The Rule: When to Shut Up

This is how I happened to find myself at a political meet ‘n greet on a Thursday morning.

The tree cutters had been buzzing all morning, cutting up the remains of the 40-foot fallen pine. It’s a necessary nuisance…and much preferable to neighbors who can’t manage their barking dogs. But makes it hard to work on technical writing projects.

So I decided to bike down the street to see a mid-morning candidate meet ‘n greet, hosted by a neighbor, featuring the local state senator who lives in Phoenix’s Sunnyslope district. I knew I could pop in and out if needed—and they had promised food and refreshments.

Now, I’ve run across this senator a number of times for the neighborhood clean-ups that she organizes and I find her a credible politician, albeit Republican. As expected, the refreshments table was loaded with excellent fruit and pastries of all kinds. There were about 30 people in the big house.

Eventually, the hostess introduced our guest speaker who gave a 20-minute presentation. Granted, she’s running for office, but her preso was very party-neutral and she focused mainly on state education issues. She also brought up the methadone clinic issues that are causing major headaches and conversations on the Next Door discussion boards. It’s really complicated because methadone is related to addiction is related to homelessness is related to neighborhood crime. It’s all one hot mess, but needs to be addressed.

And now to the point.

I brought up my two issues: the massive bicycle theft industry problem in Sunnyslope, and the possibility of reviving the Art Walk to it’s former glory. My questions took about 40 seconds, after which I shut up. As the guest speaker started responding, I could see an elderly lady in red off to the side raising her hand, presumably to comment on one of my points. The candidate gave a 3-5 minute response. The lady in red raised her hand again.

But then, an older guy, sitting comfortably back in a giant TV chair toward the front, asked a question (or rather, gave a talk) for about five minutes on the subject of education. Naturally he didn’t look around to see who else was raising a hand. (One is tempted to call this a man-thing, but I’ve witnessed the same behavior from women.) Now, as I said, the candidate had already addressed education in her opening remarks, ad nauseam, so I wasn’t sure what the guy was getting at, but she went ahead and spent another five minutes on the topic.

At this point, the thing that always happens at these events did happen.

The guy in the comfy chair decided to ask another question! Except it wasn’t a question: it was an 8-10-minute something…I’m not even sure what…about education in Arizona. The guest speaker eventually tried to respond, saying “Well, it sounds like you’ve actually got about 10 questions in there…” and proceeded to address the guest with a 3-point response. As she finished her third point and was seemingly winding down, the man in the chair wanted to follow up again.

I couldn’t take it any more.

I politely interrupted from the back, “I think the young woman in red over there has been trying to ask something…”

And that’s how the nice elderly woman in a bright red dress got to speak.

I started noticing and writing about this phenomenon a few years ago after a Phoenix public library science presentation  and then again at a Tempe historical museum performance* where I noticed that:

(1) people in the front of a group never seem to consider that there may be people behind them;

(2) some people think they can keep asking questions no matter how many other people are in the room.

The Rule: You get one question and the question (or statement) must be less than 1 minute. Then you get to shut up.

 

 


Apparently some folks weren’t paying attention when I authorized this rule last October.

 

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My Library Would Like a Word With You

I’ve got a filing problem. Some would say a book problem. But I like my books and I’ve acquired quite a few shall we say . . . “quirky” titles over the years. Now, with my computer if I’m not sure where to file, say, a cartoon, I just dupe it and file it in multiple places. But you can’t do that with a physical object.

Let’s start with this gem…

This is basically a collection of a certain genre of tales from “A Thousand and One Nights” — Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic during the so-called Islamic Golden Age, supposedly narrated by Scheherazade. *

So: Literature? Urban legends, Islamic literature, Eros?

Now: Bertrand Russell’s very short philosophical/political “alphabet”…

 

Politics? Humor? Dictionaries? Each letter gets a word and snarky definition, so it’s kind of like Bierce’s 19th century Devil’s Dictionary, but with just one word per letter.

I particularly like “nincompoop” and this illustrated page for “L” featuring “liberty.”

 

 

 

 

This next one offers tips from Jesus for tackling key moves in a dozen athletic events from surfing to bowling to shot put (with help from Samson and others).

