated in the north, right?
    Anyway. That was surprising for me.

  135. marie-lucie says:

    The woman may be from the South and speak Kannada, but she may be married to someone from Pakistan who speaks Urdu. Alternately, maybe her own family is from the North, but migrated to the Kannada-speaking area and continued to speak Urdu at home.

  136. Urdu is a significant minority language in Karnataka. See http://www.languageinindia.com/dec2002/urduinkarnataka.html, to which a direct link is rejected.

  137. Marc, Marie-Lucie: I believe there is a distinctive variety of Urdu still spoken in Southern India by some Muslims, called Dakhini Urdu (I may have a few references on the topic), which was brought to Southern India several centuries ago. Thus, the woman in question may not have had any personal connection with Northern India or Pakistan.

  138. marie-lucie says:

    Very interesting, MMcM and Etienne. I had no idea.

  139. Nor I!

  140. I’ll ask her if she speaks Dakhini Urdu. Thanks for the tip!

  141. I asked, and she does. Nice catch, Etienne!

  142. In the 2008 Mumbai attacks, a point at issue was the variety of Urdu spoken by the terrorists in cellphone calls: at first they claimed to be homegrown Dakhini (Deccan) Urdu speakers (the “Deccan Muhajadeen”), but their Pakistani origin was later established.

  143. Marc: Thank you. Considering how much I’ve learned from posts and comments here, I’m glad to contribute a little something in return.
    Urdu is a rarity among the world’s languages, actually, in that far more native speakers thereof are found outside than inside Pakistan, the sole country where it is the national/offical language. The only other examples of this phenomenon I can think of involve some small Pacific island languages and West Indian Creoles which, because of massive emigration, now have more speakers in the diaspora than in the “homeland” .

  144. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, interesting. Of undiasporated languages, Catalan is the official language of Andorra , while most speakers live in Spain. I’m sure we’ll be able to come up with some more. Without bothering t check I can think of Azeri, Siswati, Sesotho, Setswana, and maybe Mongolian. And for languages that aren’t the main language were they are official: Quechua and Guarani.

    Trond Engen

  145. Guarani seems to be spoken by pretty much everybody, why isn’t it a main language?

  146. Trond Engen says:

    I’m not sure of the exact nature of the Guarani/Spanish dynamics in Paraguay. Maybe I should have said ‘main language of administration’ rather than ‘main language’. It doesn’t fit here, though, since nearly all current speakers of Guarani live in Paraguay.
    Quechua is another matter. It’s official in Bolivia, but most speakers live elsewhere, mainly in Peru, so that would fit.

  147. Trond: another Urdu- or Catalan-like language (i.e. having more native speakers outside than inside the country where it is the official language) may be Laotian, which some sources claim has more native speakers in Thailand than in Laos. Since Thai and Laotian are closely related, I suspect the claim has more to do with the fuzziness of drawing a line within a dialect continuum than anything else (can anyone confirm/deny this?)

  148. Trond Engen says:

    I briefly pondered Laotian, but I thought most of its speakers lived in Laos, even though I knew that the dialects along the Mekong have much in common. I think the first thing I ever read about Thai was an encyclopedia article from the eighties outlining the main dialects and grouping the eastern as Laotian. But even if the eastern dialects of Thai are Laotian in features, to be the same language they would have to gravitate to the same center of prestige (if I my tout my sociolinguistic definition of ‘language’) — and for that the locals at the very least would have to self-identify as Laotian speakers. I suppose there’s also been substantial westward migration across the river in recent decades, but sociolinguistically that may turn both ways.

  149. English is official in the following 50 countries: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Botswana, BIOT, British Virgin Islands, Cameroon, Canada, Cook Islands, Dominica, Ethiopia, Fiji, The Gambia, Ghana, Gibraltar, Grenada, Israel (auxiliary), Kiribati, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malta, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Namibia, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn, Rwanda, St. Lucia, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Uganda, Vanuatu, Zambia, Zimbabwe, plus 31 U.S states and territories (out of 55).
    However, English is not official in any of the majority-anglophone countries except Canada and New Zealand, where it is co-official with French and Maori respectively. Likewise, English is co-official with Hawaiian in Hawaii, Spanish in New Mexico, Samoan in American Samoa, Chamorro in Guam, Chamorro and Carolinian in the Northern Mariana Islands, and Spanish in Puerto Rico. Finally, English is co-official with Welsh in Wales.
    So English is also mostly spoken in countries where it is not an official language.

  150. Trond Engen says:

    Without doing the research, the same might be true of Spanish and other dispersed languages. There’s no reason to proclaim an «official language» if there’s only one spoken. For parallels with Urdu I think being «(main) language of administration» is a better criterion than whether or not the language has been proclaimed official.

  151. David Marjanović says:

    [Russian] is a popular language in Austria.

    Far behind English and French, probably behind Spanish, and possibly behind Italian, yes.

    And I was told by a young woman in Poland that the generation of Poles in high school and university now is avidly learning Russian because the East is where Poles see business opportunities in the future.

    Wow! That’s new. When I tried to ask in Russian whether I could exchange a ticket for a train I had just missed (after I tried English, German and French, IIRC) in Lubliniec in 2007, I was treated as air. (Might have been inhaled had I come close enough.) That was definitely not “the generation of Poles in high school and university now”, however.

