Eggheads' Naughty Word Games

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Tue Dec 28 02:25:17 UTC 2004

so goes the NYT headline (p. B1, 12/27/04) for this year's pissy snarky
story (by John  Strausbaugh) on the MLA meetings.  while admitting,
"The convention has become a holiday ritual for journalists", the piece
goes on to revel anyway in the wackiness of those "postmodernists,
multiculturalists, feminists and queer-theory advocates", piling on
astounding titles, especially the sexy ones, and summarizing things as
follows: "The association has come to resemble a hyperactive child who,
having interrupted the grownups' conversation by dancing on the coffee
table, can't be made to stop."  (this is not a quotation; this is the
journalist's own voice.  it's not labeled as opinion, but, hey, this is
a feature story, so i guess anything goes.)

concluding sentence, of a story with 24.25 column-inches of text: "And
yes, many believe that the press is encouraging them [the freak show
contingent of the MLA] by continuing to pay attention."

i know, i know, the editor made him do it.  (but i think that he
secretly enjoyed it, and lord knows it's an easy story to write.)

arnold (zwicky at, noting that other papers picked up
the story; the pared-down Palo Alto Daily News version ran (on page 1)
under the nutty head "Language purists, rebels face off"

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