Best of all…it’s holographic!

Of course I could just file it with my copy of Dancing with Jesus: Featuring a Host of Miraculous Moves but that doesn’t really solve the overall filing problem, eh?

I’ve had this next book since my days as the advertising guy for a big steel company in Warren, Oh. and the closest I’ve ever figured out where to file it is in a cardboard box where it unceremoniously revealed itself a month ago.Yes, it’s really a genuine metallurgical guide to alloy steel, as you can see from the first page of the Table of Contents — everything you need to know about electric furnaces, annealing, ingot rolling and quenching and tempering (my fave). Did you know that as early as the 8th century, the process of drawing wire through a die…well, never mind.

 

The 2005 iPod book comes inscribed with a dedication from someone whose name I can’t quite make out, but it’s definitely meant for me, referencing my alleged “iPod addiction.” I have to confess, I’ve never made it all the way through, having blocked my eyes at the chapter on “iBondage.” But: “Computers”? “Technology”? “Biography”?

Gitomer’s “Little Black Book” is actually more helpful than you might think, fascinating even, on the subject of entrepreneurial networking.

In addition to sporting a graphically sophisticated layout** in terms of typography, judicious use of color, subheads, it has some dang clever cartooning on each theme.

From my bookshelves’ point of view though, we don’t really have a “self-help” or “business advice” section.

And now, the highlight of my quirky book collections, before we finish up with weird stuff.

(pssst: Don’t buy this)

Fans of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver will remember the delightful hoopla about this children’s picture book about a “Very Special boy bunny who falls in love with another boy bunny” — a delightful satire, with a message of tolerance and advocacy, replacing the rather inane, noxiously unfunny picture book by Charlotte and Karen Pence about “Marlon Bundo,” a lonely bunny who lives with his Grampa, Mike Pence.

And now on to the weird stuff!

Needless to say, this first one is actually a satire of gun rights activists…

 

…but the others? Well, you decide.

 

So, librarians and book lovers: Where do I file these gems? (And please don’t say “Goodwill.”)


* Speaking of which, one of my favorite Egyptian writers, Naguib Mahfouz, who died in 2006, compiled a set of tales playing on the those themes, called Arabian Nights and Days. I in turn, having pilgramaged to his ancient Cairo district, developed a semi-improvised take on one of his short stories, “Ma’rouf the Cobbler.”  My version, which runs anywhere from an hour to installments over several days, contains elements of Jinn (genies), the Ring of Solomon, civic corruption, hashish, coffee, sex and magic — all originating in Mahfouz’s “Cafe of the Emirs.”
**Typical page layout for the Little Black Book

 

 

 

“Fibology” or, analyzing Trump’s “double negative”

Say you’re a 7-year-old and you’ve been caught in a fib.

Maybe you got a poor grade on a test and you smeared the score on the paper so your parents can’t read it very well. Or you say, “Billy Peters said it would be OK to jump in the pool without our clothes. He got permission! Honest.” And my favorite:

Mom: “Jimmy, who crayoned your bedroom wall?”

Me: “Wall?”

The lie is pretty transparent to everyone involved and we eventually learn to cover our tracks more cleverly. “Darn, I’d love to help at your garages sale but I’ve got this dang work deadline.” Or “Did you think I said I would drive you to the airport? I’m sure I said wouldn’t be able to, yeah, that’s it…wouldn’t.

OK, you see where we’re going here.

Now, let’s talk about double negatives.

The conventional modern rules of English grammar supposedly dictate that the two negative elements cancel each other out, in a sort of algebraic way, to give a positive statement instead, so that the sentence ‘I don’t know nothing’ could literally be interpreted as ‘I do know something’. But in ordinary use, we understand that the double neg used as slang is really a reinforcement.

In this way, two negative words (in bold below) in the same clause may express a single negative idea:

“We didn’t see nothing.” = We saw nothing.

