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Charles Murray speaks

Salon was supposed to have an interview with Charles Murray, notorious racist and conservative ass, but he backed down at the last minute, saying he didn’t think he’d get a fair shake from them. So Salon instead posted a series of quotes from Murray’s new book.

He really should have gone with the interview.

On Tattoos: “As for tattoos, it does no good to remind curmudgeons that tattoos have been around for millennia. Yes, we will agree, tattoos have been common – first among savage tribes and then, more recently, among the lowest classes of Western societies. In America, tattoos have until the last few decades been the unambiguous badge of the proletariat or worse – an association still acknowledged in the phrase tramp stamp.”

On Pronouns: “The feminist revolution has tied writers into knots when it comes to the third-person singular pronoun. Using the masculine pronoun as the default has been proscribed. Some male writers get around this problem by defaulting to the feminine singular pronoun, which I think is icky.” Instead, “Unless there is an obvious reason not to, use the gender of the author or, in a cowritten text, the gender of the principal author. It’s the perfect solution.”

On jobs: “Here’s the secret you should remember whenever you hear someone lamenting how tough it is to get ahead in the postindustrial global economy: Few people work nearly as hard as they could.”

On subordination: “But in all cases when you have problems in your interactions with your boss, there’s one more question you have to ask yourself: To what extent is your boss at fault, and to what extent are you a neophyte about supervisor-subordinate relationships? … What you see as arbitrary, insensitive, or hostile behavior on the part of your boss may be nothing more than the way in which supervisors have been treating subordinates from time immemorial.”

On “problematic”: “For example it is appropriate to say that a proposed voter ID bill is problematic because it risks disenfranchising more eligible voters than it prevents fraudulent votes, but not to say that it is problematic because it is racist and offensive. That may be your sincere opinion, but people on the other side can be just as sincerely convinced that it is not racist and offensive and neither side can prove the other wrong.”

On “flaccid nonjudgmental nonsense”: “If he says instead, ‘Marriage works for some people, not for others; it’s no big deal what people choose,’ then my point about artistic merit is unchanged, except more emphatic: You mustn’t indulge yourself in that kind of flaccid nonjudgemental nonsense … To say something like, ‘Marriage works for some people, not others; it’s no big deal what people choose,’ is as idiotic as saying that it’s a matter of opinion whether a Titian painting is superior to artistic dreck, except that in this instance there is a moral dimension to your obligation to think through your judgments that doesn’t burden your judgments about art.”

On marriage: “For ninety-five percent of the population, showing up for family means making oneself available for marriage.”

On manners: “The two who have embodied great manners for me have been William F. Buckley, Jr., the late conservative writer, and his brother James, a former senator and retired judge.”

Comments

  1. says

    “In America, tattoos have until the last few decades been the unambiguous badge of the proletariat or worse…”

    Sailors, damn it. Sailors.

  2. hillaryrettig says

    Buckley “manners” = promoting racism and segregation, from the 1960s to now
    http://www.salon.com/2012/04/09/racism_and_the_national_review/

    “Although founder William F. Buckley is widely credited with driving John Birch Society extremists out of the conservative movement, he made his own contributions to the ugly coarsening of American politics on the issue of race. He and his magazine defended segregation and white supremacy in the South (though he later apologized), while in the North, he played a leading role in making the issue of rising crime both racial and political – with arguments and tactics still being used in the Trayvon Martin case today.”

    Buckley manners = slick defenses of colonialism and imperialism; Chomsky eviscerates him

  3. Fetchez la Vache says

    He really said that he thinks defaulting to the feminine pronoun is “icky”? Lol forever.

  4. doublereed says

    “For ninety-five percent of the population, showing up for family means making oneself available for marriage.”

    Can someone translate this one? I don’t understand what this means.

  5. says

    I had never heard of this Charles Murray personage. Now I need a time machine to go back five minutes ago and read something else instead of this dreck. He made my coffee taste bad.

    Conservatives never have anything new to say. They just fling the same old poo at new targets.

  6. says

    which I think is icky.

    Really? Okay. As Mr. Murray seems to think this is rational reasoning, I think Charles Murray is icky.

  7. A Masked Avenger says

    From your quotes, it actually sounds like the book is an excellent sampling of the ambient culture–which is unsurprising, since guys like this are basically an embodiment of that culture, wrapped in a reactionary defense of it. For example:

    * Tattoos are indeed seen as markers of lower social status, and the more tattoos the lower the status. I haven’t heard anything on FTB about tattoo-classism, but it’s a real thing. This yutz embodies it. And he’s correct that the terms “tramp stamp” and “prison tat” are both examples of this in action, where classism intersects sexism and whatever the -ism is that stigmatizes ex cons regardless of the nature or severity of the offense.

    * A linguist will tell you that the generic isn’t inherently a cultural expression; I learned in linguistics class (but can’t substantiate with examples) that there are languages that use the feminine or the neuter as the generic, and some use the plural, like colloquial English. Mandarin Chinese pronounces “he” and “she” the same, though writes them differently, so in speech the generic is not gendered. We’re challenging the masculine-as-generic in order to undermine the concurrent social phenomenon of treating maleness as the default state. It gives sexists headaches, as this guy illustrates perfectly. And yes, it’s difficult sometimes keeping one’s writing sex-neutral.

