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June 05, 2022


Thanks, Janie. I should have made this a new thread myself. But sloth triumphed.

The only meaning I know for ETA is estimated time of arrival. Google does not enlighten me, so I hope someone here will: ObWi is my teacher.

I think I've mentioned before that the only sport I am at all interested in is tennis. And in answer to your first ETA, as far as I am concerned (very untypical, I know) sports are partly for grace and beauty. And the emotional charge of watching someone do something superlatively, sometimes superhumanly, well. And then the (for me intensely moving) emotional trajectory of watching someone very great fade and pass out of contention. It's rather how I watch ballet, too.

ETA = Edited To Add

On a site like BJ, where comments are editable, it's used pretty often when someone has an afterthought or correction to make to the original version.


Just read the Digby article. Holy freaking crap, people have lost their minds. Just… unbelievable.

I’ll be going to OH in a couple of weeks for family stuff. My wife’s aunt is turning 90, they’re throwing a party. Her people are all from NE Ohio, the more or less blue-ish part of the state. Nonetheless, we’ll visit, and then we’ll come the hell home to our little MA blue state bubble. And be glad to do so.

Just un-freaking-real.

As an aside, my niece’s kid, born biologically a girl but living as a boy since about age 5, is a highly competitive athlete, playing against boys in boy’s soccer leagues. So far, I don’t think anyone has asked him to drop trou and show what he’s got. So I guess it doesn’t go both ways.

As far as what sports are for, when I was a kid we played all kinds of ball because it was fun. When I got into music, I lost interest in sports. Music was just a lot more fun, most likely because I was better at it than I was at sports. Plus, the jocks in school always seemed like entitled dicks to me, which was further incentive to have nothing to do with sports of any kind. Certainly any kind of organized sports.

I can appreciate the skill and discipline required to perform sports at an elite professional level, and have a basic level of respect for the folks who achieve that. Not my thing, but different strokes, y’all.

But leave the kids alone, please.

So I guess it doesn’t go both ways.

Of course not. Sports are about winning, don't let any squishy liberals tell you otherwise. /s

(I leave filling in the rest of the logic to the reader.)

What are sports for? Definitely a case of different strokes for different strokes.

I once taught a martial art. One where, like fencing (saber), the activity simulates mortal combat. At one point, three ladies were among my students. Their motives varied as follows:

  • H. regarded it as dance (not unlike GftNC). She was in it for the grace and beauty in motion, much like why she liked to dance.
  • C. just liked to fight. Competition, pure and simple.
  • M. liked to kill people, if only in simulation. In retrospect, a lot of anger there; I have no idea why. (I should perhaps mention that she has never done so in reality, then or in the decades since.)
All of them became quite accomplished, their differing motives notwithstanding.

So what are sports for? YMMV Including those whose "mileage" is the culture war posturing for which it currently provides an oppportunity.

I've been thinking about this question a lot, what with a) the handwringing around trans= women (never trans-men) athletes and b) the USWNT (and women's tennis) fight for equal pay.

The thing I keep coming back to is that women's sports exist in the public mind as something like a glorified junior varsity competition - best of the weaker sex but pinnacle of the biologically limited human dimorph as opposed to the merely inadequate male. The patriarchal vibe is strong.

Exhibit A: I was in a co-ed adult indoor soccer league for a couple years (we were mostly terrible, but persistent and enthusiastic). The rules for the co-ed league were that two of the six players on the field at any one time must be female - except that in a pinch when some of the women were out, teams would *play with one fewer player on the field.* If you were short a dude, then you could have as many women on the field as you wished at any one time. Pretty much sums things up in a cynical way.

Can't we do better than this with how we value each other?

And yet here I am with my eyes glued to the Stanley Cup playoffs again, feeling all tribal around my chosen team and glorifying in the violent, competitive spectacle of it all.

Sports are fraught because the sublime of it exists in that overlap between the magic feeling of the flow state and the lizard brain pleasure of victory over another after painful struggle and risk. That's a fleeting and elusive goal to chase, and a hard equation to balance.

But like our economy, the recognition and the rewards go to the (too) few, and we do a shit collective job of seeing and celebrating the smaller triumphs that are just as hard won.

Sports are not always good for our empathy.

I play a lot of tabletop RPGs and board games. Most of the ones I play any more are cooperative games where all the player are trying to overcome a collective challenge.

Could we do something more like that with our physical sports as well? I don't know, but I do think that it might be better for our collective souls if we could.

Oooo, Janie, you pull me in!

Nous' point about the patriarchal vibe rings true with me. I've really gone off sports of late and there is only a faint flicker of interest about wins and losses.

The name of the book escapes me now, but there was a collection of essays, perhaps with some related to aikido and rethinking competition. The one that stands out was a frisbee game where you had to throw the frisbee so that it was possible for the person to catch it, but it was at the limit of their ability. If the person said nope, can't do that, either they lost the chance to throw or lost a point, I can't remember which. The guy who thought it up was a world class frisbee person (player? Thrower?) and he trialed the game with (I think) Rafer Johnson, who won the gold medal in the decathalon. Just remembering the outlines of the essay, it seemed to approach that ideal, of a sport that constrains people to not seek unfair advantage but challenges the participants to their max.

