9 years ago: The Stranger

Feb. 23, 2004, on this blog: The Stranger

The stranger has never read this book, but he knows a lot about David Foster Wallace. “He’s a hack,” the stranger says. “The soundtrack to St. Elmo’s Fire blew.” Someone politely explains that the group is discussing the author David Foster Wallace, not the composer David Foster.

The stranger listens for a bit longer before jumping to his feet and demanding that the group answer a long list of questions about the book.

"So here's a thing: the governor of Massachusetts is not sending National Guard troops to ..."

Unspoken testimony
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LBCF, No. 189: ‘Think Different’
"Fiiiiiinehttp://cdn0.wideopenpets.co...(The word Geld has many meanings. Be thankful I went with this one)"

Unspoken testimony
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LBCF, No. 189: ‘Think Different’

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  • Hexep

    Now, if you’re concerned about random, drive-by idiots, there must be a way to solve this problem via permission settings…

  • ASeriesOfWords

    After reading that post, and having recently seen The Big Lebowski for the first time, I couldn’t help thinking:

    “Shut up, Donny!”

  • I will admit that this post put me in mind of Camus’ “The Stranger”, which I read at Earlham College. Powerful book, ideas even now sinking in.

  • I heart DFW.

  • Victor

    Victor (unregistered) wrote: (((Infinite Jest someone tells him.)))

    Fred if “IT” really is infinite, why not take the time to re-read the book again with him and/or her cause wouldn’t that be the Christian thing to do?

    Only asking NOW! :)


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  • Victor
  • Jurgan

    So, this is about evolution, right?

  • Victor

    Try again….lol


    Titled… :Deacon-esses”? Really? :(

    Last try! :)

    Go figure


  • Victor, it is my opinion that one of two things needs to happen:

    Either the “ess” suffix needs to die in a fire.

    Or there needs to be an equivalent masculine suffix.

    For the second it would work something like this:

    Actor: Person who acts.
    Actress: Female person who acts
    Actr[masculine suffix]: Male person who acts.

    I realize that having only suffixes for male and female would work to enforce the gender binary (though everyone falls under the un-suffixed word) but it would still be better than the current system where we have words for normal and words for female, which does a lot to imply that female isn’t normal because if someone says the word without the -ess suffix it’s assumed they mean male=normal.

    Athena is a god.  So is Aphrodite.  So is Artemis.  But since we have the word “goddess” it’s generally assumed that you’re not talking about them when you say “the various gods”.**

    There’s  a similar thing with the phrase, “Gays and Lesbians,” where it’s both redundant and exoticizing*.  Redundant because Lesbians are, by definition, gay.  Exoticizing because it makes it seem like Lesbians are so strange and different and rare that if you didn’t mention them specifically they wouldn’t be counted.  (Historically this has actually been a problem because male privalige exists in the gay community too.)  The appropriate thing is, “Gay Men and Lesbians,” because then you’re counting everyone who is gay (at least I think you are, I think the word “gay” can only be applied to those on the gender binary) not double counting anyone, and not implying that women need to be specifically mentioned otherwise it’s assumed you’re talking about men.  (“Gay Men and Women” would serve the same purpose but since we’ve got a word for, “Gay Women,” it makes a lot of sense to use it.  Especially given the history of how having a name was used to make sure they were counted.)

    Anyway, overall point: Slapping the -ess suffix onto something to mean “female X” is problematic because we do not do the same thing to indicate “male X” which makes male the default and that’s a problem.

    * Unless you’re the first person in however many years to both recognize that Saphho, the one from the isle of Lesbos who gave the word “Lesbian” its name, was (as near as we can tell, which is very limited and fragmentary and relies on more assumptions than I’d care to make) bisexual meaning that by all rights the word, “Lesbian,” should mean, “Bisexual person,” and, based one that knowledge, are trying to say, “Gay People and Bisexual People,” using “Lesbian” to mean, “Bisexual person,” without realizing that the listeners will not take it to mean that.

    ** You can probably guess I decided to add this later on based on the first footnote appearing in the body after the second.  Anyway, Greek.  Specifically ancient Greek.  (Modern Greek is unknown to me.)  Greek words are not like English words except in the rare cases where English words are not like most other English words.

    Greek has no word for “god”***.  Greek has a root for god, but to make an actual word it needs an ending attached.  (Think of it like how “wh”, “th”, and “h”, are not English words but if you attach an “-ere”, “-ither”, or a “-ence” to them they become English words.)  Now ancient Greek noun endings do a lot of things, they tell whether there is one of something, two of something, or more than two of it.  They tell you how something is used in the sentence (Subject, object, possessive, indirect object, and some other things as well) and in some cases (not all) they tell you gender.

    The word “god”‘s associated endings in ancient Greek are the sort that tell you gender.  So it’s impossible to say generic god.  There are ways to get around such a thing if one wants to, but the preferred way to say divine being was using the “the-” root, which demands masculine or feminine endings.  Thus they had to say, “Male god,” or “Female god,” and neither was left as default.

    If you’re wondering how groups were named though, ancient Greek is one of the languages that follows the, “Anything that has at least one penis is masculine,” rule (not very enlightened, I know, but then again neither were they) so if you had a group consisting of 100 female gods and one male god and you want to describe the group as a single unit (as opposed to “female gods and male god”) you’d use an ending that left the word meaning, “gods [masculine].”