    * “Few people work as hard as they could.” Quite true: in an earlier century, I’d probably be a farmer or coal-miner, and based on my personal physiology I’d probably die young (though I might instead be hulking and buff–woo!). The interesting question is, so what? Why is “working as hard as one can” a desirable thing? He’s describing slavery. What makes slavery noble? He’s trying to shame the less privileged into silence by pointing out that at least they aren’t slaves.

    * On subordination – it’s perfectly true that interacting with authority is a learned skill, and for many of us it’s hard. I know researchers who give long rants about the “millennials” doing post-docs. It’s fascinating. This guy, of course, means it differently: he’s not just talking about getting along with bosses, or realizing that one’s job isn’t always fun. He no doubt means that we need to accept our lower ontological status, and cheerfully work 80-hour weeks if so ordered, comforting ourselves that at least we aren’t slaves (see previous point).

    * On marriage, he’s delightfully un-self-aware: who says that a Titian is superior to a velvet Elvis? He’s using the imposition of his preferences in one area as justification for imposing his preferences in all areas. He’s Everyman here: culture dictates preferences to us, which we treat as objectively true and impose on others. I haven’t seen it recently, but we’re as susceptible as anyone: how many of us scorn fans of monster trucks or NASCAR, but respect fans of opera or theater? Or see cigars as more posh than hand-rolled cigarettes?

    He’s pretty much a screwed-up poster boy for the screwed-up culture he inhabits.

  8. Gaebolga says

    Charles Murray wrote:
    Here’s the secret you should remember whenever you hear someone lamenting how tough it is to get ahead in the postindustrial global economy: Few people work nearly as hard as they could.

    But please ignore the inconvenient fact that not only is this true for the wealthy as well as the poor, but that the wealthy have far, far more opportunity to work less hard than the poor.

  9. =8)-DX says

    To what extent is your boss at fault, and to what extent are you a neophyte about supervisor-subordinate relationships?

    Hmmm, I wonder how many bosses have fresh and detailed memories about the subordinate position in a supervisor-subordinate relationship. Through my long standing experience which makes me an expert here, I guess I should be educating my boss on how to behave towards me?

    (Hint: relationships are a two-way street.)

  10. says

    Maureen Brian:

    Well, I’m not a royalist but I still think we should send Charles Murray this pic – Duchess of Cambridge and a Maori warrior.

    I’m afraid Mr. Murray would sniffily assign a Maori warrior to the savage tribes category. As a haffer with a tattoo, I’m pretty sure I’m in the proletariat savage class.

  11. Maureen Brian says

    I don’t suppose, Inaji, that Mr Murray would dare to go as far as New Zealand. If he did he might well discover that the guy is a bank manager or a university teacher in the other bit of his life! That sort of thing tends to happen there.

  12. says

    Maureen Brian:

    That sort of thing tends to happen there.

    Happens here, too! I imagine Mr. Murray has a very dense set of brain blinders, and sees only what he wants to see.

  13. =8)-DX says

    Just wondering… is there an especially dire anti-tattooine prejudice in the US? I mean some people look at tattoos badly over here (CZ), but they’re generally common. It’s like getting worked up by seeing someone with blue hair – most people don’t give a crap.

  14. geekgirlsrule says

    @=8)-DX at #15
    It depends where in America you are. I live in Seattle, and I’m an HR person for a big department in a major university, and my tattoos are nearly always visible. There are still segments of the east coast, however, where I am scandalous and terrifying. Washington DC was particularly unfriendly. I went there for a training (at the time I had waist length purple hair, nipple rings, and, of course, tattoos). No one would talk to me. But out here, no one really cares as long as you’re good at your job.

  15. says

    In America, tattoos have until the last few decades been the unambiguous badge of the proletariat or worse – an association still acknowledged in the phrase tramp stamp.

    I’ve seen variations of this argument used by sleazy scumbags many times over the years to justify the use of racial epithets and stereotypes.

    If I knew nothing else about this person, I’d know all I needed to know about his world-view from this quote alone.

  16. chrislawson says

    Two observations:

    1. The idea that tattoos are bad *because* they have in the past been associated with proletarians is the ultimate in reactionary conservatism and classism. And the idea is wrong anyway, as tattooed persons include King Harold II, Winston Churchill, Tsar Nicholas II, King Edward VII, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and many other rulers and high nobility.

    2. The third-person singular “knots” Murray refers to are a general problem even if one’s concerns are not feminist. It’s fundamentally inaccurate to use a gendered pronoun to refer to a person who may not be of that gender. Contrary to Murray’s assertions, English is perfectly capable of dealing with it. The use of “they” and “their” as third-person singular goes back to at least the 14th century and can be found in Austen, Ruskin, Thackeray, Shakespeare, Chaucer, and many others generally regarded as great writers of English.

