by Tyler Cowen
on August 29, 2010 at 1:19 pm
1. Photos of abandoned homes.
2. James Ward: "I Like Boring Things"; here is one typical post.
3. Rob Bradley on Enron.
4. Early proposals for gender-neutral pronouns.
5. Only the men on this dating site need be from Harvard.
6. Can you tell when CEOs are lying?
7. How panhandlers use free credit cards, via Chris F. Masse.
James Ward: “I Like Boring Things”
is hilarious. It oddly reminds me of “The Best Webpage in the Universe” (http://maddox.xmission.com/) except replace ego with self-loathing.
Wow, as an alum (and a male) I can’t imagine something much more offensive than the dateharvardsq.com site… esp. the idea that non-Harvard women should PAY to date Harvard guys, but not the reverse…
Commercial dating sites are constrained by reality (bankruptcy) to a degree that social theoreticians are not.
Middle SEX surpassed them before the start of the competition ( #2)
Re, #4, this is a huge pet peeve of mine, as English has a perfectly acceptable third person singular gender neutral pronoun used to refer to a person, which has been used since Chaucer and Shakespeare. This pronouns is, of course, ‘they’ (and its possessive form, ‘their’), and any assertion that its use is ungrammatical as it can be used only as a plural contradicts centuries of usage in both formal and informal contexts and also the prescriptions of many grammarians. I suggest the post at http://motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/singular-they-and-the-many-reasons-why-its-correct/ be read by anybody who seriously wants to argue otherwise. #4 was notable, however, in providing some historical context, as it appears that the particular shibboleth suggesting that the use of ‘they’ in this context is ungrammatical and so English therefore lacks a word which can be used in the way ‘they’ clearly is and has been used in English speech and writing and needs some new invention to replace it arose in the late 19th century. I would conjecture that this reflects a more general rise in armchair grammatical prescriptivism associated with expansions in mass education and a perceived need for a standardized English language, though if somebody with more knowledge of the history has a better theory I would be happy to reconsider. Notably, though, these prescriptions do not appear to rise contemporaneously with the feminist movement, as certain more conservative critics of these proposals would suggest, which seems sensible to me as the need for such a pronoun is not merely based on the desire to end the use of ‘he,’ ‘his, and ‘men’ to refer to groups of people including both males and females (as in, i.e. “All men are created equal”), but also on certain cases where such a workaround has long been considered inappropriate. An example such as “Neither George nor Martha received his letters” where ‘his’ refers to either George or Martha, would not have been understood to have a gender-neutral meaning and would not have been written in such a way even when the convention was to use ‘his’ for more abstract references to people (“Every person has a right to his own property”).
“Are those signs that a CEO is lying or signs that he has not done detailed diligence, and thus that he has missed things which will later surface as problems?”
I don’t know.
You are exaggerating a bit about French on.
1. It can mean the pronoun “one”, but is more natural-sounding (in English, one rarely uses “one” this way anymore, it sounds stiff and formal).
2. It can mean “some unspecified or unknown person or persons”, much like English “they” in: “They put a Wal-Mart where the cornfield used to be.”. This can function as a substitute for passive voice phrasing.
3. It can be used instead of “we” (inclusive or exclusive). This is quite common in Quebec, perhaps less so in France.
Everything else is a bit of a stretch. You could use it to mean “you” in a playful way, perhaps similar to the way that, if you heard a friend’s stomach growl, you might exclaim, “Sounds like someone’s hungry!”. But it would be very weird and offputting if you used it more than very occasionally (just like your friend would be annoyed or freaked out if you kept referring to him in the third person as “someone”).
It really can’t be used to mean 3rd person singular “he” or “she”, which refer to some specific person in a previously-established context (even if of unknown identity), eg: “A man walks down the street. He is tall.” Here, French would use il or elle, and you simply can’t use on as a gender-neutral substitute, sorry.
“I crave a non-risible gender-neutral (not “it†) third person sing pronoun in the way normal women my age crave babies.”
That was funny.
Why not just say “somebody left cheese in the fridge” and when he/she says “that’s my cheese” you can say “that’s nacho cheese!”
Miss Havisham could have lived in one of those houses.
Something for the next batch of links: Regrets of the dying.
often when successful people bullshit it is because they are uncomfortable with saying “I don’t know”, not because they are necessarily trying to deceive.
Um, when you bullshit while not knowing the answer, you are trying to deceive.
“I’m not splitting hairs, I’m providing for longitudinal division of mammalian follicular extrusions.”
Proper language usage is whatever the speaking society at large says it is, not what a few self-appointed ‘experts’ say it is.
j r: Yes
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