Anno Del Pannolone per Adulti Depend

All I’m going to say about it is — well, we’ll see if this is all I’m going to say about it or not, but — in 2002 I bought the Italian translation of Infinite Jest, because I’d wanted to reread it since my first time in 1996. Despite the pleasure that IJ always gave me, even in small doses, the time investment of a full re-read always seemed like too much to commit to. So I bought it in Italian instead, thinking that I could kill several birds with one stone: read 1400 pages of Italian as practice and to familiarize myself with idiomatic constructions; reread the great book; and find out how anyone could translate this most English work into another language. No other writer mined the English lexicon like David Foster Wallace did; his use of the insane, particolored variety of English words was one of the crucial, right-place-right-time exposures that compelled me into lexicography. How could it possibly be Italianed, or Frenched or Russianed or anything else?

It’s hard for me to say. Whatever my precise level of Italian was or is, and whatever the quality of Edoardo Nesi’s translation — I’m inclined to say it is very good — the power of DFW’s voice was such that, after pages and pages of reading Italian, it was always the English version, remembered from 10 years previous (by the time I got around to starting it in 2006), that I was reading, even as the Italian words were what my eyes were scanning. All of the quirks, inventions and exploitations of DFW’s English had stamped themselves on my brain, permanently; the idioms were not Italian nor even English but just Wallacian. IJ may be translateable, I don’t know: but once it made its mark on me, it couldn’t be undone, and I’m glad I read it when I did. And I’m sad that I apparently won’t get to read his book about Parmenides, truly the awesomest and most mind-bending of the pre-Socratics.

Misdefining misogyny

I looked up misogyny on onelook after seeing what I considered an inadequate definition somewhere. I found a glut of inadequate definitions. I think misogyny, and in fact all miso- and -phobia words, need more attentive corpus analysis in order to reflect the full spectrum of their use.

Consider:

OED: Hatred or dislike of, or prejudice against women.

Encarta: hatred of women: a hatred of women, as a sexually defined group

COED: hatred of women.

M-W: a hatred of women

CALD:the hatred of women [misogynist: a man who hates women or believes that men are much better than women]

Wiktionary 1. The hatred of, or pathological aversion to women 2. Discrimination against women

Wordsmyth: intense dislike of women

AHD: Hatred of women: “Every organized patriarchal religion works overtime to contribute its own brand of misogyny” (Robin Morgan).

RH: hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women. Cf. misandry.

CDAE: [-ist] someone, usually a man, who hates women or believes that men are much better than women. [-y example: There’s a disturbing misogyny in his films.]

1913 Webster: Hatred of women Johnson

I think the A++++ WOULD CONSULT AGAIN here has to go to AHD just for the illustrative quotation. Just to make sure I wasn’t confused about “hatred” I looked that up, too, but it hasn’t really evolved to mean anything about systematic societal oppression or ideologically enforced inequality. So take misogyny in the OEC: (the first column of numbers is a count of co-occurrences; the second is a measure of salience that I believe Sketch Engine bases on several measures.)
misogyny - oec - sketchengine

Some of the corpus collocations are clearly hate-based: vicious, extreme, violent, bigotry, antisemitism, rape. But many of them are clearly things on a larger scale: institutionalize, rampant, casual, usual; materialism. And some of them are more individual in nature, but not essentially hateful: objectification, machismo. It is these latter two categories that are largely unaddressed by the dictionaries that are easy to cut and paste.

misogyny - oec - collocations

I don’t mean to argue that misogyny is not hatred, nor that most people who speak of misogyny don’t believe that it’s hatred. But “misogyny” spends time in the company of words that are not really covered by weirdness like “pathological aversion” and “intense dislike”. The connection with “objectification” shows it fairly well, as does “inequity”. Xenophobia, homophobia, — these words are not really suggestive of “intense dislike” or “irrational fear”, but with learned behaviors, nation-scale phenomena, What’s Wrong With This Country. “Materialism” is not intense or irrational; “misanthropic” is closely associated with “genius”, “intelligent”, “comic”, “muse” — not really qualities of a “person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society”. It looks like a good many of these miso-/-phobia words are often defined very skimpily, every dictionary’s essential ‘evidence’ being nothing more than the etymology.