I've always thought that aikido was close to an ideal, but it's depressing that several famous aikido practitioners were deep into the whole Mythopoetic men's movement, which is not really my cup of tea.

In some sports, gender does make a difference. Men's height distribution runs several inches taller than women's, so if the sport is basketball, you simply don't have a level playing field. Similarly with sports which involve big muscle mass -- if you don't have all that natural testosterone sloshing around in your system, you are at a disadvantage.

On the other hand, in some sports the gender difference is minimal. Baseball requires good eyesight and fast reflexes, neither of which are distributed differently differ by gender. As a result of which, there's no reason, beyond tradition and limited opportunities to develop (beyond little league), why women couldn't compete equally at every level.

When it comes to trans athletes, you can easily select examples of sports where it really does matter which gender you were when you went thru puberty. Insisting that it doesn't is simply nonsense. But in others, it makes little or no difference. Insisting that, because it makes a difference in some sports, it must in all is equally nonsensical.

Today's way cool picture: when galaxies collide.

I don't even know where to start when it comes to sports - too many conflicting thoughts. I'm paralyzed by ambivalence. They are glorious and disgusting, sometimes both in a single moment.

wj - what does it mean to "compete equally" at all levels?

I went through puberty as a male. What testosterone I had in my system was as "all natural" as anyone else's. I still did not end up with the physiology of a linebacker or a power lifter. Despite this, all of the usual competitions that were open to males were open to me.

What of access to nutrition and to the sort of equipment and training that build condition and refine skill? Do they not also condition who goes on to compete at the highest levels? Should those barriers to participation exist and should we naturalize those barriers the way that we do with our discussions of gender?

I always tell my students to be wary of the appeal to nature.

The question I always have in all this talk of biological determinism is at what level those things are supposed to matter? What purpose does a JV team serve? Should a gifted athlete at a small school be held back by the limits of what support is available to them for their competitive success?

Should two men or two women be prevented from entering into pairs figure skating as a team? In what way might that possibility matter to the competition? What does indulging that possibility do to the nature of the competition as a whole?

We have a lot of notions of fairness in sports, but the genetic crap shoot that leads to participation in any given sport is a crap shoot, and only a handful of people will ever reach the level of greatest skill.

Should our public schools sports be organized around the purpose of creating the highest level of overall performance in competition, or should they be organized around some other public goal? That seems like the question that we should be taking on here. The appeal to nature in the gender/fairness construction seems like a safe harbor for a lot of chauvinisms that bear some examination.

wj - what does it mean to "compete equally" at all levels?

I went through puberty as a male. What testosterone I had in my system was as "all natural" as anyone else's. I still did not end up with the physiology of a linebacker or a power lifter. Despite this, all of the usual competitions that were open to males were open to me.

To me it means that there is no reason, physiologically, why a woman couldn't play major league baseball just as well as a man. At the moment, while girls have been "allowed" to play little league for decades, high school and college athletics in the US still overwhelmingly work on a basis of "boys play baseball, girls play softball." And, while women have been playing baseball professionally in Europe and Japan for quite a while now (and some have even signed up for the American major league draft), no woman has ever been picked to play in the minor leagues in the US, let alone playing major league baseball. Tradition! Prejudice, even. But not physiology.

As for your personal experience, while you (and I!) didn't put time and effort into building up big muscle mass in our teens or early 20s, we could have done so. Whereas, a woman would have had little chance of doing so without artificial steroids.

Should our public schools sports be organized around the purpose of creating the highest level of overall performance in competition, or should they be organized around some other public goal? That seems like the question that we should be taking on here.

More than public school sports, I would like to talk about P.E. in general. When I was in high school, everybody took P.E. Period. Even those of us who had minimal to no athletic ability; or interest.

Today, mandatory P.E. is almost gone, and some high schools don't even offer P.E as an option -- if you aren't on a team for something, no exercise at all. Anyone want to bet that our huge increase in childhood obesity (and diabetes) doesn't owe something to that? Far more than computer games.

As for your personal experience, while you (and I!) didn't put time and effort into building up big muscle mass in our teens or early 20s, we could have done so.

Nope. I could have built more muscle mass than I did, but I would still have been limited by my genetics, same as I could not through any Lamarckian means, have built myself taller for the sake of a career in basketball. I worked out a lot in high school, but there were women on the track team that could bench press more than I could even though we followed the same workout in the same gym with the same coach on the same schedule.

The crap shoot gave me large lungs and a narrow frame and average height, which is why I competed as a runner and a cyclist.

Elite women runners almost all have a low q-angle that comes from having narrow hips.

Michael Phelps has limbs that are on the extremes of the standard distribution for humans.

Lumping all that together under the notion that the top end of human physiology for strength and muscle mass trends heavily towards male, therefore it is within the reach of a man but not anyone else is chauvinism.

