flwyd: (Om Chomsky)
Any progressive activist and anyone involved in the Democratic Party who has not read Don't Think of an Elephant! should put it very near the top of their to-do list, above any political action that's longer-term than "this week." It's short and practical, so it can be read in a day or you can read an essay-chapter each day and be done in two weeks. Many of the key insights also appear in articles on the author's blog, so you can start there.

George Lakoff is a professor of linguistics and cognitive science at UC Berkeley. I first encountered his work in Metaphors We Live By, a fairly academic book which argued that metaphors aren't just manners of speech, they actually provide structure to how we think and form a framework through which we perceive the world. This led him to research on frames, "mental structures that shape the way we see the world" and investigations on how liberals and conservatives think and the frames they use. He published Don't Think of an Elephant in 2004 as an accessible and practical guide for progressives to understand how people make political choices, why conservatives are much better at framing than progressives are, and what the left needs to do in order to activate progressive frames in the minds of voters. The All New Don't Think of an Elephant! is a 2014 edition which adds chapters and updates many of the essays to cover political developments during the second Bush term and the Obama presidency.

Frames help us make sense of the information we receive. For instance, the frame "Countries are rational actors" provides us tools for interpreting international relations and actions of governments. Given that frame, a speech by a particular politician or an attack by an army is evaluated as though it's a single person (the country) following a considered strategy. An alternate frame, say "Countries are herds of animals," would lead to a different conceptualization of the same presented facts, like an assumption of acting on instinct and a focus on the power dynamics within a government.

Frames are wired into our brains: the more often the language associated with a frame gets activated, the stronger the neural linkages become. When information is presented which doesn't jive with the frames in our brain, cognitive dissonance results. Cognitive dissonance is uncomfortable, so we tend to resolve the situation by rejecting the information or selectively reinterpreting it so that it can form a narrative supported by the frame.

The most important insight in the book is that people don't vote based on a list of policies and they don't necessarily even vote for their rational self-interest. They vote for candidates whose message activates the frames that drive their values. People aren't swayed by facts, they're swayed by narratives that resonate.

Lakoff identifies the major frames for political values as the "strict father model" and the "nurturant parent model." The former leads to values like law-and-order policing, military power, and "tough love" economic policies. The latter leads to values like restorative justice, soft power diplomacy, and opportunity-focused economics. Everyone has both frames in their brain to some degree, and political ideology reflects the frame which is stronger, or is present in more aspects of their life. He also talks about "biconceptuals," folks that have a balance of both models, the cognitive version of "swing voters."

The family models do a great deal to explain why positions which seem to be logically unrelated are so correlated in the political sphere. Why do so many folks both oppose gay marriage and support use of military force to achieve foreign policy objectives? Corporal punishment (or the threat thereof) is how order is established in a strict-father family, and gay marriage violates the whole premise of a strict-father family, because there's either no father (two women) or no single father figure (two men). Why do so many folks oppose firearm ownership and support public education? In a nurturative-parent family, providing opportunity to kids has a very high value (free public school provides opportunity even to kids whose parents don't have any resources) and guns represent violence, which is anathema to the protection and nurture values.

Conservative elites, starting with Barry Goldwater and the Powell Memo, have spent several decades carefully experimenting with ways to frame their policy goals so that they will resonate with the values frames of American voters. Progressives and liberals, on the other hand, have not had an organized approach to framing and tend to run on a set of specific policies, not on a set of values. Since the left haven't developed language to activate frames, they tend to use the frames provided by conservatives. This is self-defeating, because repeating the conservative framing of an issue activates the same neural pathways, even if the idea is negated (hence the title of the book). For instance, conservatives developed the phrase "tax relief," which activates a metaphor of taxes as a burden. If a liberal says "I'm against tax relief," it reinforces the idea that taxes are burdensome and the voter is left wondering why the politician is in favor of burdens. If the liberal instead recast the issue in their own frame–"I think the wealthy should contribute their fair share"–it would activate the frame that tax is a shared investment in society.