  152. I was treated the same way when I tried to use Russian in Finland in 1971. Couldn’t blame them, but it was frustrating.

  153. It doesn’t make much difference whether one year you are supposed to say “blacks”, and a few years later “Afro-Americans”, to refer to X. The main thing is to keep everyone guessing and full of uncertainty when they are in the mood to air their prejudices. That goal has been achieved – unfortunately, though, at the cost of never knowing what people really think.
    This is a right-wing meme straight out of Karl Rove’s play book. While there aren’t many places you can still use n-word – at least in public, in print, using your own name, or in earshot of anyone who isn’t white – if you repeat this how-dare-*they*-change-the-language meme, it’s a sort of code, and people will know exactly what you really think. You can probably get away with saying something like that on Stormfront or Sweetness and Light, but on websites with a non-political or progressive POV, it probably won’t fly under the radar.

  154. I’m quite sure that’s not how Grumbly meant it, and if he sees your comment he’s going to act all indignant, but the way I see it is, if you’re going to play with outrageous ideas to satisfy your sense of fun, you have to suck it up when people get outraged.

  155. This is a right-wing meme straight out of Karl Rove’s play book.
    Dunno about indignant, but it seems I can’t say a goddamn thing nowadays without some (I assume) American putting left- or right-wing spin on it. I wrote, as quoted: “The main thing is to keep everyone guessing and full of uncertainty when they are in the mood to air their prejudices.” Does this imply that I think this is a bad thing ? It does not.
    I went on to say: “That goal has been achieved – unfortunately, though, at the cost of never knowing what people really think. But since we never know anyway what people really think, that cost is negligible.” What is “right-wing” about that ?
    What does “right-wing” or “left-wing” mean anyway ?? Who are these Karl Roves, Stormfronts or Sweetnesses and Lights ? What is all this wussistic cant ?

  156. Dakota: The left has gotten so much political traction out of calling everyone to the right of them racist that they’re like addicts by this point; they just can’t stop. They have to feed that snake. It’s ridiculous. Try to open your eyes and see this.
    Stu: Right and left-wing do (broadly) have meaning, but you’re right to point out the strangeness of the definitions, especially at the extremes, where the mental contortions required to maintain orthodox positions in the face of a reality which very clearly contradicts their ideologies question can become quite interesting. In my experience, both extremes resolve into a rudimentary kind of Manichean worldview that makes left and right only distinguishable by the polarity of their positions on a select few issues and the way they short-circuit when applied to real life.
    Trond: That’s probably the most practical definition of “language” I’ve ever come across, but where does that leave American and British English? I’m not proposing them as exceptions that contradict your definition. It seems like there might be proximal and distal “centers” (for lack of better modifiers) to gravitate to, since British English definitely does occupy a “central” position in the US, even if it is by now only notional or historical.

  157. marc: in my estimation, the term “Manichean” does not help to understand these left/right tussles. Sure, people who see all the right on their side, and all the wrong on the side of their opponents, are dich-heads. But Manichaeism was a cosmology, a teaching about the mechanisms of the universe. It was not a guideline for nailing your opponents.
    There’s nothing wrong or unusual about holding strong views that not everyone shares. My own view is that people are dangerous not when they hold opinions opposed to mine, but when they want to run the world, ensuring that everyone must think their way and toe their line.
    This kind of extremism – whether in religion, politics or “animal rights” – is essentially interventionist and bossy. My brand of mockery gets me in hot water with wingers of both the left and right, because each side thinks I’m taking the other side. They actually do have a common goal, if only they could see it – to eliminate the smart-asses !

  158. Stu: I wasn’t saying that the left/right division itself is Manichean, just that the further you get toward the extremes, the greater the loss of nuance. (And of course I’m using “Manichean” in a not-very-technical sense.) Towards the center, where most people are, people might get hot under the collar about certain issues, but they’re willing (or at least able) to see that their side doesn’t have a monopoly on truth and morality.
    And you’re right about the really dangerous ideologues being the ones who want to force you to think and live your life the way they think is best.

  159. So, Schtu & Marc, where do you middle-of-the-roaders fit Mothers Against Drunk Driving and ASH into your worldview? Where are the anarchists and libertarians? Prior to 1917 the typical bomb-throwing terrorist in any novel was an anarchist.

  160. What’s ASH?

  161. Marc: The left has gotten so much political traction out of calling everyone to the right of them racist
    Who are you calling “left”? If you mean the Obama campaign, specifically David Axelrod, it sounds like you are buying into the right-wing “Obama is a socialist” meme. Obama has closed Guantanamo, closed Abu Graib, ended “extraordinary rendition”, restored First Amendment rights by repealing the Patriot Act and FISA … wait, none of those things have happened? In fact, Obama’s policies have so followed his predecessors that his detractors are calling him Bush III. If Obama is now “left” the Overton Window has shifted indeed. But I agree Axelrod’s “raaaacist” campaign was extraordinarily effective. He has specialized in that for years, on a more local level.
    the really dangerous ideologues being the ones who want to force you to think and live your life the way they think is best
    Whereas the preferred arrangement seems to be to force THEM (especially those pesky people who think they should have “rights”) to live THEIR lives the way YOU think is best.
    @Stu, google is your friend. You might also check the political usages of “Manichean” (as opposed to Manichaeism). Here is one: http://wordsmith.org/words/manichean.html
    Odd to see talking points or astroturf or whatever you want to call it being propagated on a language blog.