I’m not saying it’s necessarily appropriate for every dictionary to define misogyny as an epidemic, sometimes unconscious ideology that oppresses or subordinates women to men; but compare with the nuanced definition of “slavery” in NOAD:

the state of being a slave [sc. a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them].
• the practice or system of owning slaves. • a condition compared to that of a slave in respect of labor or restricted freedom. • excessive dependence on or devotion to something.

This is a reasonable starting point for better definitions of “misogyny”, “homophobia”, etc.: in the language there are all sorts of ways to be a slave or a misogynist beyond being the legal property of someone, or having any explicit/conscious hatred, aversion or dislike. Simplistic definitions lead only to oversimplistic misunderstanding.

The causes of causes

I went to the Aston Corpus Symposium last week and it was exciting and even moving; at every talk I jotted down notes that didn’t relate to the talk but to tangential ideas that the talk was unearthing and catalyzing.

One of them was from a talk by Bill Dodd, ‘Semantic prosody’ in FL teaching and learning’. He took the now-near-chestnut of the verb ’cause’ from English, and looked at three different ’cause’ verbs in German, finding them to have the same semantic bias.

[In a corpus of English, you’ll find that the overwhelming majority of occurrences of ’cause’ as a verb have collocations that are bad things: viruses, negligence, vandals, infections, assaults, and deficiencies cause devastation, delay, injury, nuisance, consternation, havoc, death, ruckus and loss; not a lot of kittens causing giggles.]

Dodd looked at verursachen, bewirken, and hervorrufen in the corpus of the Digitale Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache and found (as you may see yourself, either in deutsch or in google’s translation) that all three had exclusively nasty neighbors: Schade, Kosten, Brand, Störung, Verlust, Geräusch, Tod, Kopfschmerz.

I haven’t looked at evidence from other languages, but posit for a moment that all languages’ verbs of causality are associated with negative things. What does it tell us about causality, and the circumstances in which people think about causality?

Maybe people simply don’t often stop to ask why good things happen. Good things are exactly what are supposed to happen all the goddamn time; good things are what I deserve and there’s no “cause” for them: they are the natural order of things. So maybe a person looks for a cause only when they’re disappointed by an effect.

NNS * NNS = 144

Abstract: The present dictionary interface is the same kind of information display as a multiplication table; current online dictionaries are putting big, searchable lexical multiplication tables on the web. But today’s dictionary data allows much more. Who/what will spark the dictionary-display revolution?

Body: Consider the multiplication table: a mute, ignorant record of calculations someone has done somewhere else. If it only goes up to 9*9 it can give you no indication of what 9*10 is. You can use your own mind to add or extrapolate, of course, but the paper can’t: WYSIAYG. A pocket calculator supersedes the multiplication table and offers at least the arithmetic operations. The pocket calculator meets a user who is in the same state as a dictionary user: “I know my question; this will tell me the answer”. But instead of simply showing all the answers all at once and letting the user grep optically for the right answer, the pocket calculator asks the user to enter exactly what she is calculating, and in return she gets only the result that she requested: YAFIYGI.

Any computer that can get on the web obviously supersedes even the pocket calculator. People don’t put multiplication tables on the web to help you find the answer to simple multiplication problem. You do find multiplication tables on the web (some of them are very cool), but they’re a tool to help you learn mathematical concepts, not to help you find out 6*7.

Both multiplication tables and lexical lists were inscribed on clay tablets in ancient Sumer 5000 years ago, and both have been made fairly continuously since. The sophistication of quantitative display has progressed at a pace matching general technological/scientific developments; but dictionaries, in their own transition from clay to screen, haven’t even reached the pocket calculator stage. A dictionary is great for what it’s been doing for centuries, but the surrounding science has progressed far beyond what you will see in any existing form.

A paper dictionary is the same sort of thing as a multiplication table: the output of a ton of research and thinking, fixed immutably for linear consultation. Web dictionaries, in turn, have put the paper layout on the screen and made only slight improvements on the paper version. You may jump quickly to a headword, maybe search for a word within definitions, and maybe even search for a word in the definition of a lemma in a particular part of speech. But still, however sophisticated your search, the output is the same: an entry as it would appear on the page. Garbage in, entry out; pearls in, entry out.