Lakoff advocates for progressives to rethink how they present their ideas. He urges the left to shift from talking about facts and policies to talking about values, principles, and policy directions. He instructs people to affirm the progressive world view rather than use the negated language of the conservative world view. He tells politicians to stop focusing on policy polls and start presenting a coherent narrative. And he recommends the left invest–intellectually and financially–in creating organizations (think tanks and so on) devoted to finding ways to frame progressive values in ways that resonate with American voters. This is a long-term investment: the right has spent over four decades building their current ideological power position and the left can't suddenly adjust the neural circuitry of the public next month or even this year. But the longer progressives wait, the more they'll lose ground and the harder it will be to make progress.

The book's final chapter, "How to Respond to Conservatives," has some solid tactical advice, including showing respect, remaining calm, and positively reframing the issue. It ends with the crystalized guidelines: "Show respect; Respond by reframing; Think and talk at the level of values; Say what you believe." His approach is good for spreading the progressive world view, but I think there is occasion to use the frames of the "other side." When you're working on a specific policy measure like climate change or health care, it's important to have allies on both sides of the spectrum–this eases passage of an initiative and makes it less likely it will be repealed when the legislative balance of power shifts. Shifting a Republican member of congress from a strict-father model to a nurturative-parent model is a long game indeed, but convincing the same representative that climate change is a threat to national security or that it will create an undue burden on business might get an important piece of legislation passed. This is also communication that can be more focused: a letter to a legislator can be tailored to resonate with the specific framing a person has demonstrated whereas a letter to the editor tries to activate the framing of thousands of different people.

My goal in reading this book was to improve my ability to communicate with people who don't share my worldview, and it definitely helped. I'm someone who's immersed in facts and tend to overcommunicate details. This is important when figuring out how to create software or working with scientists to learn how the world works. But it's a hopeless technique for reaching non-experts, and by necessity most politicians, and certainly most voters, are not experts on a vast majority of subjects. I intend to do work to verbalize my own values and organize them into a coherent story, one which I hope can inspire folks who are already on my side, resonate with folks who aren't there yet, and help folks with a strict-father model empathize with the nurturative values.
flwyd: (I *kiss* linguists)
A couple months ago I mused:
Head, neck, chest, arm, leg, groin, butt, hand, foot, thigh, knee, shin, toe, brow, eye, nose, mouth, tongue, tooth, jaw, ear, hair, thumb, breast.

Body, finger, elbow, shoulder, eyebrow, forearm, forehead, belly, penis.


No wonder "vagina" sounds so awkward: it's the only trisyllablic word for a major externally-accessible body part I can think of. It's also clearly Latin-derived while the others (excerpt penis?) are Germanic. No wonder it needs so much slang.

Recently I realized there is a nice, short, Germanic word for female genitalia: cunt. Even better, it encompasses the whole vulva (another Latin word), not just the passage between the cervix and the labia minora (Latin again). (Acquaint yourself with the relevant anatomy.)

The history of cunt

The etymology of cunt traces at least to Middle English (cunte, "female genitalia"). The first known reference in English apparently is in a compound, Oxford street name Gropecuntlane cited from c.1230 (and attested through late 14c.) in "Place-Names of Oxfordshire" (Gelling & Stenton, 1953), presumably a haunt of prostitutes. Cunt shares cognates in several Old Germanic languages and is perhaps linked to Latin cuneus (wedge) or cunnus (vulva).

Cunt has been considered taboo and impolite since the 15th Century (Shakespeare alluded to the word but didn't use it directly) and obscene and illegal since 1700. This shouldn't be too surprising: genitalia is a fairly universally taboo subject with dozens of slang terms and euphemisms in every language. Cunt was probably considered obscene because it unambiguously refers to a woman's genitals; polite discourse of the time only referred to sex organs indirectly. Even the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue glossed the word as C**T, The chonnos of the Greek, and the cunnus of the Latin dictionaries; a nasty name for a nasty thing: un con Miege. (emphasis mine). It was impolite to directly refer to women's genitals in a slang dictionary! Contemporary society has dropped many centuries-old taboos, including direct genital discourse in many contexts. So let's also drop the taboo on calling a cunt a cunt.

