Response to JL

Randy Alexander strangeguitars at GMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 12 05:38:32 UTC 2010

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

> I welcome JL's request (though I thought I'd covered his query in my
> posting duplicated below).

I don't think you actually did, in either posting.  JL said "If Ron would
tell us directly what sort of communications he'd prefer to see, I for one
would try to oblige."  But you only covered what you would *not* prefer to
see (which may be of equal usefulness), so the question still stands.


> 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.  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:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> >> Poster:       Sam Clements <SClements at NEO.RR.COM>
> >> Subject:      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.  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 -

Randy Alexander
Xiamen, China
Manchu studies:
Chinese characters:
Language in China (group blog):

The American Dialect Society -

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