Un-like-believable: “Like” is now an infix

Stan Carey at Sentence First reports on the many new usages of the word like, such as quotative (in the comments, some people note that this is often used for inexact quotation). However, the most surprising is its use in Australia as an infix — a very rare beast in English: “‘Like’ is an infix now, which is un-like-believably innovative”.

I am yet to come across this usage myself, but I’ll be looking out for it.

I’ll not be adopting it either. Not deliberately, anyway, but one never knows. So much of language is unconscious. Gone are the days when I consciously adjusted my speech patterns. I did, in times of yore, deliberately change my pronunciation of schedule from /ˈskɛ.djuːl/ to /ˈʃɛd.juːl/ because I read somewhere that the latter pronunciation is less American. I care far less about this sort of thing nowadays, but having done the work of changing the way I say the word I feel no need to change it back.

Slut-Shaming in “Call Me Maybe”

TV Tropes says:

The Carly Rae Jepsen video, Call Me Maybe is a painful example of the contortions a woman has to go through to express sexuality without being called a slut. She sees a beautiful man, and is physically pushed by her friends into trying to attract his interest, because she obviously can’t just go up to him. Then, ostensibly having attracted his attention through her zany sitcom shenanigans, she hands him her number, making it a point to say she’s not a slut and never does this (“I just met you / and this is crazy”), before handing him her number and pointedly ceding all future authority and activity to him (“so call me maybe”). Then she reiterates that she’s not a slut (“and all the other boys / try to chase me”). All so she can hit on the boy next door. One to ten she still gets called a slut.

Or, at least, TV Tropes used to say that. This paragraph has since been removed.

Gender in Language: A native speaker on gendered words in Italian

A while ago, Tom Scott, a qualified linguist who makes a living at explaining interesting things on YouTube, made a video about gender in language. It was partly about gender-neutral pronouns in English, and partly about gendered nouns in languages which have them (primarily European languages, where gender tends to match up with sex; in many other languages, genders are more like “animate” and “inanimate”, or “communal property” and “individual property”). He touched on how gendered nouns do actually have some effect on the way we think: Germans speakers and Italian speakers have different (and gender-influenced) perceptions of the connotations of keys, for example. It’s an interesting watch.

However, while Tom Scott has a qualification in linguistics, he does not actually work in that field. Furthermore, he is a native speaker only of English.

Another YouTuber, the Metatron, recently made a video on pretty much the same topic: feminine and masculine nouns in Romance Languages. The Metatron is Italian, and natively speaks Sicilian Italian. He also speaks French, English, and Japanese. He too has a qualification in linguistics, and actually works in the field, as a translator and a teacher. His YouTube videos are on too main topics: mediaeval warfare and linguistics.

Being doubly qualified, as a linguist and as a native speaker, does the Metatron have anything interesting to say on this subject? Of course he does. Yes, gender in the language does of course affect ones perception of objects, and even of abstract nouns. The personification of strength would, to the Metatron, naturally be female.

The Metatron’s video is not a direct response to Tom Scott’s, which was from some years ago. Tom rarely does linguistics videos these days.

Authors before books

It’s unusual for me to know anything at all about an author before first reading a book of theirs, but there are four authors I’ve read who I first knew online, from their blogs, from their presence at The Slacktiverse, or, in the last case, on YouTube.

In order,

I met Kit Whitfield initially in her comments on Fred Clark’s blog Slacktivist, and later in her role as a moderator on The Slacktiverse. She blogs mainly about literature (I’ve mentioned her first-line analyses before). Her two novels, Bareback and In Great Waters, are absolutely excellent. Particularly the latter. See posts 64 and 88 of “I’ve been reading” for my thoughts.

I also met Ana Mardoll through The Slacktiverse, where she commented frequently. On her own blog, she writes about feminism, literature, and other bits and pieces. I’ve mentioned her novel Pulchitrude here before, and also linked to some of her discussions about art and culture. See post 87 of “I’ve been reading” for my thoughts on Pulchitrude.

John Scalzi is a former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He has his own blog: Whatever. He writes about writing (both the process of putting words together and the business of publishing), about the politics of fan-run conventions (particularly controversy in the past few years about the Hugo awards), and about anything else which takes his fancy, which of late has included quite a bit of American politics. I’ve so far read only one of his novels — Old Man’s War —, and I very much enjoyed it and intend to read more in the same series and in others.

John Green is one half of the Vlogbrothers on YouTube (his brother Hank is the other half). He’s also a noted YA author. I enjoy the Vlogbrothers — both their main channel itself and their educational spin-off channels such as Sci Show and Crash Course, so I sought out some of John’s books. So far I’ve read only Paper Towns, which is a fun read. It has a message, of course — all YA books do — but it’s subtle enough. It’s a well-crafted novel.

Tamiflu, Bad Pharma, and the UK Public Accounts Committee

The conclusion that millions of people have been exposed to a treatment, at enormous cost to the public purse, despite the fact that independent researchers have been unable to verify it as being effective or safe, should trouble us all.

Dr David Tovey writes about the lack of transparency in clinical trials, with specific reference to Tamiflu, and the ongoing public campaign after the publication of Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Pharma.

TRiG.

“Strong Female Characters”

Can a female character be a “brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, polymath genius”? Well, I don’t see why not, and nor does Sophia McDougall at the New Statesman.

That a female character is allowed to get away with behaviour that, in a male character, would rightly be seen as abusive (or outright murderous) may seem – if you’re MRA minded, anyway – an unfair imbalance in her favour. But really these scenes reveals the underlying deficit of respect the character starts with, which she’s then required to overcome by whatever desperate, over-the-top, cartoonish means to hand.

Another essay on the subject comes from Carina Chocano in the New York Times.

“Strength”, in the parlance, is the 21st-century equivalent of “virtue”. And what we think of as “virtuous”, or culturally sanctioned, socially acceptable behavior now, in women as in men, is the ability to play down qualities that have been traditionally considered feminine and play up the qualities that have traditionally been considered masculine. “Strong female characters”, in other words, are often just female characters with the gendered behavior taken out.

So, what does a real “strong female character” look like? Well, here’s a snippet from Ana Mardoll talking about Disney’s Frozen.

The movie really brings home (especially through the song lyrics, which are just PERFECT) that this Good Girl / Bad Girl dichotomy is damaging to Elsa, and the only way she can really be free is to reject them both. She doesn’t need to be (and fundamentally can’t be) a perfect good girl, but she won’t find freedom by moving over to the bad girl stereotype offered to her by a restrictive society. She’s only free when she throws both of them in the trash.

Also amazing, and very rare: a cursed girl saves herself.

Strong female character? Perhaps.

“Let it Go” Lyrics.

Of course, I can never hear the phrase “Strong Female Characters” without thinking of the iconic strip from Hark a Vagrant (“sexism is over”). Looking for that, I also found a sequel.

TRiG.

Austerity and hope in South Shields

I’ve never been to South Shields. In fact, I’ve never been to the north of England at all. Well, Manchester and Hull for h2g2 meets, and Marsden in Yorkshire, where I have family history. But South Shields is much further north than these.

It is a town with a mining history. It is a town with a union history. It is a town with high unemployment. And, according to a lovely profile in the New Statesman, it’s doing pretty well, thank you.

South Shields remains the only parliamentary constituency since the Great Reform Act of 1832 … never to have elected a Conservative MP.

TRiG.