Twat (origin unknown) gained use in the 1650s, perhaps as a more polite replacement for cunt. It too became considered vulgar, and doesn't seem to have sustained a long literary life, based on this ngrams comparison of cunt, twat, and vulva.

That ngrams graph shows a promising rise in use of cunt in written English since 1950 (after some notable pre-war literary appearances). This may originally have been driven by offensive use. It was then picked up as a common topic by feminist writers; some wanted to banish the term as offensive; others wanted to reclaim the term as powerful. Ngrams suggests that the latter is gaining ground: "her cunt" now appears in twice as many books as "a cunt".

Isn't cunt offensive?

Thanks to context, the word can be both offensive and powerful. It remains offensive to call someone a cunt; it equates the whole of the person with a single sexual body part. It is likewise offensive to call a person a twat or a pussy. Even the accepted medical terms would be offensive if used as an epithet: she's such a vagina is offensive, though vagina and vulva are such awkward words that nobody uses them as insults. Likewise, penis words applied to a person are also offensive: he's such a {dick, prick, schmuck}, though the male versions seem less offensive: a guy's more likely to say I'm a dick sometimes than a gal is to say I'm a cunt sometimes. Calling someone an elbow, a thumb, or another non-head body part is likely offensive, too. One of my favorite exchanges on the old Forum2000 site was Q: My girlfriend is a cunt. A: I think you're making an is-a/has-a error. Many young logicians fail to make this distinction.

When used to refer to a body part rather than a person, cunt is unambiguous and direct, which is powerful. It acknowledges female sex organs as normal, like any other body part. It doesn't imply that a woman's genitals are a cat, a rodent, a mollusk, a food, or any other silly euphemism. Cunt and twat don't try to be cute like coochie, fanny, or vajayjay; instead they fit in with other short, direct, Germanic body parts like head, arm, leg, and groin. You could say that cunt rolls off the tongue.

Vagina comes from medical Latin; vagina in general Latin means sheath, scabbard, and similar enclosing uses. Medically, the vagina is the passage between the uterus and the vulva. Using vagina as the polite and accepted term for the whole of female genitalia denigrates several important components in female anatomy and sexuality, not least of which is the clitoris. Cunt covers the whole kit and caboodle, as does vulva. In a medical context, use vulva to refer to the whole package and vagina to refer to the passage. In a context where belly or gut would sound better than abdomen, use cunt or twat over vulva. Even in medical contexts, Germanic words may be a better choice:

Novick remembers one of the first arguments he had with a prudish supervising clinician who insisted that their HIV questionnaire use the words vaginal secretions when asking women if their partners performed oral sex on them. Novick thought the word choice was preposterous because the clinic served a low-income area with a heavily Latino population. He fought and eventually won over the supervisor when he showed that half the participants didn’t know what vaginal secretions were. But when they were asked if they knew what Novick’s term meant, there was 100 percent comprehension. His choice of words? Cunt juice.

Post script: penis

Researching this post, I was hoping to find a similar nice Germanic word for penis. It's not as awkwardly medical as vagina, but there's a whole host of monosyllabic slang terms like dick, dong, schlong, and wang that sound better. "I'm gonna suck your dick" sounds sexy, "I'm gonna suck your penis" sounds like a procedure. Unfortunately all the Online Etymology Dictionary results for penis are euphemistic. Penis itself was originally Latin for tail, which makes me wonder how to refer to the penis of an animal with a tail. Plug tail and tickle tail appear for penis in 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, with tail itself meaning prostitute and several other tail associations for lewd women. Wikipedia's Penis article claims that English previously used yard, though that also seems derived from a measuring stick. There are more objects shaped like a penis (tail, shaft, tool, wiener) than like a cunt, so perhaps it's natural that people would reuse a term rather than evolve a distinct word. Now pardon me, I need to make a saving throw vs. rod, staff, or wand.

flwyd: (red succulent)
Comment on this post and I will list seven things I want you to talk about. They might make sense or they might be totally random. Then post that list, with your commentary, to your journal. Other people can get lists from you, and the meme merrily perpetuates itself.

