A Quick Argument for Simpler Language

OK here is just some complaining about people and their spelling authoritarianism. The English language is full of spelling nonsense. Language in general is full of nonsense anyway because no one regulates the creation and use of language. Language is much like life in that it has its own somewhat random evolution, and of course, like life is loaded with the ebb and flow of invasion and emigration of various words. This in itself is a vast and fascinating study. Take for example all the romance language words in English ending in “-tion”. Find yourself a Spanish speaking friend and throw at them every word with that “shun” ending you can and watch them match with the Spanish version which will end in “-ción” (fabrication/fabricatión, bastardization/bastardización, etc) in fact we have many thousands of shared words originating not from the storm swamped armada but from the shared Latin origins of so many influential (influyete) languages.
So it’s rather silly to get too serious about how we speak and how we spell. Yes it’s good to maintain the formal aspects in our age of text-speak, but there are some problems that should be eliminated. They are the kind of schizophrenia that we all fumble with from time to time. Why we continue to do so is a matter of interesting study.
There, they’re, their. Your, you’re, yore. Where, we’re, wear. To, too, two. These are possibly the most commonly fouled spellings in English, and frankly they are entirely unnecessary. We could wholly survive perfectly happily without maintaining these variations. How you say? How can we have single words that mean various things? How will we know which ones we intend? Well my friends anyone asking this question has not noticed that in English not just some but most words do double, triple or even more duty and the spellings remain unchanged. For a quick example consider the word “sign”. First of all it has a ridiculous “g” inserted in there and quite possibly only for regional representation reasons (as in fact, that is why we are stuck with many awkwardly spelled words according to The Story of English). Sign means a construct hung up with information to be read off it. Sign can also mean something people do with their hands to signal one another. Sign is also an action of putting your name on a form. Or try a term like “plug”. It can mean anything that fills a hole, or a chunk of tobacco, or a piece of advertising, or a thing on the end of a cord to stick in an outlet. And on it goes. Basically any word plugged into your dictionary app on your phone will provide endless examples. An argument could be made for all these various meanings to also have unique spellings. The same way Carl Sagan pointed out years ago that an argument could be made to save every egg a woman produces, let alone all the sperm a man does in terms of being pro-life. Maybe we should keep that quiet. Years ago a silly graduate student I shared an office with, for no reason I can imagine, attempted to argue that all these difficulties with spelling were actually meaningful. This fellow, we’ll call him Burt suffered from that mental difficulty of revering authority. This type of disease imagines much reason where none really exists. We maintain the spellings because at this point it’s reasonably easier than the war that would ensue with the purposeful simplification. And for those who would argue that it’s Orwellian to destroy language I’d say firstly that it’s bullshit to think he’d defend the wackiness, as after all there’s no good reason to maintain confusion when a means of accomplishing clarity is so obvious. And secondly there’s nothing beautiful about the frequency of ugly incorrect apostrophes.
In the end, just to have some fun, I’d like to return to the famous English language trick that is GHOTI. Yes Ghoti! If you know this little joke, then you’re all set, move on. But for those of you who haven’t heard about Ghoti here is the punch line. You pronounce Ghoti as fish. Yes it’s spelled “Goat-ee” but we are using the sounds of the letters in their use from particular terms. We’ll take the GH from the word touGH. Which produces a nice F. Then we’ll use the O from the second syllable of the word London. Which sounds just like an “i”. Finally we’ll take the TI from any of those terms we talked about earlier that end in -tion and are pronounced as “Shun”. And there you have it. Fish.
English, to native speakers, is rarely properly used, despite the fact that as our native tongue it ends up seeming utterly sensible even though it clearly isn’t upon just a little bit of study. It only seems so reasonable because we have a lifetime of familiarity with it. The truth is it’s as buggy stupid as any dumb ant colony or the weird mess that is our DNA. These things are functional, but not efficient or intelligently designed. So get over the reverence, language is effective because we can be creative with it. Not because it’s some infallible gift from gods.
I said “Good day, sir!”
Incidentally, there are people who create languages. Esperanto is supposed to be miraculously easier than English and I’ve read that William Shatner is a speaker. Still, more people bothered to learn Klingon (another invented language), but there are many more and some of them are remarkably fascinating as are the people who created them. There is even one created out of the seven notes of the major scale called Solresol. The language was meant to be sung. Tolkien produced a few for his elaborate Lord of the Rings universe. There is even a language called Laadan that was created to better enable women to express their feelings! Enjoy!

