David M. Brown's Blog

August 27, 2016

So, uh, the name “iPad” worked out okay after all, eh?

Filed under: Language and grammar — davidmbrowndotcom @ 1:02 am

Remember how horrible, insupportable, inadvertently funny-ludicrous the name “iPad” was claimed to be when the tablet became available in 2010, inasmuch as it had the syllable “pad” in it? (Well, then, you’re very young.) It was supposed to automatically evoke images of Maxi Pads, etc. There was a thankfully brief “Mad TV” skit. (Nobody had been waxing merry over the embarrassing associations of “pad of paper,” though. And English-speaking humanity had always somehow endured double-entendre-susceptible names for cats, roosters, detectives, and lousy workmanship.)

Read The Flying Saucers Are Very Very Real

Read Omelet: A Tragedy of Bill Shake-a-speare

Read The Case of the Cockamamie Killer

August 24, 2016

Let’s not be “capturing” liberty

Filed under: Language and grammar,Politics — davidmbrowndotcom @ 11:57 am

In a recent post for the Liberty magazine web site about why some people are disinclined to discuss the current presidential election in mixed or any company, Wayland Hunter writes: “I’m not sure whether it’s good or bad that people [regard the presidency with cynicism]. The imperial presidency lost almost all of its glamour with the abject failure of Obama (whom, by the way, hardly anybody ever mentions either). That’s certainly good, and maybe it’s permanent. I’m not sure, however, that complete political cynicism is a good long-run strategy for the pursuit and capture of individual freedom.”

I’m not sure that isolating an objective-case usage of “whom” the way Hunter does here is a good long-run grammatical strategy, since it grates on the ear even after the wording that reveals its correctness finally arrives. I’m even more unsure that we should speak of pursuing and “capturing” individual freedom as a positive good. Freedom should never be hunted, wrestled to the ground, captured, tortured, and/or shot until dead. I’m all in favor of achieving and preserving it, however.

July 13, 2016

Hyperdivisive Hillary Clinton admits she may have been a tad partisanly divisive

Filed under: Language and grammar,News,Politics — davidmbrowndotcom @ 11:49 pm

Lady, we already knew. That and your 70%-Bernie socialism are not happiness-making with the sane people. Didn’t you—to select one out of many possible examples—didn’t you, in a very partisan, untransparent and obnoxious way, unsuccessfully try to ram the proto-ObamaCare HillaryCare down our throats twenty years before Obama successfully rammed the neo-RomneyCare ObamaCare down our throats? Do you now disavow the divisive and medical-industry-destroying, individual-rights-destroying Obamacare?

Clinton says: “I cannot stand here and claim that my words and actions haven’t sometimes fueled the partisanship that often stands in the way of our progress.”

Such politic confessional candor is a lie, however. Progress toward what? The TyrannyCare? The StompFreedomCare? If divisiveness and partisanship impede progress toward such baleful ends, we must divide. We must be as divisive as possible.

“Divisive,” like “partisan,” are often-abused terms. Distractive and fuzzifying terms. In politics, they are what people who oppose the ideas, policies or conduct of other people often call those other people for opposing the ideas, policies or conduct of themselves. Slapping these adjectives on political foes is one of the substitutes for clear and unambiguous discussion of what’s fundamentally at stake in political contests. Speaking in such a way divides us from the truth.

Opposing thuggery is “divisive” if the other guy in the room is a thug. You two are not going to be multiplicatively hugging and cherishing each other. No need to wallow in guilt about this. Blame the thug.

Suppose that I oppose willful massive destruction of the freedom of innocent people. Suppose that in a completely nonpartisan way I also prefer the party that is discernibly if too often merely marginally less in favor of willful massive destruction of the freedom of innocent people to the party more in favor of willful massive destruction of the freedom of innocent people. Is my preference for freedom and opposition to the gung-ho mass destruction divisive or non-divisive?

We have no near-term prospect in this country of happy peaceful unity about the value of freedom and individual rights, because, for one reason, so many Americans want to divisively multiply the pace at which others are robbed so that the partisans of robbery can get more “free” stuff. No matter how much loot the pelf-demanders get, they demand more. It’s very divisive. I’m a uniter, not a divider, but you looters have to give me something to work with. Stop robbing and pillaging, stop voting for Hillary Clinton, etc.