“I can’t get no satisfaction” = I really cannot get satisfaction [in Kentucky* they call this “the Hillbilly Exemption,” aka the “Jagger/Richards Rule”]

I say conventional modern rules because some fussy linguists like John McWhorter or Richard Ingham like to point out that double negs were common in Old English (English before the year 1000), especially the West Saxon dialect, up to and including use by Shakespeare (“I cannot go no further.” As You Like It, c. 1600) I call this “The Appeal to Shakespeare Fallacy” — as though to say, “if it was good enough for old Will, it’s good enough for modern Bill.”

Here’s my own linguistic breakdown:

1.) True “double negative” — where one part apparently negates the other, leading to confusion.

“I don’t have no money.”  (understanding the sentence depends on how you read or hear it; possible candidate for Hillbilly Exemption)

“She won’t be not going.” (clearly unclear)

“I’m not sure some of the English tutors didn’t understand the assignments.” (actual student note)

2.) Slang/dialectal double negative — where we understand the phrase as a dialectal, jazz, “arch” or vernacular use

“It don’t mean nuthin’” = It’s nothing. It doesn’t mean anything: clearly qualifies for a Hillbilly Exemption.

3.) Two negatives yielding a grammatically legitimate milder positive

This is actually a pretty useful way of understating a proposition, but one has to be fairly facile with one’s abilities to pull it off.

“It’s not that I don’t want to go…” (I do want to go but can’t for other reasons)

“These students cannot afford college…not because they aren’t smart enough…” (they are, or may be smart enough but there are other reasons they can’t afford college — actual student comment)

There’s actually a fourth kind of negative, but it requires a certain eye-rolling skill:

4.) Single negative yielding a mild positive

“He’s not terrible at math…”

And now, to Trump

Original statement at Trump/Putin press conference:

“My people came to me, Dan Coates, came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server . . . So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

  • Transcript: Trump And Putin’s Joint Press Conference. July 16, 2018, 1:09 PM ET  NPR

Trump, next day:

“I thought it would be obvious, but I would like to clarify just in case it wasn’t. In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’. The sentence should have been: ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia,’ sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.”

  • “Would or wouldn’t: how Trump’s claim he misspoke unleashed a meme-fest” The Guardian

In other words, it makes sense to him that Russia would be involved (he doesn’t see how Russian was not involved.)

Thus, we seem to have a case of #3 above. “It makes sense that Russia would be involved (but that’s as far as I’m going to go).” But this is not exactly right, since it doesn’t make sense to offer a “mild positive” with “I don’t see any reason.” Like, “I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t be able to leave early. It’s a reasonable thing to do.”

(Aside from the usual Trump blathering, it’s interesting that he faltered, even in his correction, by saying “I wouldn’t” before re-correcting to “it wouldn’t.”)

Of course the real clunking sound of bad fibology is Trump seeming to blame “the sentence,” as though it was some disembodied thing that simply crawled out of his mouth without his knowledge.

Conclusion

Someone needs to re-take their 2nd-grade “Fibology” class.


* Reported to me by an actual Kentuckian
Child coloring wall adapted from “Mom’s Angels: Is your Child Coloring Walls?”
Trump photo modification by the author
“Jury of English Majors” cartoon, Mark Parisi, 2009, off the mark.com
Crying child image from “Child life: a collection of poems” (1871, John Greenleaf Whittier, p 221)

Ask the Witch-Answer Guy (part IV)

A concerned public servant who desires to remain anonymous wishes to know:

Q: Let’s say their was a “swamp” that needed draining. A terrible swamp. Believe me, it’s the Worst! Their’s never been a worse one in the history of the world. Wouldn’t it not help to “undrain the swamp” by sending all the coastal elitists Witches their?

A: Same swamp, different day

<sigh>


Previous Witch-Answer posts:

Part I: Avoiding a Witch Hunt

Part II: The Perjury Trap

Part III: Power Pardons

Welcome to the MAGA SWAG Store

Updated 6 July 2018*

Is Donald Trump trying to run a country…or a smarmy discount swag store?

3 July, 2018

Friend,

You only have until tomorrow to get 40% off all OFFICIAL TRUMP GEAR for our 4th of July Sale.

Use coupon code “FREEDOM” before July 4th at 11:59 PM to save 40%.

As always — ALL of our merchandise is 100% MADE IN AMERICA.