The Essentials of the Sport of Argument

What follows is a short 11 point handbook to the popular sport of argument. Always remember that the point of any argument is that you win (conditions may vary), not some highfalutin nonsense about learning or sharing of information or whatever silliness some philosophy quack has proposed. Seriously if your argument does not last for days and engender about two hundred text messages it’s been a waste! This is emotional mining right here, you can get a soap opera’s worth of feels out of this! So Enjoy!

1. Holy shit always have a come back! You must never let a statement stand. Response is the essence of argument. You will respond, respond fast, and respond with confidence.

2. Goddamned do your best to reduce your opponent’s argument to something pithy that can easily be trounced. If an opponent has written a lengthy breakdown with bullet points of any argument be sure to focus all your attention on the element easiest to argue with. Reductio ad absurdum is the fancy-ass academic term for this method– if it has Latin you know it’s good. For example if your opponent has listed many reasons he’s upset with Trump and one of the items is that the president tweets too much, ignore all the points but the tweets and reply: “So you don’t like Twitter, is that the president’s fault?”

3. If your opponent ropes in citations and authorities you are not familiar with, do not panic,

Google that shit immediately!

Wikipedia is your friend. When you’re on Wikipedia you’ll find that those authorities have critics you can immediately set up as your counter authorities! Don’t waste too much time actually understanding who those people are, speed is of the essence (see number 1)!

4. One of the first things you have to do is define terms. This very amusing aspect of any argument can become the whole argument itself if you work at it. Language after all is very tricky, and there are multiple meanings to most of our words. Further, there are many variable dictionaries. So why agree? Enjoy!

5. You must never allow someone to convince you of anything. Even if their argument actually did fucking convince you, what are you some kind of weak-spined, simpering little Morrissey? Are you gonna cry now? Later, if you still like their argument (don’t worry we won’t tell) you can just pretend you discovered the points on your own. It’s much more macho and real to find your own intellectual positions.

6. College educated fops like that Neil deGrasse Tyson guy or that Richard Dawkins guy are not to be trusted. Those institutions that they kow-towed to are mind-warping, soul-stealing, money-grubbing cults for elitists to worship at. What the hell is a PhD anyway? Seriously we are all just as good as that! Marginalize all learning. There are actually no authorities.

7. When all else fails, Ad Hominem attack is key. Go straight for the personal. Does your opponent mow his grass in a regular fashion that suits you? If not, there’s a great place to go! I’d expect that coming form a guy who can’t even keep his lawn cut properly! Give him the eye.

8. While we’re at it remember that anything goes in a proper sport argument. There’s no such thing as a non sequitur.

The phrase “and another thing . . .” should be used liberally, and totally unconnected thoughts that annoy you should be roped in.

When your opponent accuses you of straying from the topic you can then say he just did as well! Boom! (By the way “Boom” is a very useful punctuation of confidence, my gift to you).

9. If you’re not spitting angry your argument is weaker. You have to be enraged that anyone would question your authority on the position as if you are everyone’s daddy. After all, don’t you feel like the world is full of children and you are the only responsible adult? Be sure to become red-faced and perhaps threaten beatings where appropriate (hint: always appropriate). Nothing convinces an opponent of the seriousness of your argument like violence. That’s why so many dissidents are shot after all. A bullet is a hell of an argument (Note: Not recommending you shoot anyone.).

10. You can’t use enough dripping sarcasm or mockery. When building your strawmen (much easier to attack than the real thing) be sure to equip them with silly hats and useless weapons (strawmen represent your actual opponents so be sure to give them very silly accouterments indeed). Rephrase everything your opponent says in a kind of obvious hilarity, dressing up the phrases in clown shoes and circus music. This is the equivalent of saying something in a silly voice. If this wasn’t effective would every child on the planet use it?

11. A great redirect and means of undermining your opponent’s position is spelling errors or mistakes in pronunciation. No serious sport arguer can allow a poor spelling to slide, nor a mispronounced ancient writer. Point these out with great aplomb and mirth.

Remember English is the only language in the world and whatever it is you grew up hearing is absolutely correct.