Of course, it’s not just the question of whether earners of their money should be allowed to keep their money which divides us. We’re also divided with respect to whether it’s okay to be virulently racist if only you belong to one race rather than another race (a proposition with which I disagree; in my view, nobody should be racist: not cops, not cop-killers, not presidents of countries, not anybody). Then there’s the divisive issue of whether partisans of Islam who Allahu Akbaringly yodel their allegiance to Islam as they mass-murder people are in fact Muslim terrorists and caliphate-partisans or just pretending. And so forth.

Read The Flying Saucers Are Very Very Real

Read Omelet: A Tragedy of Bill Shake-a-speare

Read The Case of the Cockamamie Killer

July 12, 2016

Facts Matter: The collectivism and the collaborationism of the Black Lives Matter movement

Filed under: Language and grammar,Media and journalism,Politics — davidmbrowndotcom @ 1:49 am

Just a few days ago, in response to a Drudge Report headline stating that “Black Lives Kill: 4 Cops Shot Dead In Dallas,” David French, at the National Review Online site, in indictment of the headline, wrote: “When we tribalize conflict, we create a tribalized society. It’s that simple.”

Simple. Yet French’s later article, “Black Lives Matter: Radicals Using Moderates to Help Tear America Apart,” explains how Black Lives Matter is dominated by the type of ideas and persons who, on collectivist or tribal grounds, would rationalize and excuse the murder of the five cops shot dead in Dallas–even if many who call themselves participants in the movement would never themselves endorse those rationalizations and excuses.

Of course, if the Drudge Report headline writer, let’s say Drudge, intended to imply that all persons without exception who have marched in the streets protesting demonstrably unwarranted killings by police officers are also directly responsible for the cop murders in Dallas, that headline is badly wrong. It’s that simple. The headline writer is, then, assigning collective guilt, and is indifferent to any differences in motives and ideas of individual participants in the Black Lives Matter movement.

On the other hand, maybe the headline is guilty primarily of imprecisely truncating an essay-long argument that the Black Lives Matter movement is led by collectivist thugs who would rationalize murdering cops–even if the movement also includes many fair-minded foes of any plain murder, no matter the color or job of the victim or the perpetrator.

The Black Lives Matter movement arguably does include many unvicious protestors who, for whatever reasons, perhaps just ignorance and thoughtlessness, are willing to be associated with and march side by side with collectivist thugs and with those who loudly and volubly care not whether a police officer’s shooting is justified in any particular case. Judging by interviews that have appeared in the press, such innocents do exist. They don’t read manifestos and David French articles, or the papers. Perhaps they also don’t listen to what is being shouted from bullhorns at the protests they attend.

At any rate, it is fair to say that Drudge’s headline does not supply a complete argument. It’s that simple.

July 2, 2016

From “micro”-bad to “mega”-worse?

Filed under: Language and grammar,Politics,Society and culture — davidmbrowndotcom @ 5:53 am

Appeasing bullies doesn’t shut them down, true. Giving credence to dishonest concepts with no basis in reality, concepts designed to obfuscate reasonable distinctions and preempt thought, doesn’t shut those down either.

“Microaggression” has become a fashionable term in the academy, but it applies better in the realm of international relations, where American adversaries are constantly needling and testing the world’s sole superpower.

The Iranians did this in January when they detained two boatloads of U.S. sailors in the Persian Gulf. …

The Obama administration, as far as one can tell, has been equally supine in the face of numerous microaggressions from Russia. Josh Rogin of the Washington Post recently reported that the Russian intelligence services, the FSB, is harrassing U.S. diplomats all over Europe. According to Rogin, “Diplomats reported that Russian intruders had broken into their homes late at night, only to rearrange the furniture or turn on all the lights and televisions, and then leave. One diplomat reported that an intruder had defecated on his living room carpet.”

The harassment is most intense in Moscow, with diplomats reporting “slashed tires and regular harassment by traffic police.” In Obama’s first term, Rogin continued, “Russian intelligence personnel broke into the house of the U.S. defense attache in Moscow and killed his dog.”