  162. ASH is the American Society of Hematology, they’re a bloodthirsty lot. It’s also an anti-smoking group called Action against Smoking and Health.

  163. Dakota, the only “talking points” I see here are yours. Everybody else is having a reasonably thoughtful discussion; you’re the one pointing in horror and calling for the hounds. And good Christ, who cares about David Axelrod? It’s you who are bringing up people like that on a language blog.
    My own view is that people are dangerous not when they hold opinions opposed to mine, but when they want to run the world, ensuring that everyone must think their way and toe their line.
    This is my view as well.

  164. Oh, I see. But it’s Action on Smoking and Health.

  165. Well, that would make more sense. Thanks for the correction.

  166. So, Schtu & Marc, where do you middle-of-the-roaders fit Mothers Against Drunk Driving and ASH into your worldview? Where are the anarchists and libertarians? Prior to 1917 the typical bomb-throwing terrorist in any novel was an anarchist.
    Crown, where did you get the idea that I am a “middle-of-the-roader” ?? Especially since Several People regularly accuse me of holding outrageous, “right-wing” views and/or being cynical.
    Consider this: my concrete views on matters or right and wrong – say the way animals should be treated, whether abortion should be legal, whether mothers should be concerned about drunk driving – are probably more or less what yours are, or Hat’s, or John Cowan’s. Would you find it unimaginable that I am as decent as the next guy (apart from bad table manners) ?
    It is not values that I make fun of, but Mr. Potato Head arguments in support of those values. Think about it: I have never characterized anyone’s behavior or values as right, wrong or outrageous. I am not into moralizing.
    What I try to do is find more and different ways of thinking about these matters. I use mockery only in order not to seem po-faced, and to avoid taking myself too seriously – something to which I am terribly prone.

  167. Somebody, sometime must have taken a snapshot of me helping a starving kitty to cross a heavily trafficked street. If I can rustle it up, I’ll post it on my blog.

  168. AJP: I’m not sure why you’re asking about MADD or ASH. As associations formed with the goal of promoting a view, I have no problem with them. I welcome their existence, in fact.
    People don’t have a right to act irresponsibly if that irresponsible behavior affects me. I have a right to cross a street in the expectation that I will not be hit by a drunk driver. (Because otherwise it’s me that’s responsible for his behavior.) Ditto issues surrounding second-hand smoke.
    But if people want to engage in dangerous behavior in a way that doesn’t affect me, more power to them. As Jimi Hendrix said, “I’m the one that’s got to die when it’s time for me to die.” If someone wants to spend their life skydiving or riding motorcycles (however that behavior might abbreviate that life), that’s their choice. Yes, there are larger questions of public health, specifically how things like drinking and smoking affect the public purse, but the same is true for non-drunk driving and all the carnage and mayhem that arises from that.
    But PC is different from that. There’s no group that regulates language use (thank Hermes). Political correctness is just a societal phenomenon, like ironic facial hair and skinny jeans. As I wrote above, I agree with calling people what they themselves say they want to be called. But when I get harangued at a cocktail party for saying that many American Indians prefer to be called that and not “native American,” which they view as another example of white people marching around telling them how to live their lives, the only conclusion I can reach is that people have switched out whole sections of their brains with pre-processed “thinking” on certain issues.

  169. marc, another possible conclusion is that cocktail parties should be avoided.

  170. I didn’t mean my remarks to be a personal attack on either of you, they’re not even an attack on your views, all I meant was that it’s a mistake to blame only religion and the far left & right for all the extremism, bossiness etc. I just wanted to make sure the other extremists didn’t get let off the hook. I see now Schtu included “animal rights” (sure, it’s mostly on the left, but there are exceptions like Brigitte Bardot), so I probably was misinterpreting.
    Not that I regard animal rights as a form of extremism, mind you.

  171. Crown, I may need some help in photoshopping a picture of me crossing the street with a starving kitty on my arm. It seems the original negatives have been destroyed.

  172. Send it to me and I’ll ‘shop & crop it.
    At a tangent, has anyone read My Early Life, by Winston Churchill? He’s a very good writer, I recommend it.

  173. [From the Guardian's obituary of Ken] Russell kept innovating even through his twilight years, producing a short called A Kitten For Hitler for the Comedybox.tv.

  174. marie-lucie says:

    marc: a societal phenomenon, like ironic facial hair and skinny jeans
    I am not among the avant-garde, but do you really mean ironic, or should it be iconic (a much-used word these days)?

