7-28-12 Hodgepodge

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Obama Cribs Lakoff...

... as noted by James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal. This is in addition to the President's putting William Jennings Bryan to "populist shame", as Richard Salsman explains at length elsewhere (linked under "Weekend Reading" below):

The source, as with so much in left-wing politics these days, is George Lakoff, the University of California linguist who is the Democratic left's leading light on questions of cognition and rhetoric. That passage comes from "Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: The Essential Guide for Progressives," the only book we can think of with an imperative title, an imperative subtitle and a nominative sub-subtitle.
Taranto makes a few more substantive remarks later on. (HT: Snedcat)

Weekend Reading

"A big impediment to living in the moment is what mental health professionals sometimes call 'irrational perfectionism.'" -- Michael Hurd, in "Be Successful, and Still Enjoy Life" at DrHurd.com

"If a hooded thug stole your savings or tied your arms behind your back, we'd call it a crime. It's still a crime even though it's a suit-wearing bureaucrat doing the stealing." -- Jonathan Hoenig, in "Businessmen Versus Bureaucrats" at SmartMoney

"The fear of outsourcing and international trade is economic nonsense and moral blindness. More than that: this anti-profit attitude is un-American." -- Harry Binswanger, in "Obama And Romney Are Wrong: Outsourcing Is America At Its Best" at Forbes

"[B]y omitting the fact that the good guys were armed, they risk conveying that it's somehow safer to 'tackle' an armed killer with one's bare hands." -- Paul Hsieh, in "Media Underplays Successful Defensive Gun Use " at PJMedia

"This is the age of the righteous un-deserving, as Obama amply demonstrates." -- Richard Salsman, in "President Obama Puts WilliamJennings Bryan To Populist Shame" at Forbes

My Two Cents

In the quote above, Paul Hsieh highlights an aspect of journalistic irresponsibility regarding guns I'd never thought of. He also does a fine job of showing just how badly this under-reporting actually is.

Breeding Hyphens

I guess the fashion slaves of the left who hyphenated their names twenty or thirty years ago didn't think through the absurd consequences their choice might have for any offspring down the road:
Those born at the height of the name-hyphenating craze will be the first to tell you -- having two last names can be more trouble than it's worth. There's the perennial confusion at school and at the doctor's office, and the challenge of squeezing your name onto forms.

And now that the hyphenated generation is marrying and parenting, a whole host of new tricky situations has emerged.
Mrs. Van Horn, who has a scientific career of her own, simply kept her maiden name. Our daughter simply has my last name: She can thank us later, and she has my blessing to keep it or change it as she likes.



Jim May said...

Ayn Rand said that there are only two ways for men to deal with one another -- guns, or logic. Lakoff makes it painfully clear that the goal of the Left is to render the second option utterly unworkable.

Gus Van Horn said...

There are two *basic* ways. Lakoff isn't forcing anyone to agree with him, but his brand of persuasion relies on such flawed and dishonest approaches as dropping context.

But, yes. Lakoff is an enemy of the art of noncontradictory identification and a friend of brute force.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write: "I guess the fashion slaves of the left who hyphenated their names twenty or thirty years ago didn't think through the absurd consequences their choice might have for any offspring down the road..." Give the fascionistas a couple more decades and they'll end up recapitulating Spanish naming practices, except no doubt the more feminist ones will make the system matrilineal.

I can't resist pointing you to an amusing passage from that page about naming customs in Spanish cities surrounded by Morocco (footnotes suppressed): As the provincial Surname distribution map (above) indicates, Mohamed is an often-occurring surname in the autonomous Mediterranean North African cities of Ceuta and Melilla (respectively registered 10,410 and 7,982 occurrences), due to immigration from Morocco. Hispanophone Muslims use the Spanish "Mohamed" spelling for “Muhammad”. As such, it is often a component of Arabic names for men; hence, many Ceutan and Melillan Muslims share surnames despite not sharing a common ancestry. Furthermore, Mohamed (Muhammad) is the most popular name for new-born boys, thus it is not unusual to encounter a man named Mohamed Mohamed Mohamed: the first occurrence is the name, the second occurrence is the paternal surname, and the third occurrence is the maternal surname. Not quite Major Major Major Major territory, but close.

On a slightly more serious note...well, a note of slightly more historical significance, anyway, one naming custom among Germanic peoples was the system of binomes; a person's personal name consisted of two nouns, such as the slightly famous-notorious king Ethelred. (Ethel = "noble," like German edel, raed = "advice" and the like, which word has been largely lost except in the modern words "ready," originally meaning "(well) advised," and "riddle." In fact, that's how Ethelred the Unready, or Ethelraed Unraed in Old English, got his nickname: he refused to seek the advice of his leading nobles, which was contrary to Germanic custom. Thus, his nickname was sharply ironic and disapproving in Old English: "Noble-Advice the Unadvised.") In any case, it was also customary among Germanic peoples, though I gather it's unclear how widespread this was, to choose one name from the father's binome and one form the mother's, which sometimes led to children having names meaning "war-peace" and the like.