  17. smhll says

    an association still acknowledged in the phrase tramp stamp.”

    On Tuesdays rhyming slang phrases can be used to win arguments. (Oy.)

  18. Rob in Memphis says

    Yes, we will agree, tattoos have been common – first among savage tribes and then, more recently, among the lowest classes of Western societies.

    I used to work on a military base many years ago and a lot of sailors and Marines there had tattoos. (My dad’s retired Navy, but no tattoos.) I like to think Murray wouldn’t be dumb enough to say to some of the gigantic, tattooed leathernecks I saw there that they’re “low class.” Some of those dudes, especially the ones fresh out of boot camp, were super gung-ho and seriously scary.

  19. says

    Oh my Goth, at first I got Charles Murray mixed up with Charles Morris and was all confused and horrified, like “But he seemed so thoughtful and reasonable in The Trillion Dollar Meltdown and his appearance in Inside Job!”

    *needs more coffee*

  20. Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts says

    I find it amusing that he compares the aesthetics of art (while believing they are objective) to the example of indifference toward the choice to marry with the specific caveat that at least there’s no moral dimension to judgements about art.

    Why does Charles Murray think that there’s a moral dimension to an obligation to think through a judgement regarding the choice to marry in the first place? And what moral dimension is that, nosiness?

    Although, there is nothing I can see in deciding that marriage is for some people and isn’t for others and leaving the choice to marry up to them that is inconsistent with a judgement that contains a moral dimension, if that moral dimension were respecting the choice of others. In which case, perhaps he’s right that there is a moral dimension, I just have no idea what he believes a position on someone’s choice to marry should be, except that I think he’s very nosy.

    If he’s just using this as an example for other questions on which a person may be indifferent to the choices of others, then I have to suspect that he not only believes that people should care but that they should be working to enforce their judgements. In which case he’s not just nosy, he’s totalitarian. And despite the fact that I learned only recently who he is, like the idiom about ducks being recognisable for their traits, I’d have to say he fits the bill.

  21. loreo says

    “Work as hard as they can” – there is no way this ass knows what it means to work “as hard as you can”. I’ve done that, and I’m sure many of you all have done that. 16-hour days? Running on caffeine to make it through your day? Sleeping pills to get the rest you need? Turning into a grouchy, touchy asshole because no part of your day is worth looking forward to? Our misery is just a data point for his financial calculus; we’re not fully human and deserving of the chance to create or appreciate beauty like the great works of Titian. We’re better off marking ourselves with tattoos so he knows to treat us as subordinates.

  22. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend, Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    “For ninety-five percent of the population, showing up for family means making oneself available for marriage.”

    What’s bizarre is the argument ad populum being seriously used by someone who contends he’s among the thinkers – the *honest thinkers* – of a society in which that’s supposedly rare. [if only thinking like CM was rare]

    Seriously, guy, we should amputate the left-handed if they won’t commit to using their right because percentages? More than 95% of people are 10 fingered. Do we euthanize the polydactyl at birth to get the numbers up? Exactly what categories that currently can be expressed as overwhelming majorities should be helped up to 100%, becuz math!? And which political boundaries count when calculating these percentages? I’ve got news for CM – he’s a little too white to live if we’re going to start down this road.

    In America, tattoos have until the last few decades been the unambiguous badge of the proletariat or worse – an association still acknowledged in the phrase tramp stamp.”

    1. Whose America, whitey?
    2. People have shamed sluts, therefore acting slutty is bad, therefore doing something erroneously perceived as having something to do with your likelihood to consent to sex is bad.

    I really think he needs to use his “I think it’s icky” argument more often – it would be a hell of a lot more honest.

  23. moarscienceplz says

    The Manifesto of the American Conservative:

    1. Nobody should do stuff I think is icky.

    2. I’m going to win the lottery someday, so we should treat rich people better now.

    3. There is no point #3. I cannot hold three ideas in my head at one time.

  24. Rey Fox says

    Few people work nearly as hard as they could.

    Few people enjoy their lives nearly as much as they could.

  25. Rey Fox says

    Well, I guess we got to throw out the term “curmudgeon” now, it’s been soiled. Or maybe just strive to distinguish between “curmudgeon” as frustrated idealist” and “curmudgeon as old white guy angry that the subclasses no longer show him proper deference”.

    Just wondering… is there an especially dire anti-tattooine prejudice in the US?

    Absolutely. Worthless desert planet.

  26. says

    Here’s the secret you should remember whenever you hear someone lamenting how tough it is to get ahead in the postindustrial global economy: Few people work nearly as hard as they could.

    the quote continues, and I’m paraphrasing…

    “… for example, my servants are lazy as fuck.”

  27. ChasCPeterson says

    My daughter celebrated her 18th birthday last Friday at the tattoo* parlor. And sure enough, my family’s social rank took an immediate nosedive. Anecdata, I know, but still.

    *(A beautiful full-calf-length jellyfish; I am so proud!)

