Staying on topic; correcting

Two comics in yesterday’s feed: an old Calvin and Hobbes (about staying on topic) and a recent One Big Happy (with Ruthie once again correcting a kid’s English — for his own good, of course):



Changing the subject. That is, changing the topic of the conversation. In ordinary conversations, the topic is always prone to change, with topics chaining onto one another in unpredictable ways — though earlier topics might be revived and even brought to some kind of conclusion. But, as I noted in an 8/1/16 posting, ordinary conversation is literally aimless and also collaborative, characteristics that sets it off from various other discourse forms, including the interview and the monologue — and the debate (a form of which Calvin proposes to set in motion just as he and Hobbes set their sled ride in motion) and the running commentary (a form of which Hobbes provides as they careen down the slope). They are both embarked on specific discourse forms, neither of which is ordinary conversation. And they are working at cross purposes.

Correction — to make you a better person. We’ve been here before. In #2 on 5/28/14, we saw Ruthie berating James over many of the same points. As I write there:

James is firmly fixed on an issue of fact, namely the lack of crayons, and simply dismisses Ruthie’s bone-headedly dinging at him about words. James has a firm sense about what’s important here. But Ruthie has been indoctrinated into the ways of school, so she can’t keep from trying to “fix” James, even when they’re talking in an informal context.

This time we get James protesting, “Why ya gotta do that, Ruthie?” —  namely, “Be correctin’ me all the time”. Note the dense cluster of casual speech features in these two quotes.

James is right to protest. What on earth is a small child doing browbeating an even smaller child about his Englush usage? Part of the answer is that Ruthie is deeply bossy; she’s a spiritual descendant of Lucy in the Peanuts strip. The other part of the answer is that she gets it from her father, who’s forever correcting Ruthie’s brother Joe in just this way: see my 11/7/16 posting for one example, and see above for another.

And so parents can pass their smirking self-satisfied peeving from one generation to the next.


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