Open thread, so: I don't know how many of you know that we are in the midst of a vote of confidence situation on BoJo. The voting (which is of Tory MPs) has closed, and the result is expected within half an hour. It needs 180 votes to oust BoJo, but it is generally felt that a substantial number of no confidence votes (more than 100, or 120, or 130 depending on who you listen to) will deal him a very serious, if not immediately fatal, blow. Of course, no past occasions present proper supporting evidence, given how utterly shameless BoJo is and how much he is (as David Cameron said) like a greased piglet. We shall see. Some here are torn, thinking his continuation in office can only do Labour and Keir good, but others (among whom I number) think that his norms-trashing, like that of Trump, is a serious danger to our democracy and that therefore the sooner he goes the better. We shall see. Interesting times.

148 votes against him. This is very bad for him, worse than Teresa May's result (which I think was 132 against), but knowing him and his shameless enablers like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries, I wouldn't be surprised if he goes on. A lot will depend on the two by-election results in the next couple of weeks.

For completeness:

211 for
148 against

Just for follow-up discussion --

A BJ commenter said this before the vote was announced: "Lots of intrigue going on in the back rooms (supposedly the big money Tory donors have said they won’t donate any more if BoJo is sacked)." (I have no idea if this commenter knows what he's talking about; he isn't Tony Jay, the Brit who writes incredibly long and hilarious screeds about politics.)

I have wondered for a long time what hold Clickbait has on the Rs in the US, and every time I see someone refer to that question, the answer seems to be that they're all afraid of voters' allegiance to him. I would have assumed something like blackmail of threats of some sort instead.

Maybe it's both?

What I haven't seen is any reference to the big right-wing donors being the driving force behind Clickbait's power over the party.

"Rs in the US" -- by that I mean candidates and politicians in general.

GftNC, thanks for the update. I had wondered how folks there saw the Vote of Confidence.

Well, at least the Tory MPs have more guts that the GOP legislators. On average

What I haven't seen is any reference to the big right-wing donors being the driving force behind Clickbait's power over the party.

I think that they are more like McConnell. The have no use for Trump personally. But they are attracted to his ability to get elected (or appointed to the Supreme Court) folks that will do their bidding when it comes to the issues (i.e. not culture wars) that they care about.

Here it is, at 1.41, straight from the horse's mouth:


(Nadine Dorries is a complete idiot, and it's hilariously, marvellously typical that she wouldn't realise how bad this makes the party look.)

Consensus here is that Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg are so ultra behind BoJo because no other leader would have appalling types like them in the cabinet.

So if the big donors aren't going to support the Tories, who on earth *are* they going to support?

I would also say something about her accent, but ... never mind. ;-)

Rory Stewart

Remove the “payroll” vote - and look at the free vote from backbenchers. Almost 75% of all Tory MPs not dependent on his patronage voted against him. This is the end for Boris Johnson. The only question is how long the agony is prolonged.

From his lips to God's ear.

Maybe BJ will do a Trump, and try to find some way to justify not counting the votes of the back benchers...? But no, the UK isn't anywhere near as much in thrall to the insanity as we are here.

He can't, because all Tory MPs have an equal vote, whether cabinet members or backbenchers. Them's the rules. But as somebody was saying, the Tories are a very "flexible" party, so although the rules also state BoJo is now safe from another no confidence vote for a year, if the by-election results are bad enough they might change the rules. Also, since he now theoretically commands a minority in the Commons, he might keep losing votes on legislation, which could also spell the end. One can hope, anyway.

By the way, I would be curious to hear your comments on her accent, Janie, if you are prepared to reveal it. From a UK perspective, she has a completely unremarkable middle-middle-class roughly RP accent, but a slightly annoyingly girlish delivery (which is what I wonder whether you were referring to), even more than slightly annoying when you consider what an ignorant idiot she is (as an example, she is the Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport, and in parliamentary committee hearings recently demonstrated that she had no idea how C4 was funded - it takes no public money - despite the fact that she was planning to privatise it).

Just in case I failed to get my point across, Nadine Dorries is an idiot. She would never be in the cabinet of a competent PM, who was doing anything other than rewarding half-witted Brexiteers.

comments = opinion. Sorry, should have proofread but I'm still too riled up...

I have to listen again later. Her accent just seems exaggerated, or something.... Will get back to you.

Accent: I say this as a total non-expert, having spent only 3 or 4 weeks in England in my life, and watched some TV or films. (But quite a few of those.)

Dorries seems to have a drawn-out, drawly way of speaking, especially with certain words, above all those with "o" in them: "so" at 0:13, "tomorrow" at 0:17, know at 1:37 -- also "those," "point," "going"...."truth"....

In that "and so" at 13 seconds, she puts all the vowels in the alphabet into the word "so" before she's done.

To my ear, she speaks noticeably differently from the woman interviewing her, even though I can also hear that within the broad spectrum of accents, they're quite similar.