And an amusing more contemporary note is that among Africans who've been converted by Anglican missionaries, there's a custom of taking English saints' names, no matter how antiquated in modern English. I've heard of Ghanians and Nigerians with such names as Ethelfled and Swithin. Me, I find that delightful, but that's probably a sign right there in and of itself that it's not a Good Idea, and I imagine some of their church meetings must sound like gatherings of Tolkien fanboys--"Excuse me, is this the Accra Church of Saint Alban or the Southern Ghanian Knights of Rohan?" Hee hee!

Gus Van Horn said...

The same thoughts -- about recapitulating Spanish naming practices and making them matrilinear -- have occurred to me. The rest of your post is new to me and entertaining.

As an added bonus, you have finally answered for me a minor riddle: I see "Mohamed" pop up as a name from time to time and have always been mildly curious as to where that peculiar spelling came from, as it seemed that transliteration into English alone couldn't explain it.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, while I'm happy to scoff at faddishness, not least in the lemminglike fashionable nonconformism of the age, I'm not strongly committed emotionally to the traditional naming practices being flouted. The basic question for me is, what do family name customs indicate? Not much. If you have a system of last names and your parents are A and B, then your choices are A, B, some form of A+B, or neither A nor B. Only the last offers any scope for real creativity, if that's important to you--but it's not a system of *family* names. Given that, I see no reason to care about which family name is given to a child.

And no, the form of a family naming practice is not inherently sexist or enlightened, not in and of itself. Suppose a woman keeps her family name on marriage--so do Chinese women, because traditionally they were so subordinate to their father's control that changing the name would have been obscenely nonfilial. But the same was true of men! Adoption was a very big deal in traditional Chinese law for exactly that reason.

Similarly, in classical Rome women did not take their husband's name on marriage (though the matter of family names is involved there compared to China)--for they, again just like men, were inseparably part of their father's family and always under the nominal control of the paterfamilias, etc. (Anyone curious should read about tutela in Barry Nicholas' Introduction to Roman Law.) But unlike China, Roman wives traditionally never came under the legal control of their husbands.

And that's the gist right there. Family naming practices say nothing about the legal autonomy of wives or daughters--or of husbands or sons. (And matrilineal systems are not inherently different. The Iroquoian League was matrilineal; it was also very belligerent and politically unstable into the bargain because the matriarchs in the women's council would undercut treaties negotiated by the men by urging their warrior sons to not forget old wrongs and keep up feuds and wars that had been negotiated to settlement. Among the British agents who dealt with them was Benjamin Franklin, who came away with generally high respect for their political system; his experience shaped some of the debate over the political system of the new Republic. But it was not a lack of feminism that ensured no women's council would be included in the Constitution, never mind the occasional feminist sneer, but a simple refusal to even consider a forum for family interestrs and feuds to destabilize the state.)

So yeah: shadow-box against the evil patriarch, or work for real social and legal equality of women? I know *my* choice, and it ain't thumbing my nose at long-dead ancestors. And more than that, once you have truly equal marriages, what does it matter which of your many many grandparents or their parents for however many generations back you're named for? Perhaps you have good reasons from your personal history to choose that way--good for you! Have at it. Otherwise, big deal--don't mistake form for content.

Gus Van Horn said...

"[D]don't mistake form for content."

Indeed, but it's amusing to know that for those who do, there is somebody, somewhere, who will offend!

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, meant to get to this earlier: "As an added bonus, you have finally answered for me a minor riddle: I see "Mohamed" pop up as a name from time to time and have always been mildly curious as to where that peculiar spelling came from, as it seemed that transliteration into English alone couldn't explain it."

Actually, it's a pretty good pronunciation spelling. Classical Arabic and most modern dialects only had three short vowels, i, a, and u, and as a result (indirectly) the pronunciation of the vowels varied widely depending on the neighboring sounds. Short a in particular was often pronounced close to the a in English cat, or even the e in bed, but not in the neighborhood of sounds like the h in Muhammad (which is transcribed in those works needing precise transcriptions as an h with an underdot); it's a well-nigh indescribable sound that has the effect of pulling the tongue root back into the throat, which in turn makes neighboring vowels get pronounced with the tongue lower and backer in the mouth. And so short u next to it ends up sounding like o (or halfway between o and u) and short a as the a in all.

Gus Van Horn said...

With your discussion of Arabic pronunciation, you remind me of a comment one of our babysitters made recently. She's taking a course in Arabic and told me that my daughter's babbling includes sounds that occur in Arabic, but that she now has trouble making after a lifetime of speaking English.