A month and a half ago, [livejournal.com profile] vvvexation participated in this meme and I said "I'd love some prime subjects." I just recently noticed that I have this draft sitting around that I should post.
prime rib
I'm not particularly picky about which part of the animal my meat comes from. I usually cook sausage and stir fry when I make dinner for myself. Lengua plus onions and cilantro is my favorite taco filling. I enjoy ordering pho with bible tripe, partly because the name sounds funny.
prime numbers
I remember reading that 37 was the "most random" number. It's prime, it's not a number that turns up naturally very often, it's bigger than ten but less than a hundred, and it kind of rolls off the tongue. In other words, it seems like a great choice when people are asked to "pick a random number."
Really big prime numbers are cool too. They're a crucial part of digital encryption. They can also have questionable legal status.
primary colors
At lunch one day, some of us observed that Google is kind of like preschool: there are lots of toys around, you can have a snack in the middle of the afternoon if your blood sugar is low, you're free to take a nap, and everyone eats lunch together in a cafeteria in primary-colored chairs.
I like primary colors and other colors that are easy to express in the RGB color space. Partly this is because I'm much more of a symbol-processing geek than an artist. I'm aware that using more subtle colors provides a more appealing visual experience, which is why I let other people be in charge of how things look.
primal scream therapy
It can be very cathartic to yell when you're as mad as hell. I'm not sure it would be a good practice for a 50-minute therapy session, since after the first two minutes or so you typically run out of things to be mad about or you've gone horse. 50 minutes staring at a Munch painting might be pretty therapeutic, though.
lexical priming
Lexical priming is the effect of word and grammar associations such that when we hear or read a particular word, we expect another word or grammatical construct. Conversely, if one is present but the other is missing, the phrase may sound weird. For instance, if a maw were described as anything but gaping would seem off.
I suppose lexical priming might help explain why most people have trouble understanding legalese. They don't have much priming for the words and structures used, so understanding the text is a bit like reading in a foreign language, even though you know the meaning of most of the words.
the genus Primula
I'm not a big fan of flowers (he said, sitting naked in the back yard enjoying the smell of dandelions, bluebells, and columbines). As noted on my LJ profile, I'm the only user interested in genus allium. Perhaps the layers of onion, garlic, leek, shallot, chive, and scallion appeal to my software engineering side. Among eudicots, I'm a big fan of family Cactaceae and other succulents. (He says, sitting naked in the sun.)
Optimus Prime
I haven't watched more than a couple minutes of Transformers since I was four or five, but I remember enjoying the show, particularly the noise they made when they switched form. The action figures (of which I owned none) were pretty cool too. Four years ago, I mused that a Transformers RPG could be pretty fun. And now that self driving cars are a real thing, it wouldn't have to seem too futuristic.

Give and Take

Monday, January 11th, 2010 12:03 pm
flwyd: (I *kiss* linguists)
At a first pass, give and take are reciprocal verbs. But they're involved in some nonreciprocal idioms:

Caregivers and caretakers are the same thing. Shouldn't the patient be the caretaker? Also, "Take care" (as a command or suggestion) means "Be careful," but when someone gives lots of care, the recipient isn't careful or full of care.

Giving a shit and taking a shit have nothing in common. The first is a synonym for caring (but not in a caregiver/caretaker way), the latter is a biological activity.

There are some idioms where the reciprocity is preserved, though. If someone takes up golf, he starts golfing. If someone gives up golf, he stops golfing.

In the middle ground, if you take out an add, you generally give out your phone number or address.

Any more?


Monday, June 22nd, 2009 11:09 pm
flwyd: (spam lite)
In most of Latin America, "chevere" is a word that means "great" or "awesome," e.g., "¿Como estas?" "Chevere!" ("How are you?" "Awesome!")