I notice accents a lot -- like the accent of the little girl in the movie "The Secret of Roan Inish" (Irish) --- I wouldn't be able to imitate her vowel sounds if you gave me a million dollars, and the same is true with Dorries. But Dorries sounds fake, and the little girl in the movie doesn't. (Maybe lj can tell me what I'm talking about ;-)

So interesting - thank you Janie. I just listened again. Yes, there is something fake about the Dorries accent, maybe (in this benighted country) trying to sound posher than she is. The interviewer, for example, has a somewhat more upper class accent, as well as (to my ear) a much more attractive voice. If only Dorries's voice was my only objection to her!

trying to sound posher than she is

Believable enough, and not unique to Britain although it might take other forms than accent elsewhere.

The interviewer, for example, has a somewhat more upper class accent

That I wouldn't have picked up on. I can pick up differences sometimes, and love to listen for them, but I'm not likely to know what to ascribe them to unless they're very broad.

I've just finished watching "Last Tango in Halifax" and loved the accents and vocabulary in that. "Happen he'll be here later...." And that's one where the local/regional/rural accent was very clearly distinguished from the posher folks'.

Meanwhile, here in California, I'm celebrating the end of political advertisements, at least for for this cycle. The biggest advertiser, at least on the TV channels I watch? The Attorney General. No idea why he feels the need.

Of local interest, we are looking to keep our local county District Attorney, who is pushing (among other things) police accountability. While her opponent is of the "police are always right" school. On the other hand, we are looking to boot out our county sheriff. His platform seems to be that one of his deputies, who just became the first deputy sheriff to be convicted of unnecessarily killing someone while on duty** (6 years prison sentence), should never have been charged because he did nothing wrong. Amazingly tone deaf.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, lots of cognitive dissonance for people who are discovering that they are not as knee-jerk liberal as they had thought. The DA is looking at a recall for being too soft on crime. (And the mayor, who slashed police department funding during the "defund the police" thing a couple of years ago, just raised the police budget by $21 million.) It seems that there are limits, even in SF -- the City of Love is becoming the City of Tough Love.

** Of particular interest because said deputy was among those serving in my town's police force (which is subcontracted out to the sheriff's office). He killed two people, about a year apart -- the only two fatalities from police actions ever in this town.

In both cases totally unnecessarily. And both men were unarmed.

Your local CA politics seems fairly chaste by OC corruption standards, wj:


Not the only scandal involving officers of the sheriff's department since I moved here in 2004. So much corruption.

This was in Feb, but what I always think of when I see Dorries being interviewed is her doing the Catherine Tate impersonation


Your local CA politics seems fairly chaste by OC corruption standards, wj:

Oh, we have our share of corruption, never doubt it nous. But it's mostly in traditional places like the Assessors Office.

But the sheriff we are trying to dump, like yours, has a pretty solid record when it comes to stonewalling. (Even records which state law requires him to make publicly available.) And spending our tax money trying to defend his indefensible positions.

Still better than that Florida sheriff that just asked the public to be more effective in shooting intruders and trespassers in order to save the police efforts and the taxpayers money (dead men need no trials and no prisons).

I don't know much about baseball, but I'm bemused by wj's claim that the best men and the best women could compete. Isn't this a sport plagued by steroid abuse? Perhaps that's just the batters, but I just looked up "fastest pitch" and was surprised by how large the difference is between men and women.

JanieM is right, Nadine Dorries' accent is, let's say, learned as an adult. In the past she complained about Tories with posh accents, but she seems to have dropped that now that she's an admirer of BoJo, who's rewarded her with a job she's utterly unsuited to.

The most striking thing for me is the use of rising inflection in statements, which doesn't fit with the RP she's adopted.

To be fair, I suspect her interviewer's accent may also be somewhat trained, but in the opposite direction.

Thanks for pointing out the rising inflection, Pro Bono. I hadn't consciously picked up on it as such, but I wonder if it's part of what GftNC meant when she said "girlish delivery."

Language Log has quite a few posts on it (I assume it's the same as what they call "uptalk"). I went looking for one I remember reading a long time ago and found this, which I think is the one I read when I was taking linguistics classes around that time:


As with so many of our home-grown politicians, I listen to her and watch her and wonder how anyone could possibly want her running a committee meeting, much less the country.

I just looked up "fastest pitch" and was surprised by how large the difference is between men and women.

The very fastest pitchers can throw around 100 miles per hour. But that's "fastest", not the best. There are great major league pitchers (as in Cy Young Award winners**) whose fastest pitch is in the low to mid 80 MPH range. (And that's not counting knuckleballers.) Speed is far from everything.

As a side note, the "fastest pitch female" record is from a woman who played softball -- which, by rule, is pitched underhand. That is, she was doing something that she didn't routinely practice. A woman who has been throwing overhand constantly for 10-15 years (high school, college, and a few years in the minor leagues) would be a different story.

As for steroids, certainly there have been guys who assumed that bulking up on steroids would let them hit more home runs. But things like On Base Percentage are far more important for a hitter. The best hitter on my local team the last few years (a guy named Tony Kemp) is maybe 5' 7" and his build could be described as "willowy." Definitely no bulging muscles. He doesn't hit lots of home runs, but he gets on base, and moves runners along.

** For those unfamiliar with baseball, that's the annual award for the best pitcher in each major league.

And then there's this.