Yet a mature, modern dictionary, in its native electrons, has all kinds of information that doesn’t fit on the page or into any current ideas of what a dictionary can tell you. Somehow, sometime soon, someone will present dictionary data not simply as multiplication, but as the full range of arithmetic and other mathematical functions: +-*/^!% -> lexical, semantic, historical, phonetic, syntactic, collocational, sociolinguistic, geographical, etc. etc.; and all-importantly, it will be context-sensitive. Yes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; but there’s nothing broke about the multiplication table: it’s just not functional enough for daily use as an essential mathematical reference. Current dictionaries work fine for what they do, but a more sophisticated lexical interface will allow people to ask more sophisticated lexical questions.
I want my computer’s dictionary to be a lexical Bloomberg terminal that reads my mind. With the industry’s most advanced dataset at my fingertips, I can wrap my mind around the contextual part, but I haven’t figured out how the new ink-liberated display will look. But I’m thinking about it, and folks like these are rich guano for my brain. So much of the computational lexicographical work I do is quantitative at every stage except the final output: where and how could, or should, the numbers come in to the final data? Numbers are part of a lexicographer’s decision-making process, and part of the amateur Google corpus ad-hoc definer’s process; but not part of dictionaries as we see them today. But tomorrow is coming, and soon.

pij to

Getting on the subway around 9pm on a midsummer Saturday, I saw there was some amount of bustle. A neigborhoody (i.e. latino) man approached the station attendant: “A guy’s ODing: call an ambulance.” Walking down the ramp to the platform, we see that the train is in the station, but also hear a commotion. I quicken my pace, though I can’t say whether it’s because I want to catch the train, or to see what is up with the crowd. About fifteen people are shaking a red-clad person who, by his distance and floppiness, looks like a small child.

The neighborhood person, returning to the crowd, says “Water! With ice! Anybody have ice water?” S and I had just filled our newish pink 1-liter Nalgene, to get us through the hot night platforms on our 3-transfer subway trek across Brooklyn. “We have water, but it’s not icy.” For a moment he holds out, as if someone else might yet show up with ice water. A middle-ageish woman is also saying something about agua. Seeing no other offers, the crowd takes up our water; they unscrew the top and encourage OD to drink it.

Everyone in the crowd (to my surely cynically biased recollection) is latin@ and “from the neighborhood”: we appear to be the only hipster gentrifiers who are joining the crowd.

The ODer. He is skinny in a youthful way, his face very pale. His head, shaved in the past week or so, is flopped back as they bring the bottle to his lips; his friend is shouting at him in Polish. The crowd thoughtfully dumps some of the water on his head; this brings his head upright. “Water! Drink the water!” They put the bottle in his hands, and he stares at this shimmering crystalline pink football. “Agua drink water!” He seems distracted by the lid flopping around on its tether. His friend says pij to! pij to! The crowd takes up this bit of Polish: pito! pito! He stares at the bottle in his hands; others shove it to his lips, but he pulls it away, with strings of saliva attached.

He grasps the bottle decisively in both hands, and shakes it wildly up and down twice, still entirely bewildered. Pito! Pij to! The water splashes the crowd and its cool impact somehow breaks the spell. An announcement tells us that an ambulance is on its way. The ODer sits on a bench, his friend still encouraging him to pij. The train is getting ready to leave. We sort of halfheartedly ask if he still needs the bottle. “Sure,” (the friend) “it’s okay.” But OD is clearly just as confused by the idea of letting go of the bottle as he is by the idea of drinking from it. We get on the train. Time to buy another nalgene.

Yet Another Unfortunate GMail Ad: “Slanty letters” == かんたんな英作文で メキメキライティング能力向

I’m sure the reason this ad for an English language course was put across the top of this message was because the body talks about an English course: all the other ads are for language resources. But it is an unfortunate juxtaposition, at least for polysemaniacs like me. [Click to enlarge]
Slanty

Maybe the real shocker here is that I haven’t turned off that little advertisement area.