Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I just read Language Log's posting about Illinois's Governor Blagojevich (sometimes I wish people who don't live in Illinois would leave us alone, but that's another story), and I was very impressed at the linguistic analysis Roger Shuy wrote of the tapes that the prosecutor has against the governor. At first I wondered why Language Log was posting about a political issue, but then they brought up excellent points about how to analyze those tapes.

While I am not fan of Blagojevich, believe me, I am a fan of being considered innocent until one is found guilty. Americans seem to have forgotten that, ever since the OJ Simpson trial. When you read Roger Shuy's post there, you see that there are many linguistic nuances in those tapes. For instance, he writes: "Are feedback markers, like 'uh-huh' and 'okay' treated as agreements rather than as indicators that the speaker is simply uttering noises that tell the speaker to keep talking?"

Blago's lawyer should hire a linguist.


I write limericks and enjoy doing so. I also love reading them. This is one of my favorites:

To his bride said the lynx-eyed detective,
"Could it be that my eyesight's defective?
Has your east tit the least bit
The best of the west tit?
Or is it a trick of perspective?"

My husband introduced me to that one, and many others, after we met. Before that, I hadn't enjoyed limericks and because of that didn't learn anything about them. Would you learn about baseball if you didn't like it? Same thing.

So does it mean someone's not that bright because he or she doesn't know which lines of a limerick rhyme? Or how many lines it has? I think not.

Yet some on Wordcraft (and probably everyone on OEDILF) think so. If you're not into something, does that make you "not that bright?"

BTW, as to the limerick above; here is a copy of it (poorly done!) that I found on the Internet:

To his girl, said the sharp-eyed detective,
"It may be that my eyesight's defective.
Has your east tit the least bit the best of your west tit?
Or is it the fault of perspective?"

Now this guy may really not be that bright because, judging from his Web site, he is into limericks.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Humor Can Be Elusive

In yesterday's post, I referred to someone whom I consider quite humorless at times. At other times, however, I've seen some humor come from his pen, such as in a lighthearted limerick. It raises the question as to what makes something funny to some people and not to others? I think a lot of variables must be involved.

For instance, I have always loved Joel Stein's columns in the LA Times. He makes me laugh hysterically. Today's column made me think though. I started reading it, not knowing whose column it was. It started out with "I have never been so upset by a poll in my life. Only 22 percent of Americans believe 'the movie and television industries are pretty much run by Jews,' down from nearly 50 percent in 1964. The Anti-Defamation League, which released the poll results last month, sees in these numbers a victory against stereotyping. Actually, it just shows how dumb America has gotten. Jews totally run Hollywood."

As a Jew myself, a few little red flags were raised, but I read on.

He went on to enumerate all the Jews in Hollywood. He was right; most were Jewish. He made me smile with, though I was finding this column perilously close to being anti-Semitic with comments like, "The person they were yelling at in that ad was Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg (take a guess). "

He makes his case quite convincing: "The Jews are so dominant, I had to scour the trades to come up with six Gentiles in high positions at entertainment companies. When I called them to talk about their incredible advancement, five refused to talk to me, apparently out of fear of insulting Jews. The sixth, AMC President Charlie Collier, turned out to be Jewish." Now I was getting absolutely nervous about this column so I checked to see who wrote it.

Ahhh...it was Joel Stein! Of course! suddenly I found column hysterical and no longer even close to being anti-Semitic. Joel Stein is Jewish so everything was okay. Had the author been a gentile, I am not so sure how I would have taken it.

Humor is indeed elusive. Who can explain it?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

To Insult

I realize that a sense of humor is individual. However, read this Wordcraft thread and decide whether you think that last post is an insult. I do, but then I am prejudiced. I am also a bit too sensitive for my own good.

So, I looked up the word insult. Of course, I already know what it means, but I find reading definitions of common words to be quite enlightening. Sometimes there are nuances about words that I hadn't known or at least hadn't remembered.

The AHD says that insult means "To treat with gross insensitivity, insolence, or contemptuous rudeness. See synonyms at offend. b. To affront or demean: an absurd speech that insulted the intelligence of the audience."