  28. says

    I only relatively recently learned how anti-tattoo many people are. Perhaps it is just because I hang out with groups were tattoos are common, but I thought this prejudice was largely a thing of the past. But then I saw the comments on some images of tattoos and realized that there are an awful lot of people that make huge assumptions based on a bit of ink. It does not make sense to me, I can only think they have not really examined why they have these negative feelings.

  29. says

    Chas:

    *(A beautiful full-calf-length jellyfish; I am so proud!)

    Oh, I imagine it is beautiful! My turtle tat is lonely – one of these days, I shall have more turtles.

  30. robro says

    On pronouns: Murray is wrong, again. The problem isn’t third-person singular pronouns or attitudes about their use. The problem is sloppy writing. What chrislawson @#20 said is one solution. You can also avoid 3rd-person singular pronouns when speaking of groups by using plural nouns in the first place, rather than hypothetical individuals as generic representatives of the group. You can then use third-person plural pronouns quite comfortably. For example, instead of “A writer writers what he | she | they…”, use “Writers write what they…”

  31. twas brillig (stevem) says

    Contrary to Murray’s assertions, English is perfectly capable of dealing with it. The use of “they” and “their” as third-person singular goes back to at least the 14th century and can be found in Austen, Ruskin, Thackeray, Shakespeare, Chaucer, and many others generally regarded as great writers of English.

    You beat me to it. I was going to say this myself, “What is wrong with using ‘they’ as a non-gendered singular pronoun?” Guess I was too late. I’ll just say I blockquoted your words as a QFT.
    .
    I misunderstand the “tramp stamp” reference, I thought the phrase referred to a particular tattoo on a specific part of either gender’s anatomy (on the lower back, just above the buttocks, topping the butt ‘cleavage’). I NEVER thought it was a generic label for every tattoo (on a woman). I suppose “prison stamp” is the slang for only a man’s tattoo. I wonder what the slang is; for, “boot-camp hazing tattoo”.

    What you see as arbitrary, insensitive, or hostile behavior on the part of your boss may be nothing more than the way in which supervisors have been treating subordinates from time immemorial.”

    Completely omitting an argument FOR the bosses bad behavior, nor arguing that the ‘neophyte’ is wrong to think the boss is being nasty. He just waves it away with, “They’ve always been like that, don’t complain about it.” Is there a posh Latin phrase to use for this fallacious (non)argument? [or is it just "jazz-hands"? ^\o_o/^]

  32. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Gaebolga:

    Sétanta loves your ‘nym.

    @Celtic_Evolution

    “… for example, my servants are lazy as fuck.”

    rofl

    @chas, #34:

    and rofl again.

    @robro:
    You’re right and wrong. There are ways that communicate clearly while avoiding the gendered singular hypothetical person, and these aren’t esoteric. However, the daily reinforcement of gender by the speech and writing all around one does make it difficult – and sometimes comes across to others as communicating something that one does not intend.

  33. Gregory Greenwood says

    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden @ 27;

    Seriously, guy, we should amputate the left-handed if they won’t commit to using their right because percentages? More than 95% of people are 10 fingered. Do we euthanize the polydactyl at birth to get the numbers up? Exactly what categories that currently can be expressed as overwhelming majorities should be helped up to 100%, becuz math!? And which political boundaries count when calculating these percentages? I’ve got news for CM – he’s a little too white to live if we’re going to start down this road.

    Neo-fascist creeps like Murray are not talking about a numerical majority. Oh no; they would be the first to tell you that the US is being drowned in ‘foreign undesireables’ and ‘dirty’ poor people. He is talking about those who posses a majority of the wealth, power and political and social influence and privilege. The so called ‘wealth creators’ or ‘pillars of the community’. Or, more accurately, the only people who matter, as such things are judged in the toxic rightwing worldview.

    Where that matches up neatly with an actual numerical majority, as it does with the unearned social privilege conferred upon heterosexuality, for example, then so much the better – it helps Murray (and all those all too numerous people like him) to pretend that he is simply acknowledging the ‘democratic will’ and ‘protecting the ordinary, hardworking American’. Where there is no such convenient correlation, where it is clear that he is unambiguously acting in the name of a small privileged elite, then he will use the old Republican standby – lying,

    He will try to claim that this privileged minority is somehow the majority in defiance of all the evidence, probably by trying to redefine the boundaries of what it means to be a ‘true’ American citizen in order to exclude those groups that he hates or irrationally fears, thereby fiddling the numbers to favour his argument (if only in his own mind).

    He will prey on the ignorance and paranoia that is so widespread in society courtesy of fear-mongers like Faux News to try to convince the very people that he wishes to marginalise and oppress that their best course of action is to oppose their own interests.

    And of course, he will mobilise religious privilege in order to try to define his social preferences and lifestyle (or, perhaps more realistically, the lifestyle he presents publicly as is own in order to enhance his public image – nobody does hypocrisy like a conservative) as the only acceptable measure of moral action.

