English as she is spoke

by Kieran Healy on January 22, 2005

“Josh Chafetz”:http://oxblog.blogspot.com/2005_01_16_oxblog_archive.html#110641393348933333 says:

bq. NEW HAVEN IS FORECAST for 10-15 inches of snow tonight.

Is this a colloquial construction I’m unfamiliar with, or just backwards?

Isn’t there an ‘s’ missing somewhere?

by Henry Farrell on January 22, 2005

Spotted in “Whole Foods” while shopping this afternoon.


Pharyngula on Larry Summers

by Kieran Healy on January 22, 2005

“P.Z. Myers”:http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/sexist_calvinism/ saves me a great deal of trouble by writing the post I had in mind about Larry Summers’ under-informed views about the gender division of labor. I’m particularly glad he takes the time to deal with Steven Pinker’s “much quoted”:http://www.thecrimson.com/today/article505366.html line that “Perhaps the hypothesis is wrong, but how would we ever find out whether it is wrong if it is “offensive” even to consider it? People who storm out of a meeting at the mention of a hypothesis, or declare it taboo or offensive without providing arguments or evidence, don’t get the concept of a university or free inquiry.” As Myers says, “If people started walking out on presentations of fact-free, unsupported hypotheses, Pinker wouldn’t have a career.”

In the spirit of adding a bit of empirical data to the discussion, have a read of Erin Leahey and Guang Go’s paper “Gender Differences in Mathematical Trajectories” which reviews a lot of evidence about the gender gap in math and analyzes some big data sets to find that it’s not nearly as large as you might think. (Erin is a colleague of mine at Arizona, by the way.) And to echo one of Myers’ points, the relationship between the distribution of measurable properties like math scores and the “phenomenology of attainment within the social structure”:http://arjournals.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev.so.21.080195.000555 is (a) a very difficult question, and (b) something you might want to read up on, if you’re inclined to throw hypotheses around innate differences between women and men.

Cupla Focal

by Henry Farrell on January 22, 2005

I saw Clint Eastwood’s _Million Dollar Baby_ last night – an extraordinary, savage little film – but there was one element that left me puzzled. When I read the Washington Post’s “review”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A55030-2005Jan6.html of the film a couple of weeks ago, I’d been amused by the reviewer’s description of Eastwood’s character, Frankie, as someone with ‘hidden depths,’ who “reads Yeats in Gaelic.” I’d assumed that this was a mistake made by the reviewer – Yeats didn’t write in the Irish language, and if my memory is correct, his ability even to read in the language was scanty to non-existent (unlike his friend, Lady Gregory, whose translations of Irish myths Yeats relied upon). But the reviewer was correct – the film does depict Frankie as reading what seems to be an Irish language book of poetry, including Yeat’s “The Lake-Isle of Innisfree.” The film leaves the viewer with the very strong impression that the Irish language version of the poem is the original – Frankie starts reading it in Irish, and then gives the English language version for the benefit of his non Irish speaking audience. I’d put this down to traditional Hollywood ignorance except that Eastwood is a careful film maker, and the meaning of another Irish phrase is at the heart of the film. So what’s going on? A little bit of dramatic license (the most probable explanation – but a bit disappointing)? Or is Frankie a little bit of a fraud (certainly when he reads the Irish language aloud, it’s almost unrecognizable – he doesn’t know how to pronounce it at all)? Or is there something else going on entirely?

Update: some spoilers in the comments thread below.

How To Ascribe Super-Powers To Words

by Belle Waring on January 22, 2005

I know it’s considered poor sport to shoot fish in a barrel, but what on earth is David Brooks talking about?

With that speech [i.e., the inaugural offering], President Bush’s foreign policy doctrine transcended the war on terror. He laid down a standard against which everything he and his successors do will be judged.

When he goes to China, he will not be able to ignore the political prisoners there, because he called them the future leaders of their free nation. When he meets with dictators around the world, as in this flawed world he must, he will not be able to have warm relations with them, because he said no relations with tyrants can be successful.

His words will be thrown back at him and at future presidents. American diplomats have been sent a strong message. Political reform will always be on the table. Liberation and democratization will be the ghost present at every international meeting. Vladimir Putin will never again be the possessor of that fine soul; he will be the menace to democracy and rule of law.

Because of that speech, it will be harder for the U.S. government to do what we did to Latin Americans for so many decades – support strongmen to rule over them because they happened to be our strongmen. It will be harder to frustrate the dreams of a captive people, the way in the early 1990’s we tried to frustrate the independence dreams of Ukraine.

It will be harder for future diplomats to sit on couches flattering dictators, the way we used to flatter Hafez al-Assad of Syria decade after decade. From now on, the borders established by any peace process will be less important than the character of the regimes in that process.

I mean, I love Austin as much as the next girl (well, OK, a lot more than the next girl), but it has always been my distinct impression that the scope of things you can do with words has been, hmm, let’s say, overstated by his would-be popularizers. Naming ships? Hell yeah. Transforming U.S. foriegn policy by shaking democracy-supporting fairy dust on everything? Not so much. Or maybe we’re on a 40’s crooner tip, with the classic “Wishing Will Make It So“? Seriously, though, does Bobo believe this, or what?
Note to outraged defenders of liberty: I think it would be great if the U.S. stopped coddling dictators in the name of stability or anti-terrorist bona fides, but that’s because I’m a silly, utopian leftist. What’s your excuse?

UPDATE: from the Washington Post, “Bush Speech Not a Sign of Policy Shift, Officials Say; Address Said to Clarify ‘The Values We Cherish'” Right.

Copenhagen review

by John Q on January 22, 2005

Friday’s Australian Financial ReView section (subscription only) runs my review of Bjorn Lomborg’s new book. CT readers won’t be surprised to find a lot of criticisms of the Copenhagen Consensus project that produced the book. But I found a fair bit to praise as well. The review, pretty lengthy, is over the fold. Comments appreciated.

[click to continue…]