Beating people up and trashing property are not “micro”-aggressions. They are full-fledged violent aggressions. The notion of “micro”-aggressions was concocted to impugn any incidental speech that somebody somewhere might be offended by—whether on rational, or, more likely, irrational grounds—and thus provide a pseudo-justification for mega-censorship and mega-harassment of the “offenders.” One needn’t muddy one’s thought with such a delusive notion as “micro”-aggression in order to observe that doing nothing proportionate and effective to oppose scattered instances of egregiously bad conduct encourages wider and worse perpetration of the same.

September 5, 2013

It’s all about around and round and round and round as we advocate for

Filed under: Language and grammar,Technology,Writing — davidmbrowndotcom @ 10:21 pm
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In an article on the second coming of watches, Nick Bilton writes: “While there is a lot of excitement around the Samsung watch, it is not the first of its kind.”

If I understand this sentence correctly, Bilton discerns no excitement about the Samsung watch, but only about something or other in the vicinity of, or “around,” the watch. What then is the reported excitement directly about?

The preposition, like other words in the sentence, is poorly chosen, but its deployment is not an inadvertent slip. Such wording is increasingly common among the kind of writers who have learned to shun the word “about” and to never use ten words when 19 will do.

Also showing up more and more in the prose of early adopters of the maladapted is the arbitrary appending of propositions to verbs. Thus, companies don’t “offer” a product for our consideration any more, they “offer up” the product (to be sacrificed?). “Show up” as I just used it and “spin on” as I am about to use it are standard idiomatic expressions; “offer up” in lieu of “offer,” as the preposition-appenders use it, is neither standard idiom nor a clever spin on standard idiom. Their “offer up” carries a connotation that the early adopters do not intend. Its function is only to introduce fog and sog. (These are also the writers who perpetually “reach out” for comment instead of just phoning or emailing people.)

Another example, which I never tire of wearying of: When one advocates a position, one normally does so transitively. “I advocate freedom,” let’s say. Or “I advocate gay marriage.” The dictionary will confirm (until the next edition, perhaps) that the verb “advocate” takes a direct object. But now many writers and editors seem to feel that to refer to the value being advocated so directly is too bald a declaration of loyalty. Thus we now often hear about─excuse me, “around”─we now hear around how a writer, activist or politician “advocates for” Position X, as if Position X had hired him to be its spokesperson. What’s next? “Demand for” instead of “demand”? “I demand for absolution.” “I demand for a divorce.” “I demand for you to put all the cash in this duffel bag. I insist about─I mean, around─I insist around it.”

Sure, language evolves. But scribblers should not eagerly or lazily adopt palsied simulations of linguistic innovations which only squishify or opacify their prose. Untutored writers copying the pseudo-hip blunders of other untutored writers should emulate good writers instead, and should study the tools of their craft.

December 19, 2012

When better tech writing is still not good enough

Filed under: Language and grammar — davidmbrowndotcom @ 2:10 pm

The New York Times pointed me to The Wirecutter, a web site published by Brian Lam, formerly of Gizmodo and other places. (This is the Brian Lam who for the sake of a scoop purchased a stolen pre-production iPhone model, which Apple could only have wanted to be returned pronto.) Lam started The Wirecutter in order to write about tech at a slower pace and with greater care than is possible at frantically scribbled traffic-scavenging sites. The Wirecutter aims not to talk about everything in the tech world (including every trivial thing) but to steer readers to the best stuff.

The few articles I’ve read so far are informative and relatively well-written. (In relation to what? Good question. Other tech sites.) However, look at the following two paragraphs from a piece on the iPad mini, “The iPad mini is the best tablet,” authored by the initially pseudonymous “W C Staff,” whose implied collectivity does not prevent him or them (Seamus Bellamy and Brian Lam, we learn eventually) from referring to a singular self in such scissors-worthy self-referential sentences  as “I’m embarrassed to say this because I’ve been part of the problem by not talking enough about the heft” (my, that is embarrassing):

Basically, the mini makes any full sized tablet feel as cumbersome and as ridiculous as a Nano does compared to an iPod classic, or an Air does next to a 17-inch Macbook, or an iMac does next to an Mac Pro. In most of those cases, we don’t need the power–we need the convenience. In the case of a tablet, where most of us can go to a computer if we need more power, having more makes even less sense; this is not the kind of gadget you need more power in, and lying on a bed, sofa, or packing it in a bag for travel, the mini is superior in all contexts as compared to its big brother.