In Guatemalan lingo, "chevere" also means "hot dog," and is written on all the hot dog stands. While this means you can ask for a "Chevere chevere" ("great hot dog"), you can also have this conversation:

"¿Como es?" ("How is it?")
"Chevere." ("Awesome.")
"¿Chevere como un chevere?" ("Awesome like a hot dog?")
"Chevere como millon cheveres." ("Awesome like a million hot dogs.")

(See: Eddie Izzard, "Circle")
flwyd: (I *kiss* linguists)
Every year, NORAD tracks Santa Claus's progress across the United States on Christmas Eve. But in a world of new media, this centralized arms-length reporting is passé. So this year, Claus Industries, Ltd. is trying something new: Santa Embedded Clause. Reporters can embed themselves on Santa's sleigh to deliver a first-hand account of sliding down chimneys and leaving nouns under the syntax tree.

Syntax Bush

Monday, February 23rd, 2009 06:36 pm
flwyd: (I *kiss* linguists)
Is there a sensible syntax tree for A rose is a rose is a rose? The parse that makes most sense to me is
{a rose is [a rose} is (a rose])
which is not a tree. But the parse
((a rose) is ((a rose) is (a rose)))
is NP is VP at the top level, and that's not generally grammatical (e.g., "Obama is the president lives in the White House").
flwyd: (fun characters)
Don't tell the fundies, but Unicode has characters for
26A3male homosexuality
26A5transgendered sexuality
26A6transgendered sexuality
26A7transgendered sexuality
26A8ferrous iron sulphate
26AFunmarried partnership
flwyd: (fun characters)
If I ever wonder why I don't get around to reading my books, it's because my nights go something like this:

"I should finish my tea and then read a book in my hammock."
"Huh, iTunes has the wrong art for Depeche Mode - 101."
"Wikipedia's article 101 is about the year, not a disambiguation."
"Wow, that's a lot of random facts about the number 101."
"What the hell is a strobogrammatic prime? Wow, who creates a word for a property of a number which depends on both base and script?"
"Ooh, what do Devanagari digits look like?"
"Huh. I guess I can't infer that the line at the top implies the language is Hindi. Distinguishing it from Nepali is like distinguishing English from Spanish."
"But I might be able to infer Gujarati by the lack of a line."
"There's a special writing system for indigenous Canadian languages? That's cool, the rotation of the consonant indicates the vowel."
"I didn't realize these weren't technically alphabets. All those crazy curly-cue languages are abugidas."
"... and Arabic, Hebrew, and other vowel-free writing systems are abjads (or perhaps "bjds" if you're using an abjad)."
"OMG. The list of writing systems has a map of scripts. Typogeography! Goetypography! I might cream my pants if I was wearing any."
"In the obscurity department, a script used only by women. With graphemes chosen so they'd work well in embroidery."
"Tengwar characters have phonetic features embedded, unlike most alphabets where there's no indication that 'f' and 'v' are pronounced similarly. It can therefore be used to write more than just imaginary languages. If you want a badge of obscurity and utter linguistic geekery, you can write Esperanto in Tengwar."
"[livejournal.com profile] kakos should make a shirt of Jabberwocky in Lojban."
"Let's not get into MovementWriting, but somehow I doubt DanceWriting can adequately transcribe the way I dance."
"Well, at least I have an adequate LJ icon to indicate how I spent my evening."

Time to Cash Out

Monday, December 8th, 2008 11:25 pm
flwyd: (I *kiss* linguists)
Edit: Replace "Cashe" in the first question with "Cash." I'd originally typed Cache and only half fixed it.

[Poll #1312043]
flwyd: (mail.app)
I received in the mail today a blurry photo of some flowers or weeds. On the back was an Irish stamp, my address, and nine lines of Japanese. I quickly deduced the sender to be my brother, even though he didn't know any Japanese last I checked. The following is my attempted transcription of the message using Apple's Japanese Kana Palette. I'm sure some letters are wrong, but they're the closest I could glean.