Correctness is mainly a matter of familiarity after all.

There are, of course, more great tactics of sport argument but these essentials will take you far and wide into the rewarding pleasures of pointless and endless exchanges. Some may argue that I really don’t need to tell people how to do this as it’s what they do naturally, to this I say Shut Up.

Women Have Nice Shapes, and What An Interesting Civil War Landmark

I have friends who I care about deeply who often feel obliged to lecture me from positions of pedantry about sexism and racism. I ask them point blank, do you think I’m racist? Do you think I’m sexist? No, they say, you’re not. So why all the censure? Do I have the kind of face that invites correction?
One of these friends is a lady and I admit I am sexist in that I tolerate the lecturing from her, a lot more so than I do from my male friend who seems to enjoy practicing his liberal schpiel on me. I’m also a liberal, by the way, have always been ever since I learned my humanism from Vonnegut and saw that as human beings what we seem to be best at as a group is throwing our used tires into rivers.
My brother for a short while started calling himself libertarian and wanted to know why I expected basically anything from the country. That’s not what it’s for, he’d say when I would list education and support for science and possible help for exorbitant health care prices. I’d then ask what the nation is for if it’s not to help out the citizens who have agreed to create and support it. After some lengthy and repetitive debate during which I sent him Ron Paul suggesting that family should be taking care of medical bill assistance (got some money for me to see a dentist, brother?), Dr. No followed this by saying he often worked pro-bono. Which when you think about it rather proves the point. I haven’t heard much about libertarianism since he had his daughters. Things have changed. His daughters are in public school.
My friends suffer from a disease. The disease is authoritarianism. Some folks can’t help it, they just need to stand on you and declare correctness. They would be astounded by my saying this, but it’s really the most efficient way to put it. I am possibly their most trusted and loyal non-family friendship, which in many cases is much stronger than family relationships. Hell, spouses can argue to death and never make the slightest bit of impact on one another’s outlooks. I suspect that my role in this case is one of practice argument partner (since actual argument partner, the spouse, is either uninterested or unflappable). When I was married my wife used me for this all the time, and of course, I hated it. My ex-wife, we’ll call her Trixie, loved crime shows. She’d sit on the sofa and soak in the miserable entertainment form many Americans find so compelling—rape and murder, sometimes combined. The show would go to commercial after a particularly well-arranged stress moment with the guest star (just like on Columbo always the villain) and focus her gaze of intent on me. Within a few seconds my cheery evening of spooning macaroni into my maw would be set ablaze with accusations of feral evil. I was just like that fictional evil doer that was “ripped from the headlines”. I drove a van and had a beard and my attitude about women was fairly carefree and loaded with hopeful sexiness. Well, I wasn’t exactly running a dungeon or a brothel or anything, but, what exactly had I done other than join her on the sofa with a meal I’d prepared? I was her practice dummy. Most of Trixie’s day was wrapped up in cataloging stupid things other people do. She didn’t always have a load of good examples, though sometimes the few she had were pretty good. Some nanny she met had told her a story of a mom who didn’t believe children should be disciplined and the stories about these kids were phenomenally disturbing. Other times the stories weren’t so funny, the family she was working for expected her to arrange a party for them and the various details of this shenanigan were the stuff of oblivious rich folks taking advantage of the poor—heck there were actual comedy shows that were less well arranged. These law