Sure, yes, it’s smaller but there are compromises. Yes it’s harder to touch type on in landscape–but typing on any iPad is miserable and it’s easier to thumb type in portrait. Yes, it is only as fast as an iPad 2 and sometimes a 3, making it less than half the speed of the iPad 4. Yes, it does not have a high end retina display like the iPad 4, and the Android and Amazon tablets have better resolutions and sometimes better screens overall. Yes, one day, it may be upsold with a retina display and you may have wished you waited. That might come as soon as next year.

We have here redundancy; breaches of parallelism; wordiness; the horrific (yet, by all evidence, ubiquitous) insistence on phrases like “compared to” or “superior as compared to” in the expressing of comparisons when standard-issue comparison-expressing phrases like “better than” or “bigger than” do just fine, as compared to the alternative of not-fine; lapses in verb tense.  So we have the mini “basically” (as opposed to derivatively? tangentially?) making its big brother look ridiculous. We have “as ridiculous as a Nano does compared to an iPod classic” instead of “as ridiculous as a Nano next to an iPod classic” (if we’re going to keep the “next to” in all three examples in our coordinate structure), or “superior in all contexts as compared to its big brother” instead of “better in all contexts than its big brother.” We have “upsold” instead of–instead of what? We have “one day…you may have wished you waited” instead of “one day…you may wish that you had waited.” The author or authors should also be introduced to the hyphen. Etc.

What’s the solution? Copy-editing. Hire a copy editor, tech sites. Because I’m embarrassed to say that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Don’t just talk about the heft.

December 1, 2012

The “I” has it; or, the bloated minimizing of “me”

Filed under: Language and grammar — davidmbrowndotcom @ 3:46 am

Can there be any plausible rationale for the following wording: “For me, I…”? (As opposed to a justifiable stressing of contrast with a preceding subject as typically conveyed by “As for me, I….”?) A few examples of “I”-padding that I find flabby:

For me, I have been waiting for the iPad Mini for some time.

Different story, different writer:

The iPad mini—at least for me—allows me to type easily…

Same story, same writer:

For me, I didn’t feel that way…

For me, I don’t think I’m nitpicking, given how many other examples of wordiness can be found in each of the above articles.

Does any writer genuinely fear that the naked and alone pronoun “I” (or, for that matter, “me”) will unless slathered in redundancy be confused with “you,” “he,” “they,” or some other uber-familiar pronoun? Isn’t the first person singular pronoun very well established in its reference to self? As pronouns go, it cannot be surpassed for clarity. At least I think so. For me.

Assertions of knowledge are always asserted by a self making a claim to know. The better informed a writer is, the smarter he is, the wiser he is, the more confident he may be in voicing his judgments. Even so, the possibility of error or incompleteness may be taken as a given unless the writer is also making a special effort to imply infallibility. Yet some writers seem to fear that their most ordinary and uncontroversial articulations of personal assessments will be taken as too obnoxiously egotistical and assertive of identifiable fact unless linguistically wet-noodle-ified. Paradoxically, the result of the linguistic linguini is that the judgmentalism-eschewing self calls distracting and wordy attention to itself. The point of the article is set aside until the author can exorcise the demon of self. “Look at me! I’m not foisting my preferences and analysis on you!! I, for me, am not trying to pick a fight here! I’d never impose me and my subjectively perceived universe on you and your subjectively perceived universe, which latter, however contradictory to mine, is ever so equally valid! Ah me! Wonderful, tentative, card-carryingly nonjudgmental, unedited me! Oh frabjulous day, coolah coolay!”

For you, do you agree with me? Because, you know (and I know), for me, and for you, you sure should.

September 5, 2012

The case of the missing use

Filed under: Language and grammar — davidmbrowndotcom @ 2:38 am

In what case is one justified in using the horrible phrase “use case” instead of the single word “use” by itself or the single word “case” by itself or the single word “when” by itself, as the advisable case may be? Or is the horrible phrase “use case” merely a case of jargonic flabbiness that writers use only because they’ve seen it?

Compare: “When do you need to plug the cord into the outlet? Only when you need power?”

To: “What use cases require plugging the cord into the outlet? Is it only the power-needing use case?”