DonaldJTrump.com <contact@victory.donaldtrump.com>  3 July 2018 at 7:44 AM


2 July, 2018

Friend,

President Trump wants to go BIG LEAGUE for America’s birthday this year.

That’s why we are making all our patriotic OFFICIAL Trump gear… 40% off!

Use coupon code “FREEDOM” before July 4th at 11:59 PM to save 40% on all our AMERICAN MADE [sic] clothing and accessories.


21 June, 2018

 

 

Friend,

It is OFFICIALLY SUMMER. To celebrate, the Official Trump Store is offering 25% off all your summer needs.

Use the coupon code “SUMMER” before TONIGHT at 11:59 PM to save 25%.

Start your summer off RIGHT by getting all your official Trump gear here.


9 June, 2018

Friend,

To celebrate all the Dads who raised their kids RIGHT, the Official Trump Store is offering 25% off all its merchandise.

Get a perfect made-in-America gift for the all-American dad in your life.

DonaldJTrump.com <contact@victory.donaldtrump.com>9 Jun at 10:58 AM

Of course, this is a just a sampling of the near-daily emails coming from this desperate enterprise.


Note: All punctuation anomalies, including uppercase, hyphenation, bold face and highlighting in original.
*And this one just in:

6 July 2018, 8:06 AM

But with President Trump at the helm, we’re not going to stay quiet.
That’s why we’re launching a new ad to expose the Left to ALL of America, but we need your help getting it up.

Someone needs to give Trump for President, Inc. a little lesson in inadvertent double entendres.

More quirky phrases you (may) want to know…or not

(updated 21 June, 24 June 2018)

Gish gallop: a technique, named after the creationist Duane Gish who employed it, whereby someone argues a cause by hurling as many different half-truths and no-truths into a very short space of time so that their opponent cannot hope to combat each point in real time.

“A debate tactic of drowning your opponent in a flood of individually-weak arguments in order to prevent rebuttal of the whole argument collection without great effort.” (Wikipedia)

  • heard on “Oh No Ross And Carrie” (ONRAC) and “Skeptics Guide to the Universe” (SGU) podcasts.

Fisk (verb): somewhat related to a Gish gallop, but in the other direction: any point-by-point attempt to refute the other guy’s argument. The word has been around since at least 2004, referring to journalist Robert Fisk, but was resurrected by rightist NRA personality Dana Loesch promising, among other things, that she and the NRA would fisk The New York Times. The term “Fisking” (either upper or lower case) figuratively means a thorough and forceful verbal beating.

  • For various reasons, it was (mistakenly) thought at first that the term she actually used was “fist.”

serial fabricator: basically, an inveterate liar. However, use of the term “liar” has the downside of sounding like a permanent character trait, versus something someone does occasionally. According to some researchers, on average, people lie in some form or another, about 1.65 times a day.*

  • Presumably, this includes fibs and polite lies, like responding to “Do these jeans make me look fat?” or “Oh, you brought a Beringer white zinfandel…how nice of you. We’ll just save that for later.”

It’s like labeling someone a “criminal,” implying that that’s the person’s defining trait, whereas the person may have been caught ripping off a convenience store but doesn’t make it a habit. Serial fabricator, on the other hand, suggests someone with a continuing habit of not telling the truth, perhaps not even able to distinguish between truth and fiction, or having such low standards of truth-telling that they simply repeat whatever nonsense they hear from their aides and, having said it, double-down on believing and repeating it. The utterance may not, strictly speaking, even be a lie but a bit of blathering as in “I heard that…” The earliest reference I could find on this term goes back to 2003 referring to former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair. Also, see note below on Elizabeth Holmes.**

TCK – third culture kid (noun phrase): a child raised in a culture other than their parents’ (or the country on the child’s passport, where they are legally considered native) for a significant part of their early years. They’re exposed to a greater (often dismaying) variety of cultural influences. TCKs move between cultures (and languages!) before they have had the opportunity to fully develop their personal cultural identity. The first culture of such individuals refers to the culture of the country from which the parents originated, the second culture refers to the culWorld in Words logoture in which the family currently resides, and the third culture refers to the amalgamation of these two cultures. “You always feel out of place.” (The World in Words podcast, May 17, 2018)

Despoiling the Egyptians (phrase): Basically a sort of reverse “cultural appropriation” (the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture). The phrase has come to mean any use of another culture’s art and ideas for purposes that may wholly contradict their original intention.

