Tag: language

RIP Apostrophe

Grammar of the Day – Apostrophe

The Apostrophe Protection Society website was created in 2001, and it looks like it. Never mind. It’s the content that matters, not the style. Right? That’s how it used to be, anyway. In the good old days when substance mattered more than appearance. And (coincidentally?) people knew how to use apostrophes. Go to the site and have a look. It has examples of badly used apostrophes. It even has a song called Apostrophe Apostasy.

They took a light-hearted approach to the fight to save the apostrophe, but they were serious about it. John Richards, the founder of the society, was appalled at the indignities being done to it and he and his many supporters fought hard to defend it. But Richards is getting old and the problem is only getting worse. It seems he has lost hope in the prospect of success. As he said in his resignation message, uncaring ignorance and laziness seem to be prevailing.

With regret I have to announce that, after some 18 years, I have decided to close the Apostrophe Protection Society. There are two reasons for this. One is that at 96 I am cutting back on my commitments and the second is that fewer organisations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English Language. We, and our many supporters worldwide, have done our best but the ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!

The society website has a FAQ for the use of the apostrophe. Or should that be an FAQ? It also has a lot of examples of misused apostrophes.

Go visit the Apostrophe Protection Society website, if only because it might be your last chance to see it. They say they’re going to continue, but it might be hard with the departure of their founder. Also see my earlier post on the apostrophe.

rjb

How Science is Reshaping the Race Debate


I’ve written about racism before. I think I’ve made it clear that I don’t think science can justify dividing us into “races.” The similarities among us are too great, and the differences within the “races” are also too great. As I have said, if you see races, you’re racist. Here’s a link to an article that covers the subject more thoroughly, including the admission that racists are not idiots. Not all of them, anyway. They know about the science too, and they know how to bend it to support their bias.

via How Science and Genetics are Reshaping the Race Debate of the 21st Century – The Seattle Star

Over the last decade, there have been hopes that the US has become a post-racial society, free of racial prejudice and discrimination. However, the most recent months indicate the contrary: race remains an incendiary issue. Race and racism are not new issues, but in today’s 21st century Trump-era, discussions about race are distinct from those of the past in that they possess an entirely new dimension: that of genetics and DNA.

Ancestry test kits are the new “it” item—and with their success is the tacit admission of our belief that our DNA can sort us into categories like the “five races:” African, European, Asian, Oceania, and Native American.

If separate racial or ethnic groups actually existed, we would expect to find “trademark” alleles and other genetic features that are characteristic of a single group but not present in any others. However, the 2002 Stanford study found that only 7.4% of over 4000 alleles were specific to one geographical region. Furthermore, even when region-specific alleles did appear, they only occurred in about 1% of the people from that region—hardly enough to be any kind of trademark.

In the biological and social sciences, the consensus is clear: race is a social construct, not a biological attribute.

… the broader public is not convinced of this. After all, if an Asian person looks so different from a European, how could they not be from distinct groups? Even if most scientists reject the concept of “race” as a biological concept, race exists, undeniably, as a social and political concept.

Despite the scientific consensus that humanity is more alike than unlike, the long history of racism is a somber reminder that throughout human history, a mere 0.1% of variation has been sufficient justification for committing all manner of discriminations and atrocities.

Mounting scientific evidence has shown that humans are fundamentally more similar than different from each other. Nonetheless, racism has persisted. Scientific findings are often ignored, or otherwise actively misinterpreted and misused to further racist agendas of extreme political groups.

If you’re interested in a synopsis of the current state of “race” and the science around it, follow the link to the original article.

via How Science and Genetics are Reshaping the Race Debate of the 21st Century – The Seattle Star

rjb

Transliterations of Alien Texts


People ask why I use human referents in my stories about aliens. Why, for instance, did Archie take the name Archimedes when his history doesn’t include Archimedes? Shouldn’t Archie have named himself after a great mathematician from his own world? The answer is, he did, and I’ve substituted that alien name with one we recognize immediately. I have communicated why he chose the name without having to write an explanation of his history into the story. I have saved the reader a lot of reading, and myself a lot of writing, if only we agree to imagine the alien equivalent when we see a human referent.

Rather than thinking of these stories as translations of alien texts, I think of them as whole-text transliterations, where I present the human equivalent and not the raw result. So, if you will agree with me to use this shorthand, we will save ourselves both a lot of work.

rjb

What Emotion is That?