Compare: “Oh what’s the use! I can’t go on!”

To: “Oh what’s the use case! I can’t go on in this use case!”

November 7, 2011

Grab “Omelet: A Tragedy of Bill Shake-a-speare” NOW and be one of the first to sing it in the shower

Filed under: Language and grammar,Literature — davidmbrowndotcom @ 1:54 am

From the new Kindle ebook, “Omelet: A Tragedy of Bill Shake-a-speare” http://amzn.to/vDJugV:

CLINTONIUS: Omelet, thou seemeth still sad about your father’s loss, and yet it’s been lo these many couple months: approaching two. What’s the problemmo, son? The man is dead, and dross. ‘Tis still water under brackish bridge. Let it lay, pray.

OMELET: Easier done than said. (For thee.)

QUEEN GERTIE: Why buggest thou it so?! O Omelet, Omelet, Omelet, wherefore grievest thou, O Omelet? It’s no uncommon thing, this dying. We all kick the bucket at some sprung time, shucking off this mortal coil to thus denatured go bouncing ga-boing-boing, ga-boingetty-boing-boing into eternity, a slappy slinky slung. ‘Tis common.

OMELET: Aye, most common. Common common common. A common spring, like unto the wound-up winter of my discontent.

QUEEN GERTIE: Then if such commonality it be, why seemeth it particular with thee?

OMELET: Seemeth? Seemeth, say thee? But my lady, a seeming is but seeming, not what’s so. A seeming is what appearance outward show, whilst underneath, something else mays’t grow. Say…I seem to be this, but I’m actually that. I seem to be Chris, but I’m actually Pat. That’s seeming for you. And if all the world’s a seeming, some artifice perceptual—why then our goose is cooked, an’ all knowing ineffectual. Let me seem what I am, and all that I am, an’ there an end. As for the outward force of calm, the inward whirl, the regal outward state, yet inward churl; that’s not me, but such as others be. Yea, the flood of tears, the dullish gaze, the twitching leers, the pukish phase—could all be faked and gussied up for show, zealous mourning on the rocks, as we’d well to know. But my grief is real, and mine own, no trapping suit of woe. I respect not seem, nor any seam do sew.

QUEEN GERTIE: All right then, you are particular. Particular indeed!

CLINTONIUS: He’s particular particular.

QUEEN GERTIE: If scrambled eggs could talk, an Omelet would they be!

CLINTONIUS: Of ham and cheese. [Aside.] I’ll say this for him. ‘Tis a dish with a sprig o’ holly on ‘t. [To Omelet.] We laud thee thy sincere lament, which sure we be is sure well meant. That’s your bent, most heaven-sent. But…now, relent. For t’allow eaternal vent to so rageous ‘plent is to the gods impious, to this crown anent annoying. It’s sweet, the way you burble for your daddy. No, really. Touching. We loved him too. I was his brother. Message: I care. I knew him longer than you did. But you must know your father lost a father, who had lost his, and that one too, and so before him, and that one also, and his one prior, and so ad infinitum, the lot entire. Mourning is good: yes. Gnashing of teeth is fine. For a while. Granted. All right. But that while is up. Stop crying. It’s getting cloying. Be a man. Your father is dead. So are many other men. It happens. We laugh. We cry. We live. We die. I don’t know why. Accept it. Try. Defy, and you but offend God, nature (the grass, the trees, the rocks, the bees, the flies), the regulations of our state, thy own seeming better self. Forsooth, each very quark and fiber of the universe, its each jiggling protean proton, doth cry instantient out, “This must be so!” Ah, eh? All weakening, decay, disintegration, corpuscular inanition, the last ragged pointless wretched gasp, the rigor mortis—verily conspire to deport us. And so an end. Why then contend it? Buck up, Puck. Get a grip, Chip. You’ll reign some day, and a raining reign reaps but wet hay.
Now, as for your request to journey out of town for school, we beseech thee not, such being most retro-reverse to our desire. Stay here and observe events unwind, like some unthreading spool, instead. That’d be better.

* * *
Wait, that’s not all! The above passage is only an excerpt! There’s more! Act now to download a free sample of “Omelet” to your Kindle or Kindle app; or just buy it for the outrageously $3.49-ish price of only $3.49.

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