"Palling Around With Pootwattle"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Jan 24 15:14:03 UTC 2012

 From The Chronicle of Higher Education, an
article by Lucy Ferriss about "Pootwattle the
Virtual Academic" ™, "created and managed by the
writing program at the University of Chicago. ...
Pootwattle generates random sentences from
phrases 'common in many academic fields'."

Term-paper- and scholarly-essay-writing time-saver?

There's also Smedley, the Virtual Critic™, who
generates review comments.  I refrain from
commenting on his vast benefit to time-challenged
professors and teaching assistants.

The article's passage on a Foucaultian (or is
that Foucultish?) generated sentence is perceptive.  :-)

Ferriss gives examples of initial sentences from
(real) academic articles she selected randomly,
and discusses why they may impress readers as pootwattle.

Footnote:  In response to an inquiry about "the
linguistic history of the name 'Pootwattle'," a
writer claims, perhaps facetiously:

"The verb "pootle" shows up in Margaret Atwood's
most recent book (IN OTHER WORLDS) in its present
participial form. The OED actually defines it:
"To move or travel in a leisurely manner." The
first citation is from D. E. Westlake. "Poot,"
another verb of recent vintage, is another
possibility. Again, from the OED, "To break wind. Also: to defecate"."

True (at least of the OED; I haven't checked
Atwood).  But surely instead of poot[watt]le",
the origin lies in
"poo-twattle".  (Unfortunately, the desired
meaning of "poo" does not appear in the OED,
despite their having passed through the P's in
their alphabetical march.  I cite instead Urban Dictionary.)


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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