Yes, I know, with some practice he could hit her pitches. But as wj says, that works both ways. I'm not convinced the strongest female throwers could be as effective from, say, center field as the strongest men, but then playing ball isn't usually a one-trick enterprise.

A fun bit of baseball history

Note that this isn't a random Internet rumor site. This is Major League Baseball's official website.

To be fair, I suspect her interviewer's accent may also be somewhat trained, but in the opposite direction

I think Pro Bono is absolutely spot on here. And I didn't even notice the upward inflection, because it is now so very common here, especially among the young (even among the poshest), which could certainly explain why I found it "girlish". FWIW, when it first started making inroads here, people referred to it as an Australian phenomenon.

And Janie, on the Halifax comment, my husband was a working class Yorkshireman, and he used lots of Yorkshire dialect (although not the "happen" for "perhaps" example you use). And I have a fairly posh RP (although with US notes, from a HK childhood, and South African notes from having my mother live with me before she died - although SA people thought she spoke a very posh English RP), which he adored, so he used to get very annoyed with me when I adopted useful Yorkshirisms such as "Eyup".

I'm not convinced the strongest female throwers could be as effective from, say, center field as the strongest men, but then playing ball isn't usually a one-trick enterprise.

This was my thought. A major league outfielder is freakish in several ways. Sprinting. Hand-eye coordination. Velocity and accuracy throwing over significant distances. A former minor league player once told me that it's not how far you can throw it, it's can you consistently throw the fast flat one-hop ball exactly to where the infielder needs it. I've always been amazed at MLB right fielders' ability to throw runners out at third.

A major league outfielder is freakish in several ways. Sprinting. Hand-eye coordination. Velocity and accuracy throwing over significant distances

Certainly it's a challenge. On the other hand, the aforementioned Tony Kemp (short, slender) splits his playing time between 2nd base and right field. Perhaps size isn't what is really critical here either.

Echoing my observation that black flies are God's way of reminding us that nothing (even the month of May) is perfect, here's Shaq:

“Me having a beautiful wife and great family and friends around me, all the money I’ve got, all the things that I’ve got, a Ferrari that I just ripped the top off of and turned into a convertible, the rings I got, the two mansions on the water, a master’s in criminal justice, I’m a cop, plus I look good. So to me, shooting 40 percent at the foul line is just God’s way of saying that nobody’s perfect. If I shot 90 percent from the line, it just wouldn’t be right.”

This comes to mind in relation to specialization in sports....

What are sports for? A non-serious answer to the question. It was college rather than high school, but I had become the designated defensive player for a woman who was a walk-on to the women's basketball team who wanted to drill more than the official "contact" hours with coaches or teammates allowed by the NCAA. One of the men who lived in the dorm asked me why I let her embarrass me at basketball. My response was along the lines of "She doesn't always embarrass me, and when was the last time a cute blond with a cuter roommate asked you,'How long are your f*cking arms anyway?'"

Maybe, rather than physically comparing men and women generally as concerns their abilities to play baseball at the highest level, we should be asking if it's really the case that no woman has ever or will ever be good enough to play in the MLB at any position. Not a single one, ever.

It's been the case that none has played, but should it have been that way, and should it continue to be that way? Not even one?

I've only just seen this excellent Marina Hyde piece on the no-confidence vote debacle:


It's really got too many good bits for me to quote, but her description of Nadine Dorries, and her mention of a rat-king, gave me particular joy for obvious reasons.

And something else from the Grauniad, a documentary premiering on HBO tonight, about an organisation I had not heard about, the Janes, an underground group who helped women needing an abortion pre-Roe. It's very telling, and I hope is very widely publicised in the States:


hsh -- that's a great framing. Should it have been that way, and should it continue? I'd say no, but much good that will do.

I think if the 1984 Olympics, when Joan Benoit won the first-ever Olympic marathon for women, and Connie Carpenter won the first-ever bicycle road race for women. Prior to that, us poor dears had been considered too delicate for such activities. (Ha ha.)

I was in my obsessive bicycle-riding phase that summer, and when I did my ride later that day, everyone on my route waved to me. People were really happy for Carpenter, and paying attention in a new way.

It's been the case that none has played, but should it have been that way, and should it continue to be that way? Not even one?

Excellent questions. And to shift the attention to the instrumental point; assuming that there have been a number of women who were capable of playing baseball at a high level, what were the implicit and explicit barriers that prevented them from being able to do so?

What changes would need to be implemented in order to open baseball at all levels to all who might wish to play?

(Which seems to me to be the question at the heart of pretty much every area of societal activity.)

Prior to that, us poor dears had been considered too delicate for such activities.

Why am I guessing that the men (and, overwhelmingly, they were men) who took that position had never been in the room while their wives were giving birth? "Too delicate"? The mind boggles.

What changes would need to be implemented in order to open baseball at all levels to all who might wish to play?

Well, for little league, and for high school and college (to the extent that they have moved on the question), what it took was Title IX and law suits based on it which did the deed. IANAL, so I don't know if it (or something similar) applies to professional sports.

