A PS to the previous post:
We judge people by the way they speak, by which I mean we apply to them the generalizations we have gleaned from past associations with people who speak that way. I caution against being too hasty with these snap judgments. There are very good reasons why a non-stupid person would not be able to keep the homonyms straight. Maybe the writer is a bright, well-educated foreigner who is still learning English. Maybe there’s some kind of language disorder in an otherwise intelligent person. You can think of others – and you should, in order to avoid pre-judging people.
My sweet wife is peeved. She wrote a Facebook post and started a thread. Apparently others are peeved too. As a linguist, I don’t get peeved. Well, sometimes I do. But I try to observe and learn.
One thing I understand about New Hampshire, after eight years here, is that the state’s bold and famous motto, “live free or die,” refers mainly to the second half of the 2nd Amendment.
A few years ago, its (not my) Legislature was considering laws that will make concealed-carry easier and (this one really make me roll my eyes) allow guns at sporting events and other places where alcohol is available.
They recently passed a new concealed-carry law: now you don’t have to have a license with you.
“People tell us they don’t like stories that are misleading, sensational, or spammy. That includes clickbait headlines that are designed to get attention and lure visitors into clicking on a link.”
So Facebook has declared war on clickbait. The post defines three categories.
“Spammy” I can understand. But we already have protection built into our email services — and, hopefully, our minds.
I confidently predict that sometime in the next year, a public figure (or even someone you know) will be accused of plagiarism. When that happens, read this first:
What plagiarism is — and is not
A brief definition: plagiarism is knowingly appropriating another’s original words and/or ideas and presenting them as one’s own.
As a student, scholar, and professional writer, I have long been familiar with the standards governing academic honesty and plagiarism. I applied these to many academic publications, including my master’s and doctoral theses. I dealt with student plagiarism at various times in my professorial career (1967-1980), and later, as a speechwriter and corporate communicator, I applied these standards to ensure that the content of my work products, including professional articles, was either original or properly attributed.
Part II — The Power of Push
From long years of observation, I’ve concluded that most people are not aware of the persuasive power of push-words – or of how blithely and frequently we call upon them. Most people believe that that their (portrayals of the) facts are THE facts.
But serious observers of the language know that when it comes to the matchup of words with reality, there’s very little in the external world, other than the totally mundane, that we can agree on. And many people experience a subjective reality – e.g., religion — that is completely inaccessible to others.
How much would you pay for the most persuasive words in the language? And what do you think they would be? Are there really words that can get people to do anything you want?
Reality check: there are no magic words, and we cannot always get people to do what we want with words alone (though some persuaders are much more successful than others). But there are words that make it more likely.
At an early age, we are taught social forms – please, thank you – that lubricate the mechanisms of getting things done. But the persuasive words I’m about to show you go way beyond politeness. They subtly influence the way the audience sees reality.
I just finished “The Kingdom of Speech,” by Tom Wolfe (2016, Little, Brown), author of “The Right Stuff” (about the first astronauts), “Bonfire of the Vanities” (a shot at NY’s elites), “A Man in Full,” (about the vulgar wealth of the New South), and many others I enjoyed immensely. Apart from his stylistic peculiarities, Wolfe brings the informed layman’s perspective, which he fills in with rich detail and tells you things you weren’t aware you didn’t know, e.g., in “Right Stuff,” that ”burned beyond recognition” is often a sanitized way of saying “barbecued into a human turkey,” which Wolfe describes in detail.
Turnitin.com: Mindless Machine Requires Human Brain
“We cannot get grace from gadgets.”
The website of turnitin.com cheerily proclaims that “Turnitin helps educators evaluate student work and provide great feedback to improve student learning. The cloud-based service is available at an annual subscription for schools, colleges, and universities.”
Like all tools, this one can be turned to malevolent use. I am a practitioner of forensic linguistics (www.language-expert.net ) and every year I get more plagiarism cases. The accused include high school and college students and even law professors, and more often than not, turnitin is the weapon of choice.
Perhaps 25% of the cases I handle involve the authorship of anonymous, disputed, or forged documents. The client wants to know who’s writing those nasty, threatening emails or letters. I typically ask the client for writing samples from the suspected author. Sometimes there’s more than one suspect, and I have to decide which of them may be the author of the anonymous document(s).
I don’t use computers or statistics (what do they give you but numbers and probabilities, which still require interpretation?). I analyze the text in the traditional manner, which involves the tools and techniques of the discipline known as “stylistics.”
All of a sudden, Plagiarism Rand Paul gets over 40 MILLION Google hits. But the charge is somewhat bogus.
Plagiarism, in my experience, is one of those charges that is meant to question someone’s basic integrity. Whether true or not (and it’s hard to decide; see below), the mere accusation brings stigma. I have more than once been consulted about a plagiarism charge, groundless upon investigation but meant to be part of a general moral attack. Let’s throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.
By Alan M. Perlman.
A geek site, as an April Fools prank, launches a new product — unicorn meat – which it calls “the new white meat,” and lawyers for the National Pork Board issue a cease-and-desist order, because they’ve gone to great lengths to copyright “the other white meat” as a synonym for “pork,” and the new product might cause consumer confusion (or “trademark dilution,” as they sometimes call it).
By Alan M. Perlman.
When does a lawyer need a linguist? As Roger Shuy, one of the most pre-eminent forensic linguists, has observed, the interpretation and application of the law are overwhelmingly about language. Thus, there are many situations in which the expertise of a linguist – someone trained in the precise description and analysis of language (but not necessarily a person who knows many languages) – can make substantial contributions to a case, providing evidence one way or the other or simply clarifying the linguistic principles, problems, and processes that the case involves.
June 13, 2004, Sunday
A LINGUAL PARADIGM SHIFT
By Amy Joyce
Susannah Rast got a letter from her employer at the beginning of the year that said the company was “implementing a reduction in force to your position.”Not only did her boss not say she was being let go, but it was additionally laughable because this “reduction in force” was in an office of just 12 people. And she was the only one let go.
If we can set aside, just for a moment, our passions about “The Passion,” we can view it as a movie with some really good linguistic special effects.
Below is the full text version of an article entitled “The Jesuit scholar who translated ‘The Passion'” (by Nathan Bierma, Special to the Tribune. Chicago Tribune, Mar 4, 2004). The footnote numbers refer to my comments at the end.
Obscured by the furor surrounding Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” is one relatively mundane bit of trivia: Last week’s debut marked the widest release ever of a subtitled film in North America.