Language

Jessica Roy Enriches the Language


The new term is manslamming:
there’s a helpful new word in the man-as-prefix lexicon. Meet “manslamming,” which New York magazine’s Jessica Roy uses to describe the behavior that is, on a sidewalk, refusing to yield to a fellow pedestrian such that a collision inevitably ensues. More broadly, Roy says, it’s “the sidewalk M.O. of men who remain apparently oblivious to the personal space of those around them.” It is (usually) done by men, (usually) at the expense of women. It is (usually) done unconsciously.
Awful behavior. I instinctively give way and get out of the way when I'm in public. I abhor the possibility of causing injury to someone else. That's more Minnesota Nice than it is anything else. Maybe I picked it up in the Army, which is where you have to get along with people or find yourself in peril. Who knows?

The Economist Reviews The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism.


How slaves built American capitalism


Patsey was certainly a valuable property
The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism.
By Edward Baptist.
“FOR sale: a coloured girl, of very superior qualifications…a bright mulatto, fine figure, straight, black hair, and very black eyes; very neat and cleanly in her dress and person.” Such accounts of people being marketed like livestock punctuate Edward Baptist’s grim history of the business of slavery.
Although the import of African slaves into the United States was stopped in 1807, the country’s internal slave trade continued to prosper and expand for a long time afterwards. Right up until the outbreak of the civil war in 1861, the American-born children and grandchildren of enslaved Africans were bought cheap in Virginia and Maryland to be sold dear in private deals and public auctions to cotton planters in the deep South.
Tall men commanded higher prices than short ones. Women went for less than men. The best bids were for men aged 18 to 25 and for women aged 15 to 22. One slave recalled buyers passing up and down the lines at a Virginia slave auction, asking, “What can you do? Are you a good cook? Seamstress? Dairy maid?” and to the men, “Can you plough? Are you a blacksmith?” Slaves who gave surly answers risked a whipping from their masters.
Raw cotton was America’s most valuable export. It was grown and picked by black slaves. So Mr Baptist, an historian at Cornell University, is not being especially contentious when he says that America owed much of its early growth to the foreign exchange, cheaper raw materials and expanding markets provided by a slave-produced commodity. But he overstates his case when he dismisses “the traditional explanations” for America’s success: its individualistic culture, Puritanism, the lure of open land and high wages, Yankee ingenuity and government policies.
Take, for example, the astonishing increases he cites in both cotton productivity and cotton production. In 1860 a typical slave picked at least three times as much cotton a day as in 1800. In the 1850s cotton production in the southern states doubled to 4m bales and satisfied two-thirds of world consumption. By 1860 the four wealthiest states in the United States, ranked in terms of wealth per white person, were all southern: South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia.
Mr Baptist cites the testimony of a few slaves to support his view that these rises in productivity were achieved by pickers being driven to work ever harder by a system of “calibrated pain”. The complication here was noted by Hugh Thomas in 1997 in his definitive history, “The Slave Trade”; an historian cannot know whether these few spokesmen adequately speak for all.
Another unexamined factor may also have contributed to rises in productivity. Slaves were valuable property, and much harder and, thanks to the decline in supply from Africa, costlier to replace than, say, the Irish peasants that the iron-masters imported into south Wales in the 19th century. Slave owners surely had a vested interest in keeping their “hands” ever fitter and stronger to pick more cotton. Some of the rise in productivity could have come from better treatment. Unlike Mr Thomas, Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.

Anthony Cumia Wanted to Get Fired


This really doesn't change anything because Anthony Cumia (and Opie & Anthony as a whole) thrives on the notoriety and shock of being fired from their gigs.  Someone somewhere is dying to hire him and pay him more money than he was making because people want to hear what he does. Apparently, the Sirius XM gig wasn't working out. Something else will.

On satellite radio, they're allowed to say whatever they want and that's okay. The culture has accepted what they do and they have been given a platform to do it. There's money in it, so someone is always going to give Cumia a job.

When the audience for this kind of thing dries up, then we'll have a news story.

Don't You Know Who I Am?


The sad decline of Alec Baldwin continues unabated:
Actor Alec Baldwin was arrested Tuesday and issued two summonses -- one for disorderly conduct -- after riding a bicycle the wrong way on a New York street, police said.
The "30 Rock" star allegedly became angry and started yelling at cops after they asked him for identification to give him a summons, police said.
Baldwin was not carrying identification and police took him into custody, a law enforcement official said.
The actor reportedly became angry at the officers, yelling "Give me the summons already," a law enforcement official said.
Baldwin was taken to a nearby precinct, where he reportedly asked the desk supervisor: "How old are these officers, that they don't know who I am?" according to a law enforcement official.
The last thing anyone should ask a police officer is if they know who you are. That's the loaded question of the age. In all of the English language, there's nothing sadder than trying to exchange accountability for being a celebrity.

If you're an adult male, and if you're riding your bike in the wrong place and going the wrong way in a large urban area, shut the hell up and do what the cops tell you to do. This is not abuse of power--this is traffic and safety enforcement. Big difference.

Mr. Baldwin needs to move to Malibu. There, the cops won't immediately beat him senseless when he asks them if they "know who he is." They'll politely assess his value to the film community, whether or not he's had a recently large grossing film, and then they will call an agent or a publicist and behave accordingly. He's not Mel Gibson, so he should be fine out there.

The Anglicization of German


While this may sound like a naughty post, it really isn't about cussing. It's about how the language evolves all around us, but in a way that is barely noticeable.

The German language already has a version of shitstorm that is somewhat similar--scheissesturm would be the loose approximation or translation, and that doesn't sound much different than the English version. It's probably easier to adopt an English word than invent a new German phrase at this point, however.If you didn't grow up with this term--and I truly believe that the expletives you learn as a child are the ones you're going to adopt as an adult--you're not going to use it.

"Shitstorm" is a word I remember hearing on an old Midnight Oil record from the late 1970s or early 1980s. I remember the term was used in exactly the same way as it was in German, as in, 'there's a shitstorm coming,' and so I wonder how much use it receives in Australia.

How it spread, gradually, is through usage and utility. Someone had to have adopted it as a favorite saying or description and then the power of how they used it must have influenced someone else.

The Core Words of Every Language


Well, this is a must-read, and it delves into areas fundamental to understanding the evolution of human speech and language.

The article talks about cognates, and the 200 words that form the basis of most languages, making up the vocabulary that is most common across a diverse group of languages. Then, they boiled it down to 23 words that are indisputably found in a number of languages that have related words that are not coincidental.

Now, what is a coincidence is that humans have 23 chromosomes. Makes you think.