よ はようごぢいまよ, トレ-バ-さん!
うま は, ろなしは フ-イ-ランドに
いまよ。 てんきは よごい きしい
でよ。 火旧目 でよ。 ねご の こぇ
は よ'もしロい でよ ね? ちょぅと
さ?しい でよ カ? だいじよづでよ。
フ-イ-ランドに ホて 下さい! ねーコ
ケー?は よごい よいしい でよ ね?
づよーね、 きすつけて ね トレーバーさん!

Between Harper writing in Japanese, Trevor reading in Japanese, and Google translating from Japanese to English, the following tangle arises. Anyone have a better guess? If something would make more sense by changing a few lines in a character above, that's probably the right thing to do.

Now it's DZI HAYOU how the trailer - Va -!
Skill, without the filter off - Lee - Land
Now. If it is TENKI Disc KISHI
OK? Old fire in the eyes. NEGO saw sir
That? Wristed it to me one? DAIJI DZUDEYO it.
Hu - Lee - Land Ho please! KO.
Kay? It will be nice and good, right?
DZU, boy, I know it KISU tray bar!

Scan )
flwyd: (dogcow moof!)
Installing Ubuntu updates this morning, the details included the line
Unpacking replacement wine...

Maybe the original wine turned to vinegar. Or maybe someone dropped a case and we had to scramble to have enough for the party.

God of Nouns

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008 10:59 pm
flwyd: (Taoist goddess Doumu)
Monotheism is the belief that "God" is a proper noun.

Polytheism is the belief that "God" is a count noun.

Pantheism is the belief that "God" is a mass noun.

Polyatheism is the belief that "God" can be any part of speech as long as it helps communicate.


Thursday, November 22nd, 2007 01:28 am
flwyd: (rush counterparts album cover)
Where the turn on is enhanced by the knowledge that few others will be turned on.


Sunday, November 18th, 2007 11:48 pm
flwyd: (rush counterparts album cover)
At yesterday's party, Joe said "I often wonder why languages have some words but not others. For instance, 'orgasm' is when one of the people having sex has an intensely pleasurable sensation. But why don't we have the word 'andgasm' for when both people have that feeling?"

I immediately picked up: "Or 'xorgasm:' when one but not both people experience it. A 'nandgasm' is when neither or one (but not both) get it. A 'norgasm' (related to 'snoregasm') is when nobody gets off." Some of the logical operators don't have a word that flows as well: "Ifgasm" (or "conditionalgasm") can be applied in all situations except when person A hits the peak and person B does not. "Iffgasm" (or "biconditionalgasm" or "xnorgasm") is when both come or both don't come (leave?). "Notgasm" is a unary (not binary) operator: it means someone got tired of masturbating.

I leave n-adic versions of the gasmic operators as an exercise to the reader.


Friday, September 21st, 2007 10:52 pm
flwyd: (fun characters)
The words "verbose" and "perverse" had a baby in my head this afternoon.

Verberse, adj. Discussed at length in the hopes that the subject will somehow make more sense.

"His presentation was quite verberse, but it's still a terrible idea."
flwyd: (farts sign - Norway)
George Carlin's compiled list of dirty words and euphemisms.

Edit - IM discussion of the foregoing:
Me: Haha. I've never heard breasts referred to as "umlauts"
Them: me neither.
Me: we can extrapolate that and use "cedilla" for penis
Them: lol. punctuation and genitals. have fun with that
Me: "Accents turn me on..."
Them: acute, grave or circumflex?
Me: Circumflex can stand for vagina...
Them: or a bendy penis
Me: the dot (like Sanskrit... is there a more proper name?) can be the rectum...
Them: o.O
Me: or maybe that's Ø


Wednesday, August 29th, 2007 11:29 pm
flwyd: (rush counterparts album cover)
I really dislike the euphemism "adult" for "sexual."

