Response to JL

Paul Frank paulfrank at POST.HARVARD.EDU
Thu Nov 11 15:55:31 UTC 2010

I hear you. As a former on-again and off-again lurker, as a
non-linguist and non-lexicographer, and as recent culprit of posting
quite a bit of inconsequential chitchat, I promise to quit wasting
bandwidth and to going back to lurking and learning what I can from
you all. I do think this is a valuable list with a number of very
knowledgeable people. Thank you for allowing non-professionals to look
on and listen in.


On Thu, Nov 11, 2010 at 4:18 PM, Ronald Butters <ronbutters at> wrote:

> I welcome JL's request (though I thought I'd covered his query in my posting duplicated below).
> At heart, I'm asking for politeness and consideration and a recognition that ADS-L is public space, sponsored by the American Dialect Society (which is, I assume, paying the bill to keep it running and, moreover to store FOREVER everything that is posted here). This is not a private chat group for posting whatever pops into one's head at the moment. In my view, the worst offenses include:
> 1. One-line responses that say little more than "I agree" or "Good joke, guy!"
> 2. Postings that report simple typographical errors, common "misuses" of words, and errors in Latin grammar (people have been making errors informing Latin endings for centuries, which is why we have, e.g., Italian and French).
> 3. Grandstanding postings that do little more than say, "woo-hoo, look at how clever I am, I know that [e.g.] 'otiose' does not refer to breakfast cereal."
> 4. Reportings of commonplace dialect features and slang terms that one spots on television or radio (or are overheard in the local supermarket) that are well-documented in dictionaries and readily available scholarly literature.
> 5. "Data" that is really only vague reminiscence.
> I realize that there are fuzzy edges to all of these areas of concern. I am not asking for List Police to step in, I am asking only for self-policing of a kind that is apparently pretty much nonexistent here. I also support ADS-L as ADS's outreach to the community at large, and I would hate to see this turn into a place where nonlinguists felt unwelcome. In fact, to my mind some of the worst offenders are people who actually know a good deal about linguistics, but who treat ADS-L as their own club for exchanging witticisms, reminiscing about their old army days, or simply showing off how much linguistic trivia they they know.
> If you are posting more than three or four times in a single day or more than seven times a week you are very likely hogging the space. Emulate people who REALLY have something valuable to say (e.g., David Bowie, Arnold Zwicky, Charles Doyle, Fred Shapiro, David Barnhart, Matt Gordon, Jesse Sheidlower, Ben Zimmer, Gerald Cohen, George Thompson, Steve Kleinedler, et al.). If you have several minor things to report, put them all in one posting.
> I have repeatedly suggested that simply putting a limit on the number of postings per day would go a long way towards solving the problem as I perceive it. This is what many similar list-servs do. I don't understand why the list-serv silently rejects individual postings that have an (unannounced) number of embeddings but will not reject excessive numbers of daily postings from individuals. Sometimes, the embeddings are useful in creating the context for understanding of the posting. On the other hand, to paraphrase Dr. Johnson said, imminent execution greatly concentrates the mind.
> l
> On Nov 11, 2010, at 8:25 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>> It may well be that we on the list have little of real interest to share
>> with the world or even with fellow specialists.
>> This troubles me, though it's surely hard to compete with runaway deficits,
>> emergent pandemics, near-earth asteroids, a Sarah Palin reality show,
>> and mad bombers in Yemen reaching out to touch someone. Â Now those things
>> are interesting!
>> If Ron would tell us directly what sort of communications he'd prefer to
>> see, I for one would try to oblige.
>> JL
>> On Wed, Nov 10, 2010 at 7:54 PM, Sam Clements <SClements at> wrote:
>>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>> -----------------------
>>> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Sam Clements <SClements at NEO.RR.COM>
>>> Subject: Â  Â  Â Re: RE "Shoot beaver"?
>>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>> From: "Ronald Butters" <ronbutters at AOL.COM>
>>>> Aboout 95% of what gets posted here is just rambling anecdote or comment
>>>> on somebody or other's typographical error or grammatical or lexical
>>>> "mistake," or some regional or social dialectal feature that could be
>>>> found in a dictionary. Or worse, just somebody saying something like, "I
>>>> agree" or "Thanks for that" or "How clever I am, I studied Latin 50 years
>>>> ago." I spend a considerable part of each day just deleting messages
>>>> without opening them: after you have read one entry in a thread, it is
>>>> gnerallyu pretty clear that the rest is not worth bothering with.
>>>> I guess this just means that I need to go the way of Roger Shuy, Dennis
>>>> Preston, etc., and sign off from the list. The occasional interesting
>>> item
>>>> is increasingly buried in a sea of trivial anecdote. A lot of people seem
>>>> to find the list as it has become is really what they want to do in their
>>>> retirement or  in their cups or whatever. Assuming that my dues in the
>>>> American Dialect Society are not being horribly strained by the cost of
>>>> recording all this junk for posterity in the University of Georgia's
>>>> computer archive, I should just slink away in silence.
>>> But, you won't, just as you didn't when your comments drove away posters
>>> such as Barry Popik. Â Not that Barry wasn't carrying things to extremes,
>>> but
>>> your comments at that time certainly influenced his postings as well as
>>> mine.
>>> Sorry to be such a burden.
>>> Sam Clements
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> The American Dialect Society -
>> --
>> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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