UntitledPhoto Credit: .kleine. cc-by-nc-sa.

via The Only Emotions I Can Feel are Anger and Fear – The Seattle Star

You don’t have to be a psychopath or a sociopath to have trouble feeling or identifying your emotions. You could have a recently identified condition called alexithymia, literally, “no words for emotion.” A person with alexithymia isn’t necessarily incapable of naming emotions, but they likely have a very unsubtle sense of what emotion they are feeling. They might interpret the increased heart rate of excitement as fear, for instance. It’s easy to see that such confusion about whether or what one is feeling can lead to many problems with relationships.

Despite the name, the real problem for people with alexithymia isn’t so much that they have no words for their emotions, but that they lack the emotions themselves. Still, not everyone with the condition has the same experiences. Some have gaps and distortions in the typical emotional repertoire. Some realise they’re feeling an emotion, but don’t know which, while others confuse signs of certain emotions for something else – perhaps interpreting butterflies in the stomach as hunger pangs.

In one of his first studies in this field, [Geoff Bird, a professor of psychology at the University of Oxford] linked alexithymia, as measured with a 20-item checklist developed at the University of Toronto, with a lack of empathy. If you can’t feel your own emotions in the typical way, it makes sense that you can’t identify with those of others, either.

“… for a few of our really alexithymic people, while they can tell a smile and a frown apart, they have no idea what they are. That is really quite strange.”

For Rebecca Brewer, a former student of Bird’s and now a lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London, this makes sense. “With alexithymia, people often know that they are experiencing an emotion but don’t know which emotion it is,” she explains.

Some studies indicate that the inability to detect what is going on within one’s own body has a strong correlation with the condition of alexithymia.

The ability to detect changes inside the body – everything from a racing heart to a diversion of blood flow, from a full bladder to a distension of the lungs – is known as interoception. It’s your perception of your own internal state.

In 2016, Bird and Brewer, along with Richard Cook at City University in London, published a research paper that characterised alexithymia as a “generalised deficit of interoception”.

Geoff Bird wants to look at the idea that there are two different types of alexithymia. People with one type don’t produce enough of the bodily signals necessary for the experience of an emotion, so would be unlikely to benefit from the Sussex group’s kind of training. People with the other type produce all kinds of bodily sensations but their brains don’t process these signals in the typical way.

Bird stresses that, although people with alexithymia struggle to understand emotion, that doesn’t mean they don’t care about other people. “For the most part, individuals with alexithymia can recognise that others are in a negative state, and this makes them distressed. The problem is that they can’t work out what the other person is feeling, and what they are feeling, and therefore how to make the other person feel better or how to reduce their own distress. I think that’s important because alexithymia is different from psychopathy in that respect.”

It would be a terrible thing if the only emotions you could feel were fear, anger and confusion. Getting the diagnosis of alexithymia and some techniques and exercises to deal with it could make a big difference in a person’s life, and the lives of those around them.

Read the whole article here.

rjb

Idioms

Credit Tjo3ya – CC-BY-SA

I wasn’t sure how to kick off this post, so I’ve been skirting the problem. Now I’ve decided to stop beating around the bush and take the bull by the horns. The objective is to get to the bottom of things without going over the top. I hope I don’t get run down trying to run down the rundown so I can run it up the flagpole and run it by you.

An idiom, according to my Concise Oxford Dictionary, Eighth edition 1990, is “a group of words established by usage and having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.” In other words, a phrase that doesn’t make sense in its current usage. Their examples are, “over the moon” and “see the light.” An idiom is also “a form of expression peculiar to a language, person or group of people.” So to speak in the idiom is to use forms of speech that are particular to the speaker’s in-group. Idioms are the bane of anyone trying to learn a language. Imagine trying to learn English and someone says, “Here, let me show you the ropes.” Yes, “idiom” does come from the same place as “idiot.”

I have to admit that would be a tough row to hoe. Maybe I should have left well enough alone, but the cat’s out of the bag now, so it’s a little late to close the barn door. The horses have flown the coop. Wait, is that a mixed idiom? Was I champing at the bit in my teeth, causing me to overshoot the mark? That can’t be helped, I’m afraid. Any attempt at tamping this down is a day late and a dollar short. We’ve rounded the last turn. We’re on the final stretch. There’s no turning back because we’re down to the short strokes. The die is cast and our fate has been cast to the wind. This post is done and it’s time to play the last post for it.

Catch you on the round-a-bout,

rjb

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