When I hear a phrase like "adult activities," I think of things like doing taxes and shopping for bathroom fixtures at Home Depot. "Adult entertainment" brings to mind midwestern grayhairs watching Lawrence Welk. "Adult material" could mean paper from old trees bound in leather from old cows.

Part of the problem is that a lot of mainstream porn strikes me as adolescent in style. My image of adult relationships is one of caring for a partner who's had a rough day, going for a romantic walk and reminiscing about youthful exploits, and so on. Depictions of such acts aren't very good for selling magazines, low budget films, and monthly website subscriptions. What I call "adolescent sexuality" is very genital focused, high in kinetic energy, and with a sense of the forbidden. "Girls Gone Wild" brings to mind copious alcohol in red plastic cups and a bunch of sorority girls ready to hump anything that moves. "Women Gone Wild" brings to mind a retreat in the woods with middle-aged women excited to hear guest speaker Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

I don't mean to imply that adult relationships lack sex. On the contrary, intercourse is something 35-year-olds, in general do, but 5-year-olds, in general, don't. But sex isn't the only thing that distinguishes children from adults and it certainly doesn't distinguish between 17-year-olds and 27-year-olds.

"Adult" and "mature" are often used synonymously. If your boss says "We're having an adult conversation," it's not an invitation to share the kinky exploits of your weekend with the conference call. It's a reminder that name calling, whining, and sulking don't have a place in a business meeting and that coworkers are expected to behave maturely with each other. Yet "M for Mature" video games like Grand Theft Auto feature hours upon hours of immature actions like stealing cars and killing hookers. The Seventh Seal is a movie with mature themes. Barely Legal Teens 37 is not.

Further confounding the terminology is the word "family" (which is taken to imply children are present). "Family-friendly content" is saccharine Disney films where a one-frame erection beneath a robe gets people riled up about indecency. But while adult doesn't imply sex (monks, nuns, etc.), it's an odd family (implying children) that doesn't start with sex.

Taboo subjects oft beget linguistic acrobatics. America may have no greater taboo than sex and no end of euphemisms with two backs.

Improper Fuzz

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007 08:39 pm
flwyd: (mathnet - to cogitate and to solve)
At the recommendation of Savage Love, I filled out sex survey from the University of British Columbia. Questions are standardized from the '70s and '80s, so some of the are a little odd for liberal-minded folks today. But what really bothers me is the BIDR section asking general questions about my personality. The answers are fuzzy with 1 as "Not True," 4 as "Somewhat True," and 7 as "Very True." Normally, I like fuzziness in surveys because I often have fuzzy answers. But whose idea was it to seek fuzzy results to absolute questions?

9. I am fully in control of my own fate.
11. I never regret my decisions.
15. I am a completely rational person.
21. I sometimes tell lies if I have to.
22. I never cover up my mistakes.
24. I never swear.
29. I have received too much change from a salesperson without telling him or her.
30. I always declare everything at customs.

Words like "fully," "never," "completely," and "always" turn fuzzy questions into bivalent ones. Maybe they assume you're lying in the fuzzy section if you answer 7 to question 15.

My Results )
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
Listening to the BBC via Colorado Public Radio tonight, I heard an interview with the author of The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't.

I've known for a long time that the BBC is a dependable source of proper English, polite but persistent interviewers, quality investigative reporting, and cricket scores like "one hundred and eighty-seven not out." But I never expected to hear the word "asshole" several times in five minutes on the Beeb.

It's not one of the Carlin seven, but anybody who used the word on national TV in the U.S. would be in hot water. I credit Sutton with the cleverness of using "asshole" in the title of the book, thereby creating a context in which it can be used non-obscenely. They can't very well censor the title of the book; nobody would know what they were talking about.

I suppose it's similar to encoding illegal programs as prime numbers which can be legally discussed on the Internet.

Turn of Phrase

Sunday, January 14th, 2007 04:44 pm
flwyd: (Trevor over shoulder double face)
Homophobia makes adult Jesus cry.