From St. Augustine: In the Hebrew scripture, Exodus 3:21, God tells the Israelites to “despoil the Egyptians” as they left their bondage by taking gold and silver statuary or other works that had been pagan or profane and use the metal for their own, finer purposes. [On Christian Doctrine, Ch. 40, section 60; cited in Hecht, Doubt, 201]

“The Israelites are promised that they will leave Egypt not just with their freedom but with great wealth. “You shall strip the Egyptians bare,” goes the promise, in colloquial English of today. Sure enough, this week the Israelites prepare to leave by “borrowing” objects of silver and gold from their neighbors. Borrowing? Not exactly. Everybody knows, that they are leaving Egypt for good with no intention of returning.” [“Despoiling the Egyptians”: An Exercise In Moral LogicRabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D.]

bouncing compliment: disguising an attack by starting out with a compliment to the other side; that is, hiding your real message under layers of “disingenuous affirmations” to appear sincere. Also, the apparent or superficial acceptance of your opponent’s basic premises as a way of disarming them. The technique is part of 18th C. Irish philosopher/freethinker/satirist John Toland’s “recipe for subterfuge” along with “disguising the thesis” and using terminology that acts as a secret handshake to those in the know–what we now call a “dog whistle” statement. (Jennifer E. Hecht, Doubt, 336)

And in honor of the 2018 Soccer/Football World Cup, here are some multinational slang and jargon terms for various “skill moves” from Tom Williams’ book:

  • “cow dribble” (Portugese?) In the absence of a real soccer pitch or field, rural/village players improvised fields—usually on cattle pastures. Often, cows invaded the makeshift lawn, causing players to dodge their opponents as the animals that came up.
  • “walking on papers” (Andar aos papéis, Portuguese) when a dangerous “cross” comes into the “box” and the goalkeeper makes a complete hash of his attempt to deal with it. For some reason the Dutch call this Vrouwen en kinderen eerst: “women and children first” (UK: “Keystone Cops”)
  • Hawaiifootball is Norwegian for … Hawaii football
  • “big bridge” (in French, le grand pont)
  • “rabona” (Argentina)
  • “the mousetrap” (Dutch)
  • un crochet: “hook” (France)
  • en fuego (Mexico, “on fire”)
  • “Throwing stones at the wrench” (Mexico)
  • “bunny hop” (UK) aka “toad jump”
  • “shower of balls” (Portugese banho de bola): when a team has completely wiped out the opponent in every department

 

(Don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this article. As always, sharing buttons are below. Thanks.)


Note, a few of these items appeared in an updated version of this blog originally posted as Quirky Words on 2018/05/25
* 22.7% of all lies were told by one percent of the sample, and half of all of the lies were told by 5.3% of the sample; thus the majority of lies are told by a relatively small portion of the population (Psychology Today report). “Age accounts for one of the most significant variables in determining a person’s propensity to lie. Lying peaks in adolescence when children begin to test their independence.” (National Geographic)
One notable personage who busts the demographic average is reported to make nearly 6.5 false claims a day
** Another notable serial fabricator (sf) is the now-notorious Elizabeth Holmes who was totally busted in 2015 for her Theranos blood-testing scam operation. Interestingly, her corporate style has been characterized with some familiar terms: secretive, authoritarian, arrogant, sociopathic, and heavily “silo’d” (that is, one part doesn’t know what any other part is doing, often with literal partitions)…but mostly by an outrageous, continuing, overt program of lying. (If the John Carreyrou WSJ story is not accessible, you can find a March 2018 report in Vanity Fair.) As Carreyou details in his book, almost every word coming out of Holmes’s mouth as she built and ran her company was either grossly embellished or, in most instances, outright deceptive.  “In fact, the company she built was just a pile of one deceit atop another.” Vanity Fair, June 2018.  Carreyrou said, “I think she’s someone that got used to telling lies so often, and the lies got so much bigger, that eventually the line between the lies and reality blurred for her.” [Hmm..who else does this all sound like?]
Whether Holmes is a serial fabricator outside her sham business operation, as other notable sf’s seem to be, is a separate issue.