  175. “[Russian] is a popular language in Austria.
    Far behind English and French, probably behind Spanish, and possibly behind Italian, yes.”
    In Vienna at least, David, Russian appears to be fairly widely taught. We have been visiting various AHS to find one for our children, and I have been surprised how many of them offer Russian. Yes, Russian is behind French (and Latin) but I am comparing relative to the popularity of Russian in the US. Italian appears to be on the wane, in Austria and the US. But of course the only language 98% of the population really cares about learning is English.
    I also ended up using Russian in Bratislava the other day. Apparently my atrocious Slovak tipped off the wurstelstand owner that I was faking it, and he spontaneously began speaking Russian to me, which I found surprising, since he had just heard me speaking English to my wife. I think Russian may be a more useful linga franca in Eastern Europe now than it was 20 years ago (probably because of the Russian tourist dollars) although I still wouldn’t try using it in Hungary.

  176. a tangent
    Yes. Painting as a Pastime is charming, too.

  177. Thanks. I’ll take a look when I’ve finished My Early Life.

  178. marie-lucie: no, I mean ironic. The hippies had love, the yuppies had money, the gen-X’ers had nihilism, and the hipsters have irony.
    Hipster fashion is defined by the pursuit of the ugly. That’s not even a subjective statement, even though it might sound like it. Neon-pink sunglasses and a white skipper’s hat (they LOVE any kind of nautical attire) with a bright red cardigan over a purple t-shirt and yellow jeans. That kind of thing. So naturally the perfect complement is a pair of oversized mutton chops and/or maybe a Salvador Dali mustache.

  179. m-l: ironic facial hair is an established phrase, meaning … well, I’m not really sure, even after consulting the Urban Dictionary and a couple of other sources. I choose to say, in a sour-grapes way, that an old fogey like me is not missing much if he doesn’t fully get it. Also that this is not a very good use for the word “ironic”. If that’s the avant-garde then I’d rather be in the arrière-pensée, or the chifferobe.

  180. That’s ironic, that after 6 hours marie-lucie suddenly got two replies within minutes of each other.
    I’m so old-fashioned, it seems, that I thought hipsters were before the hippies.

  181. marie-lucie says:

    Well, marc and Ø, thank you both for your enlightening replies. I guess that ironic facial hair and the concomitant clothing fashions have not made it to Halifax, NS yet (and I did not see them in Montreal last week), but perhaps I just don’t go to the right places. Here I am more likely to see Gothic types with piercings and mohawks – so behind the times! What marc describes would probably strike me as clown attire.
    As a rule I think that men look better with their natural facial hair (suitably trimmed, like the rest of head hair), but oversize mutton chops do not do it for me (and neither does the Amish style, currently in the news if not in fashion).

  182. P.S. I just mentioned this conversation to my 18-year-old son. When I asked him what he knew about “ironic facial hair”, he thought a bit and then said something involving “hipsters”, brightly colored glasses, and garish pants. So I think we can say that Marc knows what he’s talking about.

  183. Ø, I live in Austin, TX, which is one of the major habitats for hipsters, so I’m surrounded by them.
    And I think there was some kind of “hipster” subculture, perhaps around the time of the Beats, but I’m not too sure.
    AJP, I didn’t take it as an attack.
    Stu, I (self-servingly?) left out the part where I harangued the haranguer back. :)

  184. “Hipster”, like “hippie”, is derived from “hip”, meaning “in the know”, right? Hep cats were hep. Beats may have been hip, but I don’t know if they ever called themselves hipsters.
    The word “hipster” occurs in an early (~1970) Grateful Dead song “Doin’ That Rag”. What it meant, or how much irony there was in it, I cannot say.

  185. around the time of the Beats

    I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
    dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
    angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night

    And it’s actually holder than that by a decade or more, I believe.

  186. The Cassell Dictionary of Slang dates “hipster” from the 1930s (“orig. US Black”). I don’t know when Harry (The Hipster) Gibson got his epithet, but he certainly had it by the ’40s. Anatole Broyard’s “A Portrait of the Hipster” was published in June 1948.

  187. David Marjanović says:

    I also ended up using Russian in Bratislava the other day. Apparently my atrocious Slovak tipped off the wurstelstand owner that I was faking it, and he spontaneously began speaking Russian to me, which I found surprising, since he had just heard me speaking English to my wife.

    Impressive.

    although I still wouldn’t try using it in Hungary.

    At least not as long as the Orbán democrature stays up, no.

  188. Here’s something by Churchill that might interest readers in the United States. Because it’s lodged in jstor I can’t see any more than page one, but it’s supposed to be good, I quote from today’s Guardian:

    Churchill contributed to John Squire’s If It Had Happened Otherwise with a brilliant piece entitled “If Lee Had Not Won The Battle Of Gettysburg”. The daring conceit is that it is written by an historian in a universe where the South won the Civil War (or the Northern War of Aggression), and Churchill’s glorious knot of counterfactuals then unpicks all the deterministic readings of history in which this form of writing glories. The alternative Churchill’s vision of a world where the North won is as unbelievable as the version where the South won – it is utterly contingent and arbitrary: it’s as if he is disavowing any theory or narrative of history, like a precursor to John Gray.

  189. A clever idea – was that the first time someone composed a fictional version of history ?
    There seem to be several things awry in one of those Guardian sentences. What does it mean for a knot to unpick a reading of history ? Why a “knot” of counterfactuals ? Which form of writing glories in what, exactly ? (“Churchill’s glorious knot of counterfactuals then unpicks all the deterministic readings of history in which this form of writing glories.”)