And I don't know, if not, whether something similar could be passed which would. Given the current environment with respect to things like abortion laws, I'm guessing nothing like that could pass. At least for the moment.

GftNC, I am indebted to you for the Dorries video, which made me acquainted with her in time to take pleasure from Hyde's characterization:

There was Nadine Dorries, the missing link between the vegetable and mineral kingdoms...

Are women still banned from Olympic ski jumping? They still were a handful of years ago with the official reasoning that the female anatomy was too delicate and that ski jumping could negatively affect their fertility. So, that way of thought is still alive and well. I don't know, whether that ruling from the IOC still stands.

Janie: ha! That was just one of the Marina Hyde gems, but a good one. I hope you also looked at lj's link above, in which he referred to Dorries's Catherine Tate impersonation. If anything, she comes off even worse in that one than in the one where she reveals the message of the Tory party's paymasters....

For Hartmut.

Years ago, there was a similar battle over getting women's ski jumping added as an Olympic event. It only made its debut at the highest level in 2014 in Sochi. Men had been competing in ski jumping for nearly a century prior to that.

During the fight to get that event opened to women, detractors claimed women's bodies weren't built for the sport, U.S. Nordic and Ski Jumping Sport Director Jed Hinkley told NPR.

"The science has disproved that," he said.

That same discriminatory belief is at play when it comes to Nordic combined, according Geraghty-Moats.

"I think there are men on the [IOC] voting committee who think women shouldn't do the sport," she said. "It's made up of mostly men, mostly over the age of 60 who couldn't comprehend of women competing in Nordic combined."

Actually, all (gallows) humour aside, I think this sentence of Marina Hyde's is very insightful, and very true:

A lifetime of hollowing himself out with narcissism and personal ambition seems to have meant that when he finally became prime minister, he had no idea what to do with the position, and even less interest in finding out.

And this is even more of an indictment, because unlike Trump, he is both clever and well educated, including in analysis of the fall of great civilisations.

GftNC -- I did watch the video lj linked, but I was distracted and didn't really grasp what was going on. Plus I don't know who Cathrine Tate is. I googled and found stuff about her, including a picture with David Tennant and some connection to Dr. Who (which I haven't kept up with since my kids were young). But I still didn't get it, so i gave up.

Not, obviously, that I would consider us a great civilisation any more (if ever). But that was clearly part of the mythos for the Brexiteers, and him as their leader.

Janie - I didn't think the Catherine Tate comparison was particularly apt (CT is also a sketch comedian), but I thought that clip showed how clueless and idiotic she (ND) was. Never mind, no doubt there will be plentiful evidence for those qualities in the weeks/months to come!

Catherine Tate is the redhead interviewer in this:


thanks nous, i'll try to educate myself ;-)

For anybody who remains interested, I think that the people who compared Dorries to Tate when lj's clip aired were thinking of CT's famous character "Lauren", an obnoxious schoolgirl. There are many clips, but this one gives a flavour. Her catchphrase, for the uninitiated, is "Am I bovvered?" and "Face - is this face bovvered?" etc etc. It can be quite funny, and she did a bit with Tony Blair once for Comic Relief, but as I say I don't think it's all that apt for Nadine Dorries, who although clueless is not so obstreperous (obviously). However, I know we have a number of fans of UK comedy here, and she is certainly a well-known practitioner, so anybody who's interested, knock yourselves out!


It's always dangerous for me to reconstruct why something catches me as funny, cause it is an invitation to go down any number of rabbit holes. But the reason I think the Dorries Tate comparison caught me was not the language, it was the sheer chutzpah Dorries is able to summon when asked if she thought that Starmer let Jimmy Saville off and the comparison with Tate really gets that.

Here is Lauren's French oral exam

Sheer chutzpah is right, except that one also gets the feeling that when she is denying or obfuscating, she actually has no clue at all about what is being alleged, or what in fact she is claiming in rebuttal. The missing link between the vegetable and mineral kingdoms indeed.

lj: sheer chutzpah

The melting pot lives! In this case the linguistic one.

Here we have a Japanese American, raised in Alabama of all places, casually dropping a Yiddish word into a conversation in English. And nobody here fails to understand it -- even though most of us aren't Jewish. Nor (save this one anthropologist) even considers it particularly noteworthy.

The xenophobes perhaps don't realize that they lost the war a century or more ago.

It's about claiming the title of most pure-bred mongrel (while avoiding the term mongrel). Actual genetics are secondary.

Actual genetics are secondary.

True to the extent that the other individual doesn't look too different (mostly physiological, but attire also a possible factor) -- with "too different" being a moving target. But beyond that, culture is far more important. Granting that "culture" ignores some things (individual words, food) which an anthropologist would consider definitely a part of a culture.

C'mon. In English it is completely acceptable to steal a good word or expression from any other language!

Much like stealing their land, their oil, their culture, etc.

Time for dinner? Bon Appétit!
ACHOO! Gesundheit!

Stealing the words is by far the least harmful of the list of things stolen from others.

In the world of words, I can talk for about a minute without using any words with the letter "a" in them.

