Some thoughts about policing and race in the United States

Dear facebook friend,

It saddens me to say that I find your views concerning recent police killings of Black men and not unrelated anti-police violence to be racist. Sorry to use the r-word on you. I know how much being accused of racism angers you. I know because it angers me too. Somewhere along the way, I picked up a meaning of the word “racist” that boils down to “irrationally hateful”, “deplorably unenlightened”, or “willfully ignorant”. In some way, this makes sense, since, after all, much of what we think of as racism is transparently nonsensical and immoral. I think we’d all agree that someone’s worth is not found in their skin pigmentation. Read more ›

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Posted in Language and race

Denying language privilege in academic publishing

If you’re an academic anywhere in the world, you’re probably under pressure to publish to make progress in your career or just to keep your job. Increasingly, you’re probably also under pressure to publish “internationally”. Thanks to the global dominance of English-speaking academia, “international” is more or less a euphemism for journals published in English. Faced with this requirement, academics from outside English-speaking countries like the US, the UK, Canada, or Australia have commonly reported that writing for publication in English is a source of disadvantage for them. Furthermore, they have been shown to be less successful at having their work published in these journals than those scholars residing in English-speaking countries. Read more ›

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Posted in Academia

Bashing Hillary Clinton’s voice: “Screeching”, “shrieking”, and “shrill”

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The past week has seen quite a bit of discussion of Hillary Clinton’s voice. As I wrote about last week, numerous people have called her “shrill“, a clearly gendered word. Nonetheless, the sexism behind such criticisms continues to be denied. Ben Shapiro, for example, wrote an article titled, “Yes, Hillary Clinton Is Shrill. No, It’s Not Sexist To Say So“, as if his perception of someone’s voice were purely a matter of objective reason. Read more ›

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Posted in Language and gender, Language and politics

‘Shrill’ women in politics

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The United States once again has the opportunity to elect the first woman as President, Hillary Clinton. Her chances of getting the Democratic nomination are quite strong. Not surprisingly then, there’s a lot of talk about women in politics.  Read more ›

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Posted in Language and gender, Language and politics

Can we please do better than “Y’all Qaeda”?

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About a day ago, a bunch of white people took over a federal government building in Oregon. Some are pretty heavily armed. They claim that they are protesting the seizure of land by the federal government. Read more ›

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Posted in Language and social class

Are we “citizens” or “taxpayers”?

In a recent discussion with Hilton Als at the New Yorker festival, Toni Morrison offered a lot of insightful commentary on topics about race, gender, writing, and other issues. I read about it in this Guardian article, and I found one of her observations particularly interesting. Morrison states:

The complexity of the so-called individual that’s been praised for decades in America somehow has narrowed itself to the ‘me’. When I was a young girl we were called citizens – American citizens. We were second-class citizens, but that was the word. In the 50s and 60s they started calling us consumers. So we did – consume. Now they don’t use those words any more – it’s the American taxpayer and those are different attitudes.

Morrison picks up on an interesting variation between words that could largely stand for the same thing: people who have a vested interest in the United States. Read more ›

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Posted in Language and politics

Trump fans aren’t spelling bee champions, but why do we care?

Grammarly is the worst. Seriously, it is. I don’t mean their silly little grammar and spelling checker thing. I’m sure that’s a perfectly adequate proofreading tool, doing its best to reinforce people’s deep-seated insecurities about writing every time they touch a keyboard. I mean the company itself is the worst. Especially the people involved with its ever-illuminating data analyses / desperate attempts at reminding people that their app exists.

Every so often, Grammarly puts out an amateurish research / marketing stunt hybrid, in which they explore the distribution of spelling and grammar mistakes across different sectors of society. For example, here they looked at which NFL team’s fans made the most spelling and grammar mistakes in internet comments. Important stuff.

Today, I came across Grammarly’s most recent contribution to the science of getting internet attention: ranking presidential candidates according to the number of spelling and grammar mistakes in their supporters’ Facebook comments. Read more ›

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Posted in Language and education, Language and politics, Language and social class, Prescriptivism and language prejudice

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