and violence things are ever ridiculously looking for the next wild hook, I mean we’ve seen the blood and guts. We’ve seen the shooters and killers. We’ve seen the drugs, and sex orgies, etc. So pretty soon they’re bringing in giant snakes, packs of wild dogs, and implied aliens. Well when the thing turns into an eighties era horror movie I treat it as such and begin riffing and laughing. Damsels in distress with beasts carrying them off into the night is a whole separate kind of entertainment from what I consider cop shows. At the next commercial break I get an earful of how I’m a misogynist and am accused of being what’s-wrong-with-the-world. The plague of my inability to really enjoy wallowing in the prurient and plainly asinine depredations of television entertainment eventually attributed to me getting a divorce.
There are times I correct people, especially in this age of Trump and some of the most jaw-droppingly weird news stories coming out of the political spectrum we’ve ever seen. People just stating things we know to be obviously untrue, but adding the phrase “believe me” to it with an emphatic hand gesture. My major advisor used to correct me quite a lot, but it was sort of his job. It was also due to the fact that he seemed incapable of understanding sarcasm, though, he was often snickering at the joke when he went through the rigor of explaining why I was wrong. Oh dear, he often exclaimed in a high pitched sort of jittery giggle before explaining the meaning of some term I’d purposely misconstrued Archie Bunker-like. He had an impressive collection of specialty dictionaries (he was especially fond of a 1937 Torre-Bueno Glossary of Entomology) that often came out at these times (after two years of working with him I got my own copy, almost accidentally, and began bringing it out whenever I could). Half of being an academic is having the right collection of serious books, the other half is properly using them.
In the end, I don’t mind being given information. You can’t be an know-it-all and be a serious academic. Only laypeople think they know everything. Only dolts like Rush Limbaugh and professional wrestler “heels” imagine that it’s possible to be thoroughly knowledgeable in all realms. Actually educated folks have an idea about how much information is actually out there and are honest enough to realize that no one could grasp it all. Philosophically only scientists actually understand what it actually takes to know something. Hint: it ain’t so because someone told you or because you read a book (though I usually like to encourage the reader). That aside, however, most of the correcting I get from my beloved friends is of the sort that is really just social superiority, or more authoritariansim, masking only the fact that they’ve adopted some interests as theirs and want very much to practice showing you how much they know and why behaving as they say to do makes you a better human being. It’s fine really we’re all guilty of this to some degree. In fact, I just held off doing it to my mother who was talking about having saved some antibiotics just in case she gets another chest infection (sigh), there’s really not much that can be done to persuade her that hanging onto the tidbits of these prescriptions and trying to use them later like aspirin is actually part of a growing problem of drug resistance, so I don’t. It wouldn’t go over well.
Honestly I think the correcting is a kind of sign of hopelessness and that eventually leads to depression. Correcting (especially with people who are on your team) is a kind of safe way to be hopeful. It isn’t actual demonstration or protest. Or if it is, it’s merely the laziest form. A protest launched at someone perfectly safe who actually agrees with you is possibly the baby-steps of maybe doing something more extraordinary later. If you admire Pussy Riot but don’t really want to spend time in jail for insulting the clergy by playing a rock show in their church or something, well, find your friend who sometimes baldly says things like, women have nice shapes, or has an embarrassing interest in Civil War landmarks, and unbox your weapons of social justice.