Who was "a" stolen from? And why, may one ask, did you decide to hone this extraordinary and useless skill? And could you write a novel without using it, as Ernest Vincent Wright did with "e", the most common letter in the English language?


There is a famous German mono-vowel poem ("Ottos's Mops"). There are countless imitations of it for other vowels (something for schoolkdis to try too) and a few attempts at translations into other languages. I did one for Icelandic. It is impossible to do a Latin one since it would require at least one vowel change when changing the case of the title character's name (as is necessary).

Some of my pictures of Maine, and a little story.

Lots more here.

Wonderful pictures, Janie! I looked at all the galleries in your site. Do you ever go swimming in the lake? (I was going to ask why it wasn't called a pond - a usage we don't have here at all, ponds are small things in people's gardens, but then I got to your explanation.) Does the lake have any critters, fish etc in it?

(I do seem to be in "No-one expects the Spanish Inquisition mode!" - sorry everyone)

I haven't been swimming in the lake since my kids were small, but people do swim in it -- in fact, the town beach for my town is across the road from my house. That's where my kids took swimming lessons in the summer.

It does have fish -- people fish for bass (you can see the boats in the early morning on weekends) and other kids of fish, but since I'm not a fisherperson, I don't pay enough attention to know what kinds there are.

There's also ice fishing, which my son has done a ilttle of. Ice fishing shacks have been mentioned on this very blog! Sometimes there are jet skis or water skiers, although they're not that common. A few times each summer a float plane will land and take off, and the flight path goes right over my house. It's terrifying if you don't know what that noise is.

The lake is 5 miles long north to south, not much more than about a mile wide east to west at its widest. But it's 100+ feet deep at its deepest point, which I guess is pretty deep for a lake of that size.

(oh, for an edit function.....sorry for the typos)

And PS, late last winter a ski plane flew low over my head as I was taking my walk. I watched it glide down to the surface of the ice, but the pilot must not have liked what was there, because the plane took off again without ever stopping. Only time I've ever seen a ski plane.

Ski plane eh? I know about seaplanes, and flying boats (never been sure of the difference, but as ObWi is my teacher in so much I just looked it up: it seems there is no difference.) Which makes me wonder, about ski planes: are they what land in the Arctic and Antartic? Again Google: yes, sometimes. OK, I seem to have developed an affliction where all I can do is ask questions. There's probably a name for it, like tourettes....

I have to make a (for me) early start tomorrow, so I'm going to make like the IT Dept, and switch myself off then on again (tomorrow). Good night all.

Who was "a" stolen from? And why, may one ask, did you decide to hone this extraordinary and useless skill?

It's more of a barroom bet than a skill. And requires no skill beyond speaking English.

One, two, three, ...ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety-nine.

On the subject of lipograms like Gadsby, check out Christian Bök's Eunoia


Without looking it up I'd say a seaplane has floats attached and a flying boat is a float by itself (although additional floats under the wings are possible).

Floatplanes like the ones that occasionally land on "my" lake.

The plane i called a "ski plane" is fuzzy in the picture I took, but I think it had skis attached to the undercarriage, as in this little video.

Came across this on Twitter. Quite delightful.

In honor of Anne Cutler's passing, here is a 3-page paper of hers that literally made my jaw drop when I read it. It is concise and very witty, and it makes its point convincingly. If you haven't seen it before, it's worth five minutes of your time. https://repository.ubn.ru.nl/bitstream/handle/2066/15628/6033.pdf…

Have just finished the first paragraph, and am amazed at the skill! But (and maybe this is part of the point she is making, and if so no wonder I didn't get there - yet), while the rhythm captured me irretrievably from the first word, the side-effect was that I could not simultaneously properly take in the sense. I will continue and then reread. Thanks, Nigel.

Amazing, and as Nigel says, delightful. But my experience was absolutely contrary to her point, which I can only explain by the fact that I was influenced from the start by the title of the paper.

I have read some of the beginning and some of the ending of that paper. I actually think that for the sake of ordinary comprehension (setting aside the experiment in rhythm), the reason why GftNC might not have found it easy to take in the sense is that it's actually not very well written for that purpose. I.e., it's clunky.

Speaking as an untrained but prolific amateur copy editor, I would say that there's not just an implied auditory rhythm to language, there's also a rhythm that embodies the logic that a sentence is being made to carr -- and the writer can do this well or badly.

I don't think this piece does it very well, possibly because she's an academic (sorry!), and possibly because she sacrificed that goal for the other one.

Also, the opening paragraph suggests that there's some mystery to the fact that written English has spaces between words, but spoken English doesn't. I guess there is -- because I recognize that it's an interesting question how we recognize separate words when we're listening to spoken language.

But let's note: spoken language preceded written language. So written language had to invent ways to do what our brains seem to find quite easy with spoken language. (Maybe she gets to this in the rest of the paper but I don't have time to read the whole thing.) One of my linguistics professors pointed out that it's kind of a marvel that written language works at all! Because it's not the same thing as spoken language.

lj's bailiwick, so I may be all wet, but it's fun to think about all of it.