    Actual numbers don’t matter to him. It is all about who has the money and the power. So long as their interests are pre-eminent and their status assured, the rest of us could all die tomorrow as far as Murray is concered.

    We would have served our purpose in his eyes.

  34. unclefrogy says

    I think that there may be some element of thumbing the nose to the “established order” to the acquisition of tattoos by a large segment of those with the tattoos and not to be forgotten is the decrees of the “Gods Of Fashion” when thinking about these things of this kind.
    I do in a way miss Buckley though I disagreed with him the discussions on his program were seldom the shouting match that characterizes much of the conservative rhetoric you see today he would also actually engage with real proponents of differing opinions. Sadly that level of debate is increasingly rare.
    If C.M. were to disappear tomorrow I would not notice.
    uncle frogy

  35. Krasnaya Koshka says

    First, I’ll say I kinda feel sorry for people who think this way. What a sad, not-even life. I don’t have much more energy to expend than that. Life is a buffet of wondrous ideas and people and beauty and newness and so many people don’t even possess curiosity.

    I never experienced any tattoo shaming in the U.S., likely because I worked in San Francisco. Everyone I knew had tattoos (save one). When I moved to Russia, I didn’t even think about all my visible tattoos and no one’s mentioned them, though I have been told they’re considered a mark of people who have been in prison. I have also been told only the stodgy authoritarians feel this way. So, it depends on with whom you hang out.

    As far as ‘she’ being “icky”? Really? Yes, I know the answer but ugh. So sick of that shit.

  36. robro says

    Crip Dyke @#39 — “You’re right and wrong”…Wow, how often have I been there! Of course, I wasn’t suggesting the solution to the pronoun conundrum, just one. It is simple and Strunk & White would approve (“Use the proper case of pronoun”), so it might be good to remember if you’re writing a college essay or user documentation.

  37. Gaebolga says

    Crip Dyke (of the impressive titles) wrote:
    @Gaebolga:

    Sétanta loves your ‘nym.

    Well he would, wouldn’t he? :)

    Thank you.

    A might grim, I suppose, but it’s been my primary nickname since my days as a game tester. Beats “fat ass,” though…

  38. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Gaebolga

    Well he would, wouldn’t he? :)

    yeah. Though as I remember Cu Chullain* might have reason for mixed feelings.

    *And why is it the characters who don’t NEED magic to hit have all the “True Strike at will” weapons?

  39. A Masked Avenger says

    Rob, #22:

    I like to think Murray wouldn’t be dumb enough to say to some of the gigantic, tattooed leathernecks I saw there that they’re “low class.”

    You do realize that military service generally is another marker of low social class? Grunts, sailors, and ones with tattoos most of all? This is partly driven by ordinary classism, because a large percentage of enlisted people signed up to escape poverty and unemployment, and/or to pay for college. It’s also partly driven by racism, because a large percentage are minorities (often for economic reasons). And partly by age-old stereotypes of soldiers, but especially sailors, as drunken, brawling frequenters of prostitutes.

    An officer of decent rank, or a member of the Air Force, can escape most of these prejudices, but for the majority of veterans their service is associated with lack of social standing.

    Your remark, interestingly, comes across as an implicit threat of violence. You’re suggesting that if he accuses a veteran of being low class, he’ll get beaten up. Um, yes. That’s the stereotype all right. And it’s a big part of why veterans are victims of classism.

  40. says

    A Masked Avenger:

    * Tattoos are indeed seen as markers of lower social status, and the more tattoos the lower the status. I haven’t heard anything on FTB about tattoo-classism, but it’s a real thing. This yutz embodies it. And he’s correct that the terms “tramp stamp” and “prison tat” are both examples of this in action, where classism intersects sexism and whatever the -ism is that stigmatizes ex cons regardless of the nature or severity of the offense.

    Personal anecdote:
    For a short time, I was employed as a bartender at a resort that had rules prohibiting exposed tattoos. The only explanation I ever received was along the lines of “tattoos are not part of the image our company wishes to convey to guests”. If an employee had an exposed tattoo, they could be (and from stories I’d heard, were) terminated. It always bothered me that the TPTB at this resort had such archaic, regressive views…as if having a tattoo was sign of having a bad character.

  41. dianne says

    showing up for family means making oneself available for marriage.

    I don’t know what this means, but it makes me want to put on a chastity belt. Or have a hysterectomy or join a convent or something extreme to make it clear that I am NOT available for marriage. How do conservatives always manage to make something as fun as a happy relationship sound like slavery?

  42. dianne says

    Also, I’ve never liked tattoos–on myself. I’ve seen quite a number of tattoos on other people that I thought looked really cool, but I don’t like ornamenting myself for some reason. Yet somehow now I have the strangest impulse to go out and get a great big tattoo. Probably on my forehead.

  43. Gaebolga says

    Crip Dyke wrote:
    *And why is it the characters who don’t NEED magic to hit have all the “True Strike at will” weapons?

    Because (to paraphrase my wife in a radically different context) there’s always awesomer.

