black, Black, etc.

November 22, 2014

From an op-ed column in the NYT on the 19th, “The Case for Black With a Capital B” by Lori L. Tharps:

this is one of my greatest frustrations as a writer and a Black woman living in the United States. When speaking of a culture, ethnicity or group of people, the name should be capitalized. Black with a capital B refers to people of the African diaspora. Lowercase black is simply a color.

Linguists, academics and activists have been making this point for years, yet the publishing industry — our major newspapers, magazines and books — resist making this simple yet fundamental change. Both Oxford and Webster’s dictionaries state that when referring to African-Americans, Black can be and often is capitalized, but the New York Times and Associated Press stylebooks continue to insist on black with a lowercase b. Ironically, The Associated Press also decrees that the proper names of “nationalities, peoples, races, tribes” should be capitalized. What are Black people, then?

I’m not going to object to this orthographic proposal, but I am going to argue that (though it’s innocuous) it’s not especially useful and is seriously confused on the nature of the categories at issue.

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On to St. Nicholas and Xmas

November 22, 2014

On Facebook, from My Shelf Books & Gifts in Wellsboro PA, this 1900s greeting card featuring Krampus, the evil twin of Santa Claus:

Naughty, naughty children!

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Triumphalist bad taste

November 22, 2014

(not a lot of linguistic interest, but some ick factor)

Severed heads are, regrettably, much in the news these days. In an only too topical piece by Dan Chiasson, “Heads Will Roll: The story of a morbid curiosity” (Harper’s Magazine, Dec. 2014, p. 93-6), a review of Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Found, by Frances Larson:

Power inevitably enters the discourse around heads, and especially the heads of tyrants. For centuries, one of the most prized collectibles on the market was the head of Oliver Cromwell, which had a metal spike driven up its neck and out the top of its skull. Cromwell had been buried in state, but his body was exhumed after the Restoration, subjected to posthumous execution, and decapitated. His head was displayed atop Westminster Hall for more than twenty years, until a storm brought it down.

Westminster Hall is the meeting place of the two houses of Parliament — that is, the center of government, here firmly identified as the province of the Anglican Church.

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housedress

November 22, 2014

Posted on Facebook recently by Susan Fischer, this photo of her ca. age 3, in her blonde phase, with her mother. Her mother in a 1950s-era housedress, something you don’t see a lot of these days.

(#1)

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Musical mishearing

November 22, 2014

(briefly noted)

On the fairy tale beat. Heard on WQXR last night, Humperdinck’s Sleeping Beauty Suite (Dornröschen, 1902). Except that what I heard as the title was Sweeping Beauty Suite — suitable for Cinderella (Aschenputtel) but not Sleeping Beauty.

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Lives well lived

November 21, 2014

I am currently dithering over writing a death notice for my Stanford colleague Patrick Suppes (philosopher and more), who died recently after a long and immensely satisfying career. Mostly I’m hoping that Margalit Fox will produce one of her elegant and thoughtful obits for the New York Times, so that I can piggy-back on that. [Added a few hours later: Drat! Fox tells me she's on leave from the paper, working on her next book, so no Foxobits for a while.]

While I dither, a few notes on recently-ended lives well lived (Mike Nichols, Milton Rubin, and San Francisco’s Brown twins), and on Fox, who is, yes, a card-carrying linguist.

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Muzio Clementi

November 20, 2014

(Music rather than linguistics.)

Caught in the middle of the night on WQXR (classical music radio in NYC), a vaguely familiar piece of piano music, followed by the comment that it was by Muzio Clementi, with the observation that if it sounded like Mozart or Haydn, that was because Clementi was a contemporary of theirs. Well, more than that, and a favorite of mine.

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States I’ve visited

November 20, 2014

These maps seem to be all the rage at the moment. Here’s mine:

It’s the result of giving talks and going to linguistics conferences all over the place, plus all that commuting (by car, via various routes) between Columbus OH and Palo Alto CA.

I don’t count stops at airports; they would fill in some of the obvious gaps, and add Hawaii, but even that wouldn’t fix Mississippi and Alabama.

Taking offense: three stories

November 19, 2014

Three stories (two of them recent) about taking offense: on spear phishing; Illegal Pete’s; and frape. First, some background on taking offense.

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Leslie Feinberg, verbing, and pronouns

November 19, 2014

From The Advocate website on the 17th, this death notice:

Transgender Pioneer and Stone Butch Blues [1993] Author Leslie Feinberg Has Died

She was a pioneer in trans and lesbian issues, workers rights, and intersectionality long before anyone could define the phrase. Her partner [of 22 years], Minnie Bruce Pratt, and [her] family [of choice] offered us this obituary:

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