Germans have the reputation of being strict word separators* in particular when speaking foreign languages, always going for a stakkato where smooth transitions are called for. From the other (=German) side: We get the impression that Italians add an e to every word not ending with a vowel.

*or even separating all syllables from each other while speaking.

Hartmut -- again will leave rhythms of languages in general to lj, but last fall and into the winter I spent 48 evenings listening to The Great Courses: How to Listen to and Understand Great Music with a friend.

Check out Lecture 9. The different rhythms of Italian and German were an interesting subtopic.

Further to our ongoing series on the greatest hits of Nadine Dorries, this from Caitlyn Moran's roundup of the week in today's Times reminded me of the classic algorithms request to Microsoft. But it's a helpful precis of recent events too:

Nadine Dorries — the culture secretary who wanted algorithms banned — was first out of the gate and must have been furious that algorithms still exist, given how her various pronouncements trended all through Monday. In a bad way. Her ferocious Twitter attack on colleague Jeremy Hunt — who announced he was voting against Johnson — provoked raised eyebrows when she claimed: “Your pandemic preparation during six years as health secretary was found wanting and inadequate.” A Conservative minister furiously shouting that her party’s pandemic preparation was “wanting and inadequate” wasn’t quite the political slam dunk Dorries seemed to think it was. As many pointed out, screen grabs of Dorries’s accusation will, no doubt, be a diverting and useful feature of the future inquiry into the government’s handling of Covid-19 and those subsequent 180,000 deaths.

However, Dorries had further grenades up her sleeve. Appearing on Channel 4 News, she both claimed that the UK was “at war” with Ukraine — enlightening, I’m sure, to the UN — and that “the donors” to the Conservative Party had “spoken” in favour of Johnson; and that, therefore, the matter was closed. As almost every Labour MP then gleefully tweeted, “Nadine Dorries — removing any further doubt about whose interests the Conservative Party serves.”

Still, Dorries has competition for the role of Johnson’s least helpful friend. Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed the boos that greeted Johnson during the jubilee were “a mere bagatelle” — confusing for those who thought Mere Bagatelle was the name of his fourth child, between Sixtus Dominic Boniface and Alfred Wulfric Leyson Pius. Meanwhile, Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham, claimed that Newsnight had shown pictures of Johnson looking “like Hannibal Lecter”: a frankly bizarre curveball given that, while Johnson has been accused of lying, shagging, greed and breaking the law, so far pretty much the only thing he hasn’t been accused of is eating a census-taker’s liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti. Is randomly and publicly associating a “mortally wounded™” leader with a psychopathic killer some masterful piece of PR spin I’m too dumb to appreciate?

spoken language preceded written language. So written language had to invent ways to do what our brains seem to find quite easy with spoken language.

Which is my rationalization for why I use italics so often. Sometimes the stresses which just flow naturally in spoken English have to be indicated somehow, and that's the "how" that's available.

I might note that I found it to be one of the unexpected challenges in studying (I didn't really accomplish "learning") Japanese. I just naturally assumed that words had stressed and unstressed syllables (even more than we use stressed and unstressed words) -- and Japanese just doesn't do that. (At least in my experience. lj feel free to correct me on that.)

the reason why GftNC might not have found it easy to take in the sense is that it's actually not very well written for that purpose

Yes, that might be part of it, since it was clearly mainly written for the purpose of rhythm and rhyme, and very skilfully too. But I had a sense that my brain couldn't do two things well at the same time: I was feeling the rhythm and noting the rhymes, and that stopped me being able to concentrate so well on the sense. This might possibly, however, be more to do with my (almost 67 year old) brain, than the language of the paper!

Well, this discussion sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole, so I can now say that current research indicates that the brain deciphers the information in language the same way regardless of whether the medium in which it is delivered is auditory or textual. So that particular line of inquiry is not going to help us out of the experiential difference between these modes in Cutler's text.

My own hunch is that the length of the line and regularity of the meter creates a rhythmic expectation that is parsed as musical rather than as linguistic information. It's a effect that students of literature are familiar with from poetry readings, and that actors live and die by when learning to emotionally embody textual information. A strong enough, and long enough, line sets up a sense of anticipation and expectation that sets the receiver to paying attention to the rhythm, rather than the meaning, and this leads to a contest of attention between the two.

A skilled rapper can manipulate this principle to great effect by consciously matching subject matter to rhythmic effect. Antithesis - I was always deeply disappointed by TS Eliot's own readings of The Waste Land, which to my ear took all the life out of his verse with his annoying nasal sing-song.

This piece is clever and makes a good point, but the aural experience of it starts to give it Gilbert and Sullivan vibes, which is very unconventional for scientific argument.

(It's very unconventional for scientific argument, x3)

nous, you are a treasure. :-)

My next random thought, in the midst of cooking and doing dishes and editing a long and mixed up story for someone else, is: I wondering about whether rhythmic language is helpful in memorizing information, but only with shorter lines? ("Thirty days hath November...") -- Also thinking about how long ago bards told stories....rhythmically? But we do not in fact try to convey scientific or other factual information (or even opinions, typically!) in rhythmic language.

Poetry readings....hmmm.

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