Monday, January 8th, 2007 11:57 pm
flwyd: (Vigelandsparken goat stone)
The big excitement at work today was that Cedar's desk was very clean and organized, replete with desk organization devices. Eating dinner, some of us speculated on the reasons. Did he come in on the weekend to clean his desk? Did his wife make him do it? One person said "I think she might take issue with that." I responded "That wouldn't hurt very much; she wears Crocs." It was at least fifteen seconds before I realized the phrase was "take issue," not "take a shoe." But I think I like my version. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to spread the phrase

"I take a shoe with that." Complete with a menacing grab for your foot and a shake with your fist. Extra points if you wear mithril-spiked high heels.

It must be interesting to work on a project like writing MS Office for Windows XP. Not only would you find bugs in your project, you'll also find bugs in the operating system/core libraries. Unlike an end user who might blue screen once in a while, you'd encounter bugs that never get to market and have to be able to distinguish them from the bugs in Office that never get to market. And in an organization like Microsoft, you can't stick your head over the cubicle wall and find someone to fix your bug.

I wonder what percentage of the code in MS Office are workarounds for problems in other Microsoft products. I wonder what percentage are workarounds for problems which have since been fixed.

Update, day next: I meant Windows Vista, not XP, but Microsoft stopped naming their releases in sequential order so I can't keep track late at night.

Hot Language

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006 06:50 pm
flwyd: (mail.app)
"I think it's so sexy when a word circumflexes its vowels."


I think I need a sexy letter icon. Like that Thai end-of-section character. Or a snake on roller skates.

Khomut ๛

Monday, October 2nd, 2006 08:29 pm
flwyd: (fun characters)
Messing around with a character pallate today, I discovered that Thai has a character which marks the end of a chapter or document: ๛ ("khomut," entity ๛, unicode U+0E5B). It's like a signature everybody gets to use. They also have ๚ ("angkhankhu," entity ๚, unicode U+0E5A), which marks the end of long sections. Combined with ะ ("sara a," entity ะ, unicode U+0E30) it marks the end of a verse like so: ๚ะ.

Even though you can usually tell where a section or document ends with page layout, I think khomut is absolutely gorgeous, and I would like to start ending all of my posts with it. Unfortunately, my web browser rather scrunches it up, so rather than looking like an @ with a long signature it looks like a G with a corkscrew in its nose. I hope my dear readers may enjoy the artistry in a good font.

Edit: I really like the diminishing tails in this image from decodeunicode.org:

Edit: Apparently khomut should follow angkhankhu + sara a. Also, Thai doesn't space-separate words, but uses a space where Western languages would use a period or a comma.

flwyd: (black titan)
Ahoy mateys! I be here to whip you land lubbin' code monkeys into shape. As soon as we find a worthy vesel from Sea Vee Ess, we'll set out upon the C. Our goal be to plunder booty from the island of Java which is far superior to the sharp C. We'll store our booty in the Sea Quell Server in our home base. If we be getin' lost, we'll ask directions on Aye Arrr Sea. We'll cast an Object as a Net and catch some Illegal Arrrrrgument Exceptions. All production booty must be bug-free. We gotta keep down the scurvy from our customer base. If any oppose us, we'll execute ot terminate! Yar.

It be International Talk Like A Pirate Day and I expect all ye scallywags to comply or ye'll be keelhauled and sent to Davey Jones's Source Repository. Arrrrrrr!

[Aye. I be talkin' like a pirate and wearin' an aye patch, shark hat, poets' shirt, and plastic cutlas at work. I love this place.]

[In a meeting this morning, the project manager (who lives in rural Kansas) asked why I was talking like a pirate. I mentioned the holiday and she said "Oh yeah... I heard about that... in church." I guess it's mainstream now!]

[Apparently LiveJournalers are talkin' like pirates too. I'm about to click on "Update Captain's Log." Look closely at the icon for [livejournal.com profile] flwyd. And Frank's getting in the spirit.]

[This entry shall be updated throughout the day as I think of clever pie rat phrases.]
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