Are You an Alien?

With the recent discovery of “building blocks of life” on Mars by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity (published in Science on June 7), the portal is once again open to speculation as to whether this possible “life” may have actually visited Earth in the past. Evidence of such visitations are found in the Pyramids of Egypt, Atlantis, Machu Picchu, Roswell, Stonehenge, the Creation Museum in Kentucky and Mar-a-Lago.

With all these excursions, jaunts, sprees and expeditions, the possibility arises of alien genetic interactions with humans. With this background, we present as a public service, the following assessment of your own likelihood of alien heritage.

This is a test of the Emergency Alien System. The podcasters of your area, in voluntary cooperation with ICE, EPA, Breitbart News, InfoWars, Coast to Coast AM, the National Park Service and other authorities, have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an Alien emergency. If this had been an actual emergency you would be instructed where to turn for news and official information. Don’t wait to find out the truth about yourself from some unsavory character on the street. Take the test below. Remember: this is only a test.

  1. Do you come from outer space? [YES] [NO]
  2. Are you radioactive? [YES] [NO]
  3. Are you televisionactive? [YES] [NO]
  4. Do you have a launching pad in your backyard? [YES] [NO]
  5. Are you allergic to Kryptonite? [YES] [NO]
  6. Do you have relatives in a parallel universe? [YES] [NO]
  7. Do you sometimes get the feeling that you know what someone is thinking before they speak? [YES] [NO]
  8. Are you required to report your current address to NASA every January? [YES] [NO]
  9. Have you ever fantasized that there may be someone named Max Planck? [YES] [NO]
  10. Did you mail in the warranty card on your orgone regenerator? [YES] [NO]
  11. Do you eat from squeeze tubes? [YES] [NO]
  12. Do you collect stamps? [YES] [NO]
  13. Do you qwertyuiop? [YES] [NO]
  14. Do you want to qwertyuiop with me? [YES] [NO]
  15. Do you you own a mylar dog? [YES] [NO]
  16. Do you wear bib overalls and you’re not a farmer? [YES] [NO]
  17. Do you wear sunglasses at night, indoors? [YES] [NO]
  18. Do you have an impending sense of oatmeal? [YES] [NO]
  19. Do you feel like you ought to turn yourself into the authorities? [YES] [NO]
  20. Did you ever forget to wear your glasses and discover that you can see just as well without them? [YES] [NO]
  21. I have an uncle who is a magician. The other day he was walking down the street and turned into a drugstore. How about you? [YES] [NO]
  22. Have you ever characterized Keanu Reeves as a “fine actor”? [YES] [NO]
  23. Do you sometimes get the feeling that you’re not in Kansas anymore? [YES] [NO]
  24. Where do a body meet a body?

         [a] on the sly

         [b] comin’ thro’ the rye

         [c] anywhere, just try

         [d] don’t ask I

         [e] in a Boston Cream Pie

  1. Did you ever get an urge to put your clothes on inside-out and flog yourself with a haddock? [YES] [NO]
  2. A Ritz cracker has two sides. The top is sort of moundy, has seven little holes, and is salted. The bottom is more level, and is unsalted. Which side do you like to put your cheese on? [Bottom] [Top]\

Alien spoor or scat along the Arizona Canal

If you answered “Yes”, “e”, or “Bottom” to one or more of the questions there is a strong likelihood that you are indeed an alien being. Do not be alarmed. Do not dematerialize. Do not eat any broccoli. You will be contacted by the Internal Revenue Service in the near future.


All photos except Mars rover ©James Veihdeffer.
From top to bottom: white mask found in alley attached to electrical fixture; irrigation control valve fixture at Glendale Community College; counter fixture at McDonald’s; abandoned bicycle frame on Arizona Canal; fire hydrant adorned with cowboy hat by anonymous passerby; APS electrical pole insulation patties along canal…or maybe alien poop.