  190. Or perhaps I should say: a historical version of fiction ?

  191. The alternative Churchill’s vision of a world is another mess.

  192. Livy asked, “quinam eventus Romanis rebus, si cum Alexandro foret bellatum, futurus fuerit,” but that isn’t quite the same thing.
    The Thurber Carnival has “If Grant had been Drinking at Appomattox”, which really isn’t all that good and has an obvious punchline, but does claim to be the fourth in the same Scribner’s series as Churchill’s. Though it apparently didn’t make it into the book (which I’ve never seen).
    And historians are still at it.

  193. The alternative Churchill
    Holy Roman Emperor?

  194. Alternative history goes back at least to the nineteenth century; see this article: “Hypothetical exercises of this kind have long been popular with historians … and their virtue was proclaimed by Isaac d’Israeli in The Curiosities of Literature (1791-1823).”

  195. Here are the contents of the 1972 revision (mentioned in the article LH links to) that Wikipedia implicitly links to by ISBN but doesn’t acknowledge.

  196. Livy asked, “quinam eventus Romanis rebus, si cum Alexandro foret bellatum, futurus fuerit,”
    I think that was the earliest one cited in the Guardian article.
    I’m not really sure why Msgr Ronald Knox, Belloc & Chesterton were involved in this project.
    Holy Roman Emperor?
    Churchill was a very experienced horseman who would quite likely have had no difficulty riding a mammoth. He took part in the 21st Lancers’ charge of the Dervishes at the battle of Omdurman; and since ten times as many horses as men were always killed in these cavalry charges I’m not sure where they found replacements, Churchill ended up returning to Cairo on a sailing boat up the Nile. In India he played 8-12 chukkas of polo every day, playing with a dislocated shoulder on the winning team of the annual Indian regimental championship.

  197. MMcM: The Thurber Carnival‘s “If Grant had been Drinking at Appomattox” … isn’t all that good.
    You’re right — that’s as unfunny as I’ve ever seen Thurber. But speaking of bibulous Civil War generals, here’s a passage from the The End of an Era, a memoir by John Wise (son of Confederate General Henry A. Wise):

    [General Joseph E. Johnston ] … told us an episode of [his] surrender [to William Tecumseh Sherman at Durham Station], under promise that we should not publish it until after his death.
    Johnston had known Sherman well in the United States army. Their first interview near Greensboro resulted in an engagement to meet for further discussion the following day. As they were parting, Johnston remarked: “By the way, Gumps, Breckinridge, our Secretary of War, is with me. He is a very able fellow, and a better lawyer than any of us. If there is no objection, I will fetch him along to-morrow.”
    Bristling up, General Sherman exclaimed: “Secretary of War! No, no; we don’t recognize any civil government among you fellows, Johnston. No, I don’t want any Secretary of War.”
    “Well,” said General Johnston, “he is also a major-general in the Confederate army. Is there any objection to his presence in the capacity of majorgeneral?”
    “Oh !” quoth Sherman, in his characteristic way, “major-general! Well, any major-general you may bring I shall be glad to meet. But recollect, Johnston, no Secretary of War. Do you understand?”
    The next day, General Johnston, accompanied by Major-General Breckinridge and others, was at the rendezvous before Sherman.
    “You know how fond of his liquor Breckinridge was?” added General Johnston, as he went on with his story. “Well, nearly everything to drink had been absorbed. For several days Breckinridge had found it difficult, if not impossible, to procure liquor. He showed the effect of his enforced abstinence. He was rather dull and heavy that morning. Somebody in Danville had given him a plug of very fine chewing tobacco, and he chewed vigorously while we were awaiting Sherman’s coming. After a while the latter arrived. He bustled in with a pair of saddlebags over his arm, and apologized for being late. He placed the saddlebags carefully upon a chair. Introductions followed, and for a while General Sherman made himself exceedingly agreeable. Finally some one suggested that we had better take up the matter in hand.
    “‘Yes,’ said Sherman; ‘but, gentlemen, it occurred to me that perhaps you were not overstocked with liquor, and I procured some medical stores on my way over. Will you join me before we begin work?’”
    General Johnston said he watched the expression of Breckinridge at this announcement, and it was beatific. Tossing his quid into the fire, he rinsed his mouth, and when the bottle and the glass were passed to him he poured out a tremendous drink, which he swallowed with great satisfaction. With an air of content, he stroked his mustache and took a fresh chew of the tobacco.
    Then they settled down to business, and Breckinridge never shone more brilliantly than he did in the discussions which followed. He seemed to have at his tongue’s end- every rule and maxim of international and constitutional law, and of the laws of war, — international wars, civil wars, and wars of rebellion. In fact, he was so resourceful, cogent, persuasive, learned, that, at one stage of the proceedings, General Sherman, when confronted by the authority, but not convinced by the eloquence or learning of Breckinridge, pushed back his chair and exclaimed: “See here, gentlemen, who is doing this surrendering, anyhow? If this thing goes on, you’ll have me sending a letter of apology to Jeff Davis.”
    Afterward, when they were nearing the close of the conference, Sherman sat for some time absorbed in deep thought. Then he arose, went to the saddlebags, and fumbled for the bottle. Breckinridge saw the movement. Again he took his quid from his mouth and tossed it into the fireplace. His eye brightened, and he gave every evidence of intense interest in what Sherman seemed about to do.
    The latter, preoccupied, perhaps unconscious of his action, poured out some liquor, shoved the bottle back into the saddlepocket, walked to the window, and stood there, looking out abstractedly, while he sipped his grog.
    From pleasant hope and expectation the expression on Breckinridge’s face changed successively to uncertainty, disgust, and deep depression. At last his hand sought the plug of tobacco, and, with an injured, sorrowful look, he cut off another chew. Upon this he ruminated during the remainder of the interview, taking little part in what was said.
    After silent reflections at the window, General Sherman bustled back, gathered up his papers, and said: “These terms are too generous, but I must hurry away before you make me sign a capitulation. I will submit them to the authorities at Washington, and let you hear how they are received.” With that he bade the assembled officers adieu, took his saddlebags upon his arm, and went off as he had come.
    General Johnston took occasion, as they left the house and were drawing on their gloves, to ask General Breckinridge how he had been impressed by Sherman.
    “Sherman is a bright man, and a man of great force,” replied Breckinridge, speaking with deliberation, “but,” raising his voice and with a look of great intensity, “General Johnston, General Sherman is a hog. Yes, sir, a hog! Did you see him take that drink by himself?”
    General Johnston tried to assure General Breckinridge that General Sherman was a royal good fellow, but the most absent-minded man in the world. He told him that the failure to offer him a drink was the highest compliment that could have been paid to the masterly arguments with which he had pressed the Union commander to that state of abstraction.
    “Ah!” protested the big Kentuckian, half sighing, half grieving, “no Kentucky gentleman would ever have taken away that bottle. He knew we needed it, and needed it badly.”
    The story was well told, and I did not make it public until after General Johnston’s death. On one occasion, being intimate with General Sherman, I repeated it to him. Laughing heartily, he said: “I don’t remember it. But if Joe Johnston told it, it’s so. Those fellows hustled me so that day, I was sorry for the drink I did give them,” and with that sally he broke out into fresh laughter…