Wealth and Misery – the Feudal Lords Need Your Dollars

Recent CNN reporting (Jan 22, 2018) from Oxfam international posits that better than eight of every ten dollars produced last year went to the wealthiest one percent. One of the not startling conclusions of the reportage is that wealth is rewarded over labor. Not startling because I’m certain, cynically so it is true, that this is really how things have always been despite efforts to the contrary. Both capitalism and communism were devised as answers to feudal style wealth hording which ultimately left the heads of aristocratic European families with the most world power. Things never really changed very much and those same groups of people who fought so hard to build the world economies that made them prosper and employed the rest of us are largely still those people who inherited the wealth (which is equivalent to power). The pessimist in me wants to argue that we shouldn’t expect anything different, but the idealist in me points to mission statements of our national identity which remarkably have always been about achievement of a life worth living, something we regularly call middle class, once again despite our classless society. While the communists sought to guarantee this level of existence for all and ended up with another sort of feudalism, we in the west aspired to a limitless projection of dreamy expectation of personal wealth. Of course, for the vast majority no such limitless climb up any particular reward ladder actually presents itself and we mostly muddle around fantasizing about lottery winnings and chewing our nails through each bill cycle while hoping no one gets sick.
Henry Miller put it another way in his famous book The Air-conditioned Nightmare: “. . . Actually we are a vulgar, pushing mob whose passions are easily mobilized by demagogues, newspaper men, religious quacks, agitators and such like. To call this a society of free peoples is blasphemous. What have we to offer the world beside the superabundant loot which we recklessly plunder from the earth under the maniacal delusion that this insane activity represents progress and enlightenment?” That was 1945 and Miller was on one of his cross-country jaunts that seemed to presage Kerouac who had much less concrete to say about the actual workings of the arts and social sciences.
These days most of my friends are waving flags of identity variously confident of their moral bulwark. There are those pulling down the various southern memorials to the Confederacy which I had naively thought of as tributes to the folly of war and the pointless death of naive youth, widely and with that energy so common in the young, trundled off to die for causes they at best barely understood. As most wars are fought by participants acting on a pride that rarely has anything to do with the statecraft manipulating it. I was a fool, it turns out, because most of these monuments (all are now suspect) were goading and exploitative efforts to continue an ages old practice of nothing more than reminding an underclass of powerless people that those in power would never relinquish a bit of that power to them. And they indeed haven’t.
I recently completed a small book about a local race inspired killing that happened in a nearby town here in North Carolina, and while it is one of the most depressing books I’ve read outside of Eli Wiesel it deftly brings home the pure useless arrogance and unfettered hate aimed at nothing but a variation in people’s color and culture. Blood Done Sign My Name (Tyson 2004) is a miserable tale without a wisp of hope in it. The hopelessness it conjures is thorough and debilitating. It is nothing short of an account of war every bit as stark and shocking as that of Palestine or Northern Ireland, replete with the religious overtones seemingly necessary to contain the tenacity of violence.
The waters are muddied by the endless special interests. In the end regardless of Patriarchy or some kind of Chumbawamba take-down of Unilever for their “washing-whiter” ad-campaign or some trumped up worry of “lib-tards” creating new pronouns that will be legislated into use . . . the problem is still and always will be those wealthy and powerful lording their desires over the rest of us who are basically helpless due to our lack of funds. And there is nothing more fucking feudal.
Presently my email box is thundering with requests, not for my vote, my attention, or my skill set but instead only for my money. We need to defeat Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, please send a donation. Hours later another request blazing with the kind of graphics usually reserved for porn spam. Pleading with me for money. Every win or loss in our political spectrum is based on the funding that can be drummed up. Indeed every measure of a candidate’s worthiness is estimated in terms of liquid assets. And no one blinks about the fact of wealth equaling political integrity. Our nation votes with its dollars. Doesn’t anyone imagine there should be caps on this kind of spending?
Our citizenry understands perfectly their value rests only in an ability to spend dollars. Measure of buying power is our ability to make change, to have a say, or to form or persuade collective action. In the end we are wallets, not brains, skill sets, working ethics, or correctly aligned moral compasses. We are piles of dollars not just to advertisers looking to sell product, but to our administrators looking to maintain their offices and constituencies. Dollars are not just vital they are the very essence of our existences, they are our souls. We exist as pockets of tiny wealth, joined together in collectives of district wealth or finally estimated wealth by conglomerates selling us our next superhero, boxed cereal, and even, and this is very important, our ideas of personal identity.
There is some truth to this idea of identity that finds us all crushed and powerless, equating to depression (because that’s what depression really is: helplessness) that leaves each of us sensitive to our society dispossessing us despite our years of effort-filled devotion, suffering, and need (and despite our sex, gender, race, creed, or special interests). It is clear that many folks have felt the hammer of this dispossession much more clearly and more criminally than others, but this does not stop us feeling the maddening alienation in a universal form. There is no scale of wrong that should be tolerated by an individual and so every individual feels it and looks for an enemy to unleash blame and hatred on. And we’re back to some kind of lynching, shooting, or public humiliation. There are no innocent parties. A rallying cry wants a villain. And villains we have aplenty.
Just when you reach the end of a cycle of disturbing news that brings to mind childish workmates mouthing hate about MLK day, or popular conspiracy lunacy that incorporates a heightened trust in a false-positive of big government using secret techniques and powers to manage our ability to unite and make changes or hell even learn something . . ., there are lizard people, the Illuminati, Alex Jones . . . we’re cycling in this feeling of sickening waste of life, years having been spent for little gain (82 percent of all the world’s wealth went to 1 percent of the world’s people), and those of us trundled off to war for pride, freedom, or glory, who, as James Baldwin once said, suffer and die for a nation that doesn’t care a hoot for those of us who fight for it—and the soul swims in a pudding of misery.
Sure we can rail at various criminals. We can egg the houses of our feudal lords, or make internet videos deriding the worst of our self-important elite louts, but in the end it’s only where our dollars go that makes any point or is anything of a challenge. That system is going nowhere. So spend those dollars wisely they are your only real voice.