    *** Ok, fine, they had a word but it’s not the one that gives us Theology, Theist, Atheist, and so on.  Also, they usually didn’t use that word  to mean “god” preferring to use it to mean divine power while the “the-” word meant the actual god.  And the word could just mean ghost.  It wasn’t the preferred word is what I’m saying.

  • guest

    Well said!  Have you read Hofstadter’s ‘The Slippery Slope of Sexism’?

  • flat

    impressive summary about old Greek language, I learned something new

  • No, I have not.

    Also thanks for the “Well said!:

  • guest

    :) well I recommend it; the ideas in that essay are similar to yours and he expands on them in useful ways.

  •  WRT “-ess” — all the female actors I know personally prefer to be referred to as actors, much as the male actors do. I don’t know any deities, though.

    WRT “gay”/”lesbian” — I’ve never been comfortable with “gay” as a noun, so I use “gay men” or “gay people” or “gay kids” or “gay community” or whatever, depending on what I mean, but when I intend to be more inclusive I use “queer.” I don’t know why I’m OK with “queer” as a noun but not “gay,” but I am.

  •  I’m actually not comfortable with “gay” as a noun either, but I’ve seen it used that way (at times by people who should know better) and when it comes to adjectives, which “Lesbian” happens to be as well, “gay and lesbian,” has the same problem but not an obvious solution.  Just, “gay,” risks leaving all gay women out, which has historically been done and is probably why the term “Lesbian” is so used instead of “Gay woman.”

    But when it’s an adjective you can’t just fix it by making it, “Gay Men and Lesbians” like when it’s a noun.  I suppose it could be, “gay male and lesbian,” as a modifier for whatever it’s describing, but that just sounds awkward.

    When social problems leave their imprint on languages fixing them can be quite hard.

    WRT “-ess” — all the female actors I know personally prefer to be
    referred to as actors, much as the male actors do.

    Doesn’t surprise me.  In their place I would too.  There’s a reason we rarely see the term “poetess” anymore.

  • Victor

    Since my ancestors all came from France and believe “IT” or not an entire  family generation lived on sail boats travelling back and forth months at a time and yes I don’t know what this has to do with the topic just like I don’t understand how Gays and Lesbian got in here and “I’M” sure that both of U>S (usual sinners) could go round and round chasing our tail while getting educated somewhat but the last thing “I’M” sure we want to do is HIGH JACK, I mean ijack Fred’s post NOW!
    Since at least the 14th century, English has both borrowed femininenouns in –
    ess  from French ( -esse  in French and in some early Englishforms) and applied the French ending to native or naturalized words,most frequently agent nouns in -er  or -or.  Some of the earliestborrowings—titles for the nobility and church dignitaries—are still inuse, among them countess, princess, duchess, empress, abbess,  andprioress.  Of the scores of new nouns that were created from the 14thcentury on, many have long ago disappeared entirely from use:devouress; dwelleress.

    Have ya not been warned not to wrap you brain cells around what sinner vic, I mean Victor writes about NOW? :)


  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    While we’re changing language, can the term “die in a fire” please be dropped back into whatever pit it came from, because Jesus Christ I hate that phrase. It’s not cute.

  • But, but… other methods of death leave too much of the original intact, with the possible exception of nuclear apocalypse if you’re near ground zero.  I mean I suppose we could have the suffix die in some other way and then be cremated, but then we’re just adding steps to the process to get the same results.

    I suppose being vaporized and scattered on the winds might suffice if fire bothers you so much.

  • The problem, I think, is that actually dying in a fire – as in, “Cause of death: Immolation” – hurts. A lot. Wishing that someone would die in a fire is wishing them tortured to death. Wishing that something die in a fire isn’t better, because you’re specifically using something that can happen to living things (death) as a metaphor, so we’re right back to “Can that damn gendered ending please be tortured to death? Now?”.

    It sounds like what you really want to express is either “die and then be cremated,” as you yourself suggest, or (dropping the living-things-being-killed metaphor entirely) “toss it on the bonfire with the rest of the garbage,” or thereabouts.

  • Victor

    (((The problem, I think, is that actually dying in a fire – as in, “Cause of death: )))

    Nicole for what “IT” is worth, my wife told me of some of her relatives all having died in a house fire and all we could do was pray for their souls.

    Years ago, “ONE” morning my wife woke up convinced that her grand father had been sitting at the end of our bed and long story short,  in so many words, he asked her for her help. Longer story short, we prayed and add a Mass said for him and he never ever came back that we know of NOW!

    And your point is NOW?

    Well “IT” is “LENT TIME” and maybe we should all remember that NOW!

    Go Figure!  http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=18142394&postID=4869191338125486705

    Happy NOW (LL) LOL ? :)


  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    A whole lot of people have died in fires around here in the last few years. They put the photos in the paper and it breaks your heart and makes you sick, even though you’ve never met them. It’s horrific.

    I’m not generally into language policing words and terms that make someone uncomfortable so I haven’t brought it up before, even when it was the go-to abuse of choice of some of our old resident nukers that made me flinch. (You disagree with me on the internet? Die in a fire! says the “enlightened” side) But since you were discussing that very thing…it’s not cute, it’s fucking horrible.