Comments puzzle

As the spam comments on this blog rapidly approach the one million mark (since 2008), I’ve been coping with a variety of puzzles, comments that I have to moderate by hand. Most of these are quick decisions — they come from people I know, or at least recognize, though in one case the writer mistyped his own e-address, so I had to do some checking; or they have the stigmata of spam: links to dubious urls, dramatically non-native English, empty praise of my postings, queries designed to get me to reply, or at least link to their websites (for whatever dubious purpose). I’ve been very cautious, since I’m now getting a rising tide of spam e-mail as well as spam comments. But some cases are tricky.

Case in point: this blog comment, with no obviously commercial link, literate and specific to the content of my postings (referring specifically to “In the midst of death we are in life” of 6/4/13), but from a complete stranger, praising my writing and asking a question:

I’ve just discovered your blog today. After reading some of it I immediately wanted to know more about you. And, delightfully, you are gay like me. I found these entries about your life and came to this one. I’m sorry for your loss. I’d like to know more about you. You seem to be the gay man with the finestly tuned language ear and most brilliant word historian/language lover I’ve ever seen on the net. Point me towards what you find as your most brilliant piece of writing and let me start reading you there. I’d like to know what you think is the best you’ve done.

If this is spam, it’s very clever. If not, it presents a daunting task: I’ve written an enormous amount, including a huge number of things archived on my website, many thousands of postings to Language Log and this blog and AZBlogX, plus even more postings on ADS-L, the newsgroup soc.motss, and other newsgroups. I can say which things I’m proudest of, but that doesn’t mean they’ll speak to a random reader I know nothing about except that he’s a gay man; that would be a matter of fitting text and audience.

But maybe the message is just very good spam.Any intuitions from my readers?


6 Responses to “Comments puzzle”

  1. John Baker Says:

    I don’t really think it can be spam. It’s too narrowly focused; how many gay word historians/language lovers are there? The reference to your loss (presumably the loss of your partner) also suggests reference specifically to you, although admittedly “loss” is so open-ended that it could refer to many people.

  2. Chris Ambidge Says:

    I would bet half a dozen doughnuts that’s not spam.

  3. Robert Coren Says:

    I don’t think it’s spam, but it’s kind of weird. Unless you’re actually interested in finding out more about this person, I wouldn’t bother to reply.

  4. thnidu Says:

    Seconding Robert.

  5. Walt Says:

    I am inclined to agree — not “pure” spam, but a form of fishing (w/o the ph) for a response.

  6. arnold zwicky Says:

    The weight of opinion is that it’s not spam, but is a probe for engaging in discussion, which I might not be willing to do. So I’m offering the commenter a link to this summary of my (long-ago) postings on the gay baths.

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