Well, perhaps that last post didn't go so far as to be contemptuous. Yet, it surely shows "gross insensitivity." When 2 others find something funny, you don't post that you find a "pointless discussion about pointless things boring" or that "I found nothing at all to smile about." What is the point in writing that? Okay, perhaps that's the way the poster felt, but why write it for public consumption? What on earth could be gained, except that he feels a bit "superior" when doing so.

Was he just "grossly insensitive?" Or did he know exactly what he was doing?

There must be a word for how I am feeling right now, but I can't come up with it. I am angry, hurt, and feeling like I want to get back at that old meany!

Thankfully, tomorrow is another day. This too shall pass...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sitting next to strangers...

I was reading one of my favorite Blogs, where Jim was talking about sitting next to strangers in a movie theatre, talking of linguistics. My first thought was, "I am glad he wasn't sitting next to me!" Quotative go? and Historic present? However, I then thought about my husband. He does the same thing.

No wonder my husband is so smart. Partly it's his genes, but it is also because of his curiosity. I have never seen anyone who found so many details to ask about! God help the person with an accent. Today it was a gentleman from West Africa. But there have been many others. His pretext is, "I am trying to train my ear so that I can identify accents." Yet, I think, quite understandably, he really wants to talk with someone from another country. Many times asking about an accent will lead to an evening of converation. Once, he met someone from Italy at a bookstore and invited him home to dinner.

Today we had one beer at the Bar on Buena, and the poor bartender, I think, was happy to see us leave! Question after question after question about the beers.

Before the bar, we were at the Museum of Science of Industry today, and I wonder how many people he either asked questions of or tried to teach about things. The tour guide on the U-505 Submarine (what an amazing exhibit!) got so many questions from my lovable husband that she wasn't able to answer most of them. But where he really shone was at the baby chick hatchery, explaining things to the kids. And then there was the Holiday Lights exhibit; the Lithuanian Christmas Tree had all white decorations on it, making it quite unusual. Therefore, my ever-sociable husband let everyone in that exhibit area know how wonderful that tree was!

And it goes on. He learns and learns and learns from others, and he shares much information himself. We had friends visit once who kidded that my hubs was their tour guide. Oh how he likes to show off Chicago, teach about its history (no, it wasn't Mrs. O'Leary's cow!), tell about why the front porches are all raised in the city, and take them through some of our beautiful buildings, sharing his stories.

It's not I. But it's a great way to be. I wish I were more like that.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Evidence-Based Practice

While this isn't a word post, nor an epicaricacy post, it is a follow-up from my last post of user generated content, to a point. That presentation obviously affected me, and I began to think that my presentations may be a bit too boring. While I usually get good reviews, I do see a few people nodding off here and there when I present. Perhaps a little quality improvement is in order!

Therefore, in my next presentation on a literature review and evidence-based practice, I am going to start with this video that I think is entertaining and yet informational as to why we must base our practice on evidence. I'll report back after the presentation!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Educators Internet Knowledge

I have been at a conference all week where the subject is nursing education for the future. I have been shocked at some of the presentations. The speakers (experts in informatics or electronic technology) assume that nursing faculty don't know what Blogs are or what Wikis are or what facebook is or what an avatar is or what LinkedIn is, etc. In a sense, the speakers have been making fun of faculty and saying how ahead of us the students are. While I realize that students have grown up with technology, give me a break! I don't think I'm that odd, and here I am posting on my Blog. I don't do much with my limerick Wiki these days (it wasn't a great use of a Wiki), but I use several very successful Wikis at work. I have my own avatar on Wordcraft, a pda which I use extensively, and my husband and I host a forum that has a dictionary in Onelook. I am sure other faculty do the same. How do these "informatics" speakers get away with being so critical of faculty?

Having said that, I did learn about some new electronic techniques in education, and it looks like education in the future will change in nursing. For example, we will be using "user generated" content that is collaboratively designed; here are some examples. The video the speaker showed on the history of medicine was good, though I do wonder how students learn when fact after fact is thrown at them as happened in that video. It also seemed a little sophomoric to me. While I do think there is "death by powerpoint" now, I don't think those collaborative videos are perfect either.