    …although the oft-repeated adage of Cú Chulainn being able to strike down a block of nine men in a single blow while leaving the center man untouched seems a mite magical to me…

  44. says

    What you see as arbitrary, insensitive, or hostile behavior on the part of your boss may be nothing more than the way in which supervisors have been treating subordinates from time immemorial.”

    that’s a way of saying “if you think your boss is treating you in a manner that’s arbitrary, insensitive, or hostile, you are correct.”

  45. Gaebolga says

    dianne wrote:
    Yet somehow now I have the strangest impulse to go out and get a great big tattoo. Probably on my forehead.

    As long as it’s not “Poor Impulse Control”….

  46. dianne says

    @52: I was thinking of “666″, but “poor impulse control” works too…

  47. Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts says

    robro

    It is simple and Strunk & White would approve [...]

    Strunk and White are actually a rather poor authority on English. Their book is more of a collection of pet peeves than of anything relevant anymore. Especially in the context of modern usage.

    Third person pronouns are just fine. They always have been.

  48. trollofreason says

    Wasn’t Willian F. Buckley an underhandedly racist neo-fascist in word and belief?

  49. vaiyt says

    On “problematic”: “For example it is appropriate to say that a proposed voter ID bill is problematic because it risks disenfranchising more eligible voters than it prevents fraudulent votes, but not to say that it is problematic because it is racist and offensive. That may be your sincere opinion, but people on the other side can be just as sincerely convinced that it is not racist and offensive and neither side can prove the other wrong.”

    Of course, the whole argument rests on the idea that racism is about what you think in your heart of hearts.

  50. anuran says

    We lost Stephen J. Gould (ztl) and still have Charles Murray (yms). There ain’t no justice.

  51. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    “zebra-tutored lecturer”
    and
    “yak-mouth slime”

    I would think it was obvious.

  52. dianne says

    @59: For some reason the first things that came to my mind were “zaertlich” and “your mileage stinks”. No, I’m not sure what that means either.

  53. A Masked Avenger says

    Strunk and White are actually a rather poor authority on English. Their book is more of a collection of pet peeves than of anything relevant anymore. Especially in the context of modern usage.

    Personally I find it delightful. I read it (and most anything by E.B. White) because the way he wields English is such a pleasure.

    Third person pronouns are just fine. They always have been.

    I agree with you and disagree with Strunk & White. Using the plural as the generic makes perfect sense–to lots of people, obviously, because the usage arose organically among colloquial speakers. (I’m an older Gen-Xer, who got in near the ground floor of this: when I used the plural, my Dad would immediately become suspicious that I was concealing the other person’s sex on purpose. Which I usually was, because in my cultural background the usage was frowned upon, and I didn’t generally use it.)

    It’s eye-opening to take both writing and linguistics classes. It helps underscore the distinction between the aesthetics of language and its inner workings. Language is, and doesn’t have any oughts. The oughts are either purely aesthetic opinions, or expressions of cultural biases. The generic plural will be used as an example, as will the use of double-negatives or the verb “to be” in Black English Vernacular.

  54. says

    Thomathy:

    Third person pronouns are just fine. They always have been.

    Yes. Unlike Mr. Murray, I quite enjoy the use she/her as the default pronoun. It’s still a bit jarring, because it’s unexpected and not at all the norm, but it’s a good thing to have those ‘norms’ shaken up a bit.

  55. chrislawson says

    Re: Strunk & White: it’s a truly great book that every aspiring writer should read…but it’s important not to treat it as a formal style guide. The authors themselves advocated using whatever worked best rather than sticking to strict rules. And it should be no surprise that a book written in 1918 has not kept up with modern usage.

  56. says

    Instead, “Unless there is an obvious reason not to, use the gender of the author or, in a cowritten text, the gender of the principal author. It’s the perfect solution.”

    It’s the perfect non-solution, as the question of what third-person pronoun to use causes problems only when we’re wanting to generalize, or we’re talking about a specific person but don’t know their sex.

    If Murray just wanted to say that “he or she” or “she or he” is horrendously cumbersome, that would be one thing. The dig at feminists, however, makes clear that he doesn’t like their critique of the masculine as the “default” or “normal” usage when generalizing or being indefinite. As has already been pointed out, “they” works pretty well (it certainly is not awkward) for that generalizing/indefinite function without dissing women and girls, and it certainly has an excellent pedigree. If you object that, well, it’s a plural, I’d respond that as a plural it makes MORE sense as a generalizing pronoun than a singular would; further that, if it’s used with a singular sense (e.g. with an indefinite subject), it IS a singular in that context as far as linguistics is concerned.

    Trivial note: lots of languages have ungendered pronouns. English has them in the first, second, and third-person plural. I remember reading that the the 3rd person singular in Turkish is ungendered, though I could be wrong about that.

  57. says

    I should have written: “English has them in the first and second person, singular or plural, and in the third person plural.”

  58. ChasCPeterson says

    Third person pronouns are just fine. They always have been.

    ?
    She, he, it, and they are all third-person pronouns.
    You mean ‘plural third-person pronouns are just fine’?