  198. That’s a great story, Jim.
    it occurred to me that perhaps you were not overstocked with liquor, and I procured some medical stores on my way over.
    This reminded me of something Churchill wrote in My Early Life about the preparations for the Boer War:

    Gerard’s function was to look after the personal comfort of the Commander-In-Chief [Sir Redvers Buller], and for that purpose he was presented at the [London] dinner with I don’t know how many cases of the very best champagne and the very oldest brandy which the cellars of London boasted…In order to make sure they reached the headquarters intact, Lord Gerard took the precaution of labelling them ‘Castor Oil’. Two months later in Natal, when they had not yet arrived, he dispatched an urgent telegram to the base at Durban asking for his castor oil. The reply came back that the packages of this drug addressed to his lordship had by an error already been issued to the hospitals. There were now, however, ample stores of castor oil available at the base and the commandant was forwarding a full supply forthwith!
    Many of our South African experiences were to be upon a similar plane.

  199. That’s a great story, Jim.
    Seconded! And I like the castor oil one, too.

  200. Thanks Crown, Hat. And now I get to second the castor oil!

  201. marie-lucie says:

    I third it! (if I may).
    I wonder if the hospitals provided with the first shipment of “castor oil” tried the product in treating their patients. I am sure many of them would probably have improved at least as much as with real castor oil. But I wonder what happened to the hapless Gerard when the general found out about the mixup!

  202. I’m pretty sure he could look after himself:

    one of my father’s oldest friends, Billy Gerard, had some years before extracted a promise from Sir Redfers Buller that, if ever that general received the command of an army in the field, he would take him on his staff. Lord Gerard was now an elderly man, of great wealth, extremely well known in society and one of the leading owners on the Turf.

    Churchill wrote this in 1930, and all the way through he gives the impression that prior to 1914, many upper-class people in Britain went to war for a bit of a laugh, sort of like extreme polo. He uses ‘jolly’ and phrases like ‘great fun’ a lot. The contrast was intended to seem extraordinary to the bitter WW1 generation, presumably.
    As for Buller:

    Buller was a characteristic British personality. He looked stolid. He said little, and what he said was obscure. He was not the kind of man who could explain things, and he never tried to do so. He usually grunted, or nodded, or shook his head, in serious discussions; and shop of all kinds was sedulously excluded from his ordinary conversation. He had shown himself a brave and skilful officer in his youth, and for nearly twenty years he had filled important administrative posts of a sedentary character in Whitehall. As his political views were coloured with Liberalism, he was regarded as a very sensible officer. His name had been long before the public; and with all these qualities it is no wonder that their belief in him was unbounded. ‘My confidence’, said Lord Salisbury [the PM] at the Guildhall, on 9 November 1899, ‘in the British soldier is only equalled by my confidence in Sir Redvers Buller.’ Certainly he was a man of considerable scale. He plodded on from blunder to blunder and from one disaster to another, without losing either the regard of his country or the trust of his troops, to whose feeding as well as his own he paid serious attention. Independent, portentous, a man of the world, and a man of affairs – he gave the same sort of impression to the British at this juncture as we afterwards saw affected on the French nation through the personality of General Joffre.

