Eggheads' Naughty Word Games

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Tue Dec 28 05:49:28 UTC 2004

On Dec 27, 2004, at 9:22 PM, Larry Horn wrote:

> At 10:02 PM -0500 12/27/04, Grant Barrett wrote:
>> Arnold,
>> You probably don't know this, but Strausbaugh more often writes for
>> the
>> alternative-alternative weekly, New York Press, here in New York City.
>> He's a crank import from Baltimore--the classic uncompassionate
>> conservative with about as much goodwill and charisma as can fit in a
>> skeeter sphincter. His M.O. is, typically, to take any view which
>> opposes what he perceives as the traditional Village Voice editorial
>> stance. He writes about sports sometimes, too, because he thinks it
>> makes him more likeable. It doesn't.
>> You practice your two-step, I'll bring the coffee table.
> and lest one think it's only those lit critters' ox that's being
> gored, one of the apparently too-silly-to-contemplate titles mocked
> in the article is the eminently interesting
> "Dude!  Your dress is so cute!  Patterns of semantic widening in
> 'dude'", which, Mr. Strausbaugh informs us, represents "an almost
> abject embrace of low/popular culture".  Evidently, if "dude" used to
> be applied solely to males and is now generalized to women as well,
> at least as a vocative, and thus is following in the footsteps of
> "guy", this isn't something we need to worry our pretty little heads
> about.  Clearly this is all just too infra dig when it applies to
> low/popular cultural items, although perhaps we're allowed to notice
> it when it affects words of middlebrow standing or above.  (Perhaps
> this is the same research by Scott Kiesling reported in that
> piece mentioned earlier this month,
> --but this would only be more evidence that the media is paying too
> much attention to us table-dancers.)

i've tried to keep the tone of this discussion on the light side, but
here larry makes explicit a vein of moral outrage that i want to
expose.  the uses of words and other expressions make differences in
our lives; they are not morally neutral.  belittling particular uses
dismisses the people who use them, not to mention those of us who study
the people who use them.

power to the table-dancers!


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