    In the case of generalized or hypothetical references I agree, but I’m starting to see ‘they’ used in reference to specific gendered people whose gender is known and not in question, and there it strikes me as very awkward.

  59. says

    I seldom find tattoos attractive and way too many of them are crude and poorly drawn. (Perhaps my students are not a good primary source for examples of the art.) And people who like to change their minds ought to be careful about their indulgence in permanent ink. But just because I am not crazy about tattoos doesn’t mean I think I should condemn those who like them. Nor does it move me to make common cause with a jerk like Charles Murray. Murray made his position clear when he coauthored The Bell Curve (1994), which strove to treat IQ like a real thing and turn it into a “scientific” basis for racism. We’ve had Murray’s number a long time.

  60. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    aaronbaker @ 66:

    There’s not the tiniest trace of grammatical gender in any Finno-Ugric, Turco-Tatar, or Manchu-Tungus language. (I would have just said “Ural-Altaic”, but I’d probably get some splitter who denies that family jumping on it.)

  61. says

    Gaebolga @ 52:

    As long as it’s not “Poor Impulse Control”….

    Arg, you beat me too it by a long shot. I am rereading Snow Crash right now and immediately thought about that when reading that comment.

  62. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    Parenthetically, that’s why that Star Trek episode with the androgynous society was so hilarious: “I’m sorry, humans can’t get their brains around genderless pronouns.” What, Finns aren’t human? Hungarians aren’t human?

  63. mikeyb says

    Thinking is anti-American. Reason is anti-American. Living in a fact free alternative universe is Faux News. Selling stuff, particular if it is a con job, that is American. So definitely, evolution is anti-American since it involves thinking, reasoning and facts, and isn’t directly related to selling stuff.

  64. anteprepro says

    So, in order:
    “Ick, poor people and women who have sex!”
    “Tut tut, tradition says that you are a man until proven inferior!”
    “I get paid for my opinions, so I know poor people just aren’t working hard enough”
    “Tradition dictates that you submit to authority”
    “I think you will find the superiority of marriage and my tastes in Art are objective facts”

  65. says

    “For ninety-five percent of the population, showing up for family means making oneself available for marriage.”

    Can someone translate this one? I don’t understand what this means.

    Err… Maybe it has something to do with cousins, or… something…

  66. says

    I seldom find tattoos attractive and way too many of them are crude and poorly drawn. (Perhaps my students are not a good primary source for examples of the art.)

    Yeah. Its interesting to watch the show “Tattoo Nightmares”, and see both the stupid stuff some people get, and the amazing work that goes into fixing that stuff.

    That said, the “usual” trends in them are like “Tribal”, which is sort of OK, depending on what it is, “Some stupid thing I got while drunk”, which is usually worthless, “I am obsessed with them”, which means a lot of total junk, mixed together, in most cases, and the, “Actual art”, variety, which is, sadly very very lacking. Oh, right, also the, “I want this quote, name, lettering, etc.”, types, which are usually also garbage, and sometimes just stupid.

  67. Stardrake says

    This waste of protoplasm could almost inside me to get a tattoo–if it wasn’t for the needles (owowowowwowwww!).

  68. Stardrake says

    That’s “INSPIRE” not “inside”…what’s the point of a tat only a surgeon can see?

  69. qwertysapiens says

    @59-61 (Tony!, Crip Dyke, & dianne): ztl and yms are anglicized abbreviations of the hebrew postscripts which are often appended to people’s names to indicate the speaker’s position on their worthiness as a person (or lack thereof). Bear with me on the rough transliterations, but zt’l = Zecher Tzaddik L’vracha (a righteous man deserving of praise) and yms = Yi’makh Shi’mo (May his name be erased/blotted out). Zt’l is often applied to great rabbis, with the slightly less prestigious z’l (worthy of praise) used for a good person with less rabbinic accomplishment; yms is used in reference to people like Hitler, Titus, Nebbuchadnezzar. Hope this helped!

  70. procrastinatorordinaire says

    irisvanderpluym @8
    doublereed at 4, I think it refers to one’s (alleged) obligation to one’s family to adhere to the marriage tradition.

    I read “showing up for family” as a euphemism for getting pregnant or even just having sex. The meaning of the phrase being that if you are willing to go to bed with someone, you should be prepared to marry them. Then again, I’m not from the US so my interpretation could be well off.

  71. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Thanks, qwertysapiens.

    I’m actually familiar – or used to be, with zt’l and z’l. I’m not sure I’ve run across y’ms. I will no go in a corner and feel shame over being too secular and too hebrew-illiterate to remember this stuff.

    okay, done now. Anyone want some pulled pork?

  72. Kimpatsu says

    On Tattoos: “As for tattoos, it does no good to remind curmudgeons that tattoos have been around for millennia. Yes, we will agree, tattoos have been common – first among savage tribes and then, more recently, among the lowest classes of Western societies. In America, tattoos have until the last few decades been the unambiguous badge of the proletariat or worse – an association still acknowledged in the phrase tramp stamp.”
    He should move to Japan.