  203. …Buller won the VC (Britain’s highest medal for bravery) in the Zulu wars. According to Wikipedia, He was defeated at the Battle of Colenso, where he had forbidden his troops to dig trenches or foxholes for fear of damaging the pleasant countryside, and warned them against muddying their uniforms by crawling along the ground.

  204. !!

  205. Yeah. I think I like him, but maybe he was in the wrong job.

  206. Double !!
    It’s funny, I was just reading about Robert E. Lee’s reputation, specifically the debate between historians as to whether or not he was a good general for a war as modern as the Civil War: T. Harry Williams, though generally fond of Lee’s “noble” character, charged that he wasn’t — that as “a product of … [a] culture permeated … by the spirit of localism [Lee had a] preoccupation with the war in Virginia” (an overlarge, ultimately harmful preoccupation, Williams is saying, in his essay “The Military Leadership of North and South”); later historians have disagreed. I can only wonder what Williams would have said about Buller.

  207. One day I’m going to have to read about the US civil war. The truth is I’ve always been put off by the outfits, the hats in particular, but I know there’s more to it than that even if Buller didn’t really think so. He was certainly showing some foresight about the trenches ruining the landscape, I think he ought to get some credit for that premonition.
    Weren’t we recently discussing in one thread or another Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5 and daughter of the judge, Bernard Levin’s Sir Reginald Bullying-Manner? I’m wondering if they’re not related to Sir Redvers Buller, they’re certainly all from the same social class.

  208. The truth is I’ve always been put off by the outfits
    Those outfits caused a lot of trouble early in the war. Most soldiers on both sides lacked a standard uniform. So friends were taken for foes and vice versa. Hesitations proved deadly:

    One mixup in uniforms affected the outcome of the battle [of First Manassas/Bull Run]. At the height of the fighting for Henry House Hill, two Union artillery batteries were blasting gaps in the Confederate line. Suddenly a blue-clad regiment emerged from the woods seventy yards to the right of two of the guns. Thinking the regiment might be its requested infantry support, the artillery withheld fire for fatal minutes while the regiment, which turned out to be the 33rd Virginia of Jackson’s brigade, leveled muskets and fired. The guns were wiped out and the Union attack lost cohesion in that sector of the battlefield.
    McPherson, James M. (2003-10-24). Battle Cry of Freedom : The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States) (pp. 343-344). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.

    Pressure on the textile industry to produce the needed uniforms allows me to include a linguistic tidbit:

    To fill contracts for hundreds of thousands of uniforms, textile manufacturers compressed the fibers of recycled woolen goods into a material called “shoddy.” This noun soon became an adjective to describe uniforms that ripped after a few weeks of wear, shoes that fell apart, blankets that disintegrated, and poor workmanship in general on items necessary to equip an army of half a million men and to create its support services within a few short months.
    McPherson, James M. (2003-10-24). Battle Cry of Freedom : The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States) (p. 324). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.

  209. We also get our word “sideburns” from this man. Our general sported the real deal.

  210. soldiers on both sides lacked a standard uniform. So friends were taken for foes and vice versa. Hesitations proved deadly
    I’m not sure about this. Most soldiers today wear very similar khaki, black and olive-green camouflage-patterned outfits with almost identical helmets and boots. Often the visible contrast is greater between different units of the same army than between friend & foe. So why isn’t it a problem? Maybe partly because they hesitate before making assumptions about who’s coming round the corner.
    Nowadays, General Sideburns would be a hipster and that would be ironic facial hair*.
    *Incidentally, to pick up an earlier thread, my guess about that phrase (though I’ve got nothing to back it up) is that it may come from Jewish guys wearing toothbrush moustaches. There were some recently. Anyway it would be an appropriate usage of ‘ironic’, I think.

  211. I’m not sure about this.
    Obviously today’s guerilla warfare doesn’t cast doubt on fatal sartorial mixups in the 19th century when armies putatively in uniform advanced toward each other across battlefields. Things have changed in past 150 years. Armies have adapted.
    Was there a sideburns thread I missed? Or one about Jewish guys with pencil mustaches? Man, ice cream sucks.

  212. Armies have adapted.
    Except for the cases of friendly fire.
    I can’t remember where it was. It was a sub-thread in which marie-lucie questioned the usage of the word ‘ironic’, in the phrase ‘ironic facial hair’ used by Marc about young people called hipsters. He’d only heard it in Texas, but if you google it you’ll find it’s quite a common phrase.

  213. Oh, yes. It’s here, on this very post:
    marc: a societal phenomenon, like ironic facial hair and skinny jeans
    I am not among the avant-garde, but do you really mean ironic, or should it be iconic (a much-used word these days)?
    Posted by: marie-lucie at November 28, 2011 11:09 AM

  214. marie-lucie says:

    Never again will I question those words.

  215. Castor oil is, well, oily. It is far more viscous and consequently pours out differently from water-based alcohol solutions, and I don’t see how any one could mix it up with brandy and/or Champagne even for a moment. So no, I don’t think any of the costive patients actually got any of the latter.