  73. ChasCPeterson says

    showing up for family

    He means stepping up; doing what should and must be done; shouldering one’s responsibilities, pledging fealty to Family first, manning up, growing a pair, getting good honest work like Grand-dad used to do, tying an onion on the belt (it was the fashion then) (and you could only get those big yellow ones), blood-is-thicker-than-water, family is all you’ve got, trust only blood, bringing home the bacon, American Dream, you-can’t-win-if-you-don’t-play, playing-the-cards-you-re dealt, stoic, hard-working, two-jobs, uphill-both-ways, Founding Fathers, win-one-for-the-Gipper, pay-yer-dues, rags-to-riches, Horatio Alger, Honest Joe, Honest Abe, cannot-tell-a-lie, cherry tree, giving back, Honor thy father and mother, anything for my kids, life we never had, doing what it takes, crossing that river when we get to it, keep-on-keepin-on, shoulder-to-the-wheel, nose-to-the=grindstone, burning-the-midnight-oil-at-both-ends, steady-job, mortgage taking, tax paying, PTA-bakesale-brownie-purchasing, patriarchal Showing Up.
    It’s obvious.

  74. robro says

    Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts @ #55

    Strunk and White are actually a rather poor authority on English.

    Strunk & White are OK. Just a few simple rules, right? I wasn’t advocating it. Chicago is good if you want authority. My personal fav is the Webster Dictionary of English Usage because it’s rather iconoclastic. Fortunately, I never had to pay much attention to those things much. As chrislawson says @#66, Strunk & White’s main guideline (not really a rule) is do whatever works best, which has been good enough for me for years as a professional writer.

    Third person [plural] pronouns are just fine. They always have been.

    Of course they are. I’m sure I do it all the time, particularly when speaking. I’m just saying there are times when you might want to avoid it…like if you want to get an A on that essay and your professor is a stickler for these things. Or then there’s this:

    “Voters asked about a fictional politician, described as either being unfaithful to their wife or hiring an unqualified family member.”

    This appeared today as a description of a table in a Washington Post article on a study (so they say) about how voters react to politicians’s scandals. I’m fairly sure that’s an awkward sentence by most any standard, particularly the “to their wife” part. And it’s awkward on many levels, not just grammatical niceties. This strikes me as the sort of thing Crip Dyke was describing at #39 about “the daily reinforcement of gender by…speech and writing.” A little editorial attention could have produced a sentence that is inclusive of all politicians of both genders with husbands, wives, partners, and any number of other relationships. It’s not that hard, and they might still get to use “their” with a singular antecedent used in a collective sense.

  75. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @robro:

    yeah, we’re pretty unified on this one:

    described as either being unfaithful in marriage or hiring an unqualified family member.”

    yeah, it’s not bizzaro-land to make the words do sensical, streamlined, genderless things. We just don’t practice it.

    On the other hand, sometimes gender is relevant. I bet if you asked the question on random rotation between:

    described as either being unfaithful to his wife

    and

    described as either being unfaithful to her husband

    you’d get different answers.

    I also bet that if you asked a question about a politician caught “performing fellatio” in the statehouse, you’d get way more people assuming the politician is a man than a woman, despite a lot more fellatio being done by women in the US than by men in the US.

    Because so many people are so obsessed with gender, it’s important for those of us who aren’t to be aware of the fallacies, preconceptions, stereotypes and assumptions of those who are …and to account for them when communicating.

    It’s almost enough to make me feel a bit crazy sometimes: I don’t want to base decisions or descriptions on gender, so I have to be hyper conscious of gender. Argh.

  76. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Ooops.

    you’d get different answers.

    I meant different aggregate answers, of course. Obviously the answers would still be “I’m voting for/leaning toward Phil Anders,” and “I’m voting for/leaning toward Gnep O’tist”. The proportions would be different, is what I would presume.

    But that was probably obvious, so I’ll stop making an idiot of myself now.

    And why am I going to hit submit?

  77. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    For a short time, I was employed as a bartender at a resort that had rules prohibiting exposed tattoos. The only explanation I ever received was along the lines of “tattoos are not part of the image our company wishes to convey to guests”. If an employee had an exposed tattoo, they could be (and from stories I’d heard, were) terminated. It always bothered me that the TPTB at this resort had such archaic, regressive views…as if having a tattoo was sign of having a bad character.

    Unfortunately, even people who seem like they would know better will defend the most outrageously petty, arbitrary, regressive bullshit if it’s presented as part of “professionalism” or “business standards” or the like.

  78. sondra says

    Wow. What a super video. Thank you. Buckley is just as repulsive to me as he was when I used to see him on the teevee when I was a kid. Even then I could understand that he mostly baffled his interviewees with bullshit. Chomsky makes him define his terms and remain consistent and suddenly what starts out as another supercilious wink, turns into out of control blinking.

    The body language is so interesting. Chomsky is relaxed, sitting quietly and leaning in trying to engage while Buckley fidgets and leans farther and farther back and away.

    Fascinating.