  216. Surely the point of the anecdote is that the “mix-up” was not a mix-up, but rather something that happened “accidentally on purpose”, as we say.

  217. I had the impression that the bottles were crated and then mislabeled on the outside of the wooden crate. Gerard wouldn’t have called it ‘castor oil’ if you could see champagne bottles, they’re too distinctive.

  218. marie-lucie says:

    That’s my understanding too. The label was put on the “cases of the very best”, not on the individual bottles. I was joking about the contents being given to the patients! But what did the hospital do with the brandy and champagne? Surely those drinks would have been good for many of the patients.

  219. Doctors and nurses drank it. I was once in hospital (the New York Eye & Ear, on E. 14th Street) for a week with a very painful sinus infection, and I found out afterwards that my doctor had prescribed me cocaine that’s set on cotton balls and shoved up the nasal passages as a painkiller. I never saw it, someone pinched it. I was very cross about that.

  220. like ironic facial hair
    The first ironic mustache I came across was worn by Jack Black in the very skippable Margot at the Wedding (poor Noah Baumbach — talk about a one hit wonder!); I hadn’t realized till now, with the help of you guys and Google, that they had become such a lame cultural phenomenon.

  221. Apparently Baumbach collaborated on the Fantastic Mr. Fox movie — a definite plus — although since I dropped over twenty bucks to snore through Greenberg, he’ll have to regain my trust through a rental.

  222. I don’t know anything about it, The Squid and the Whale. I didn’t know there was a Fantastic Mr. Fox movie either, though I’ve read the book of course. We’ll have to get those over Christmas, if humanly possible.

  223. You’ve never seen The Squid and the Whale, Crown? Oh, I might just have to send it to you for Xmas. It depicts narcissism better than any other movie I’ve seen — narcissism, that is, as a genuine psychological disorder, distinct from its lay sense of egotism. I’m tempted even to call it the word’s “technical” sense (implying the epistemic status of a hard science with necessary, rather than ornamental, jargon), tempted in spite of my skepticism about the hoary school of psychology in which I was inculcated with such ways of comprehending people, at far too tender an age — “They fuck you up, your mum and dad” could also serve as the movie’s epigraph — tempted because because unlike so many others throughout my life, the diagnosis of narcissism still often seems accurate, useful, true. A narcissist is desperately, pathetically attached to his or her own self-image (an image often but not necessarily inaccurate), such that to some degree the aim of their every interaction is to have that image confirmed. If you say something that doesn’t comport with it, you can feel them pleading with you to change course. Dealing with them is exhausting and tiresome — unless of course you find it interesting and energizing to tell someone over and over, ideally in creatively persuasive ways, that yes, you’re brilliant, or tough, or sexy, or a hard-worker, or whatever. It’s also uncomfortable, because you can’t just be yourself either, to say what you really think. There’s always pressure to stick to someone’s else’s script.
    The Squid and the Whale captures all that astonishingly well — tersely, without flinching (it’s under 90 minutes). You cringe for the narcissistic protagonists (an English professor and his son) and everyone they encounter, but the camera doesn’t linger a la The Office… and a lot of other British sitcoms, come to think of it. God, I hate that style: only John Cleese ever really pulled it off, in Fawlty Towers, and even he wasn’t consistent; so demanding are those drawn out awkward sets, how quickly the gags turn stale. Anyway, The Squid and the Whale is actually funny, as well as insightfully disturbing; in fact, it’s funnier the second time round, because you don’t have to steel yourself the whole way through, and Baumbach doesn’t pause after all his punchlines. That’s it, you’re getting it for Xmas. And maybe I’ll rent it for myself again soon.

  224. Fantastic Mr. Fox is also pretty great — the only film version of a cherished children’s book I didn’t detest. (Don’t get me started on those Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings excrements.) I think it worked because the filmmakers didn’t pretend to stay loyal to the book; they just took the material and ran with it, made a good, quirky movie.

  225. Our dog Topsy may be a narcissist, now I come to think of it, whereas Alex, the other one, couldn’t give shit what anyone thinks of him. Nor do the goats, really. Tops may have a bit of a problem – though the bigger problem is for us, the proximate non-narcissists (assuming we are, and I’m not sure). Did I tell you that Alma’s now planning to study psychology? Perhaps she can sort us out. Anyway, I’d be very interested to see the film now, so thanks for thinking of me, but if you do decide to get it don’t forget we are in the European video zone, we can’t play US versions. I hadn’t thought about the pause after the punchlines, that’s excruciating, I’ll have to reassess some comedies. I read that the US version of The Office is better than the original, about whose narrow formula I’m ambivalent, but I haven’t seen it.
    I never saw the Lord of the Rings films, but my friend Audrey’s brother-in-law changed his name to Gandalf (that was in the late ’60s). I don’t think I ever met him, but he may have had narcissist issues.

  226. Your friend’s Middle Earth enthusiasm (and my distaste for Ricky Gervais) notwithstanding, THIS is Gandalf.
    I read that the US version of The Office is better than the original
    After a rocky start, which cleaved too closely to the original, it had a few funny seasons, but then started sucking in its own right. Batting about .200 overall.

  227. That’s great, I didn’t see much of that series.

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