Author Topic: EP422: Deshaun Stevens’ Ship Log  (Read 27770 times)

eytanz

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on: November 16, 2013, 10:45:05 AM
EP422: Deshaun Stevens’ Ship Log

by Marie Vibbert

Read by Alasdair Stuart

--

Personal Log — January 1

Crunches–one and a very near half.

Push-ups–none unless counting getting off floor

Calories–lost count, but all from alcohol, so okay

One year ago today I vowed I would not spend another year working on this stupid cruise ship.  One year ago my life was exactly as it is now, with exception of having a girlfriend.

Trying to have a good sulk about lack of gf, but general suckatude of life winning.  Have spent all adult years–five of them–treading the same tract of “unexplored” space with end trip to rings of Neptune tacked on by tourist company as apology for boringness of unexplored space.  Have also set lighting and sound cues for thousand ungrateful musicians with combined talent of medium-sized shrub.

(Is supposedly new tract of space each time, but how can anyone–especially easily-duped passengers who think cruise ship bands are good–tell the difference?)

Current misery doubled by working with now-ex gf.  Attempts to avoid said ex at New Year’s party largely consisted of going back to punch bowl repeatedly.  May have sung love ballad composed in throes of self-pity at end of night. Memory foggy.  Hope everyone else’s is, too.

Suspecting ship regulation against alcohol v. wise after all.  Hope they don’t read our logs.

Resolutions:

1. Get New Job

2. Avoid romantic complications with Lido Deck Staff, especially boss, xgf, and cocktail waitresses with unfairly attractive hair.

3. Somehow, bearing number 2 in mind, get a new gf.

4. Exercise and update personal log every day


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



ArbysMom

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Reply #1 on: November 16, 2013, 05:23:51 PM
Loved it! Alasdair's spot on narration was perfect! Well done all around.


InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #2 on: November 16, 2013, 09:36:08 PM
Given the law of averages, it's entirely possible First Contact will be made by some boob like this.....



MarsGirl

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Reply #3 on: November 17, 2013, 02:38:48 AM
I'm a little biased. This was written by a friend of mine. Imagine my surprise when I played this in my iPod in the gym yesterday morning... I nearly fell off the elliptical. *shock, excitement*



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #4 on: November 17, 2013, 11:54:14 AM
Nice story, bad execution.
I like that first contact was made by people totally not equipped to deal with it, but I don't like the way the story dealt with it.
It seemed like the purpose of the story was to justify the atrocities being performed daily on the English language. I rlly h8 teh txt speak. And I also despise the "first-person-half-thought" approach to blogs and journals. But no, it's all good because that makes it easier for aliens to learn the language.</sarcasm>
Would you like to have a conversation with an advanced species that constructs sentences like a 16 year old girl? Or perhaps a lonely, bitter bachelor? Me neither.
This story touched on two delicate points with me:
1. Screwing up and then claiming it was done on purpose. There is a succinct phrase here which brings home the point but can't be translated. I hope you get my meaning.
2. You don't mess with our means of communication. That leads to misinformation, misdirection, miscommunication and misanthropy (I hate people who do that on purpose). Seriously though, we are who we are and what we are because of our ability to communicate complex thougts, ideas and emotions. When you break that system, it all just corrodes.
I'm sorry about the vitriol, but that totally ruined the story for me and I just had to get that off my chest.

On a different note: maybe Norm and Dave could coordinate story lengths. Because last week both EP's and PC's story was rather long (over 40 minutes in both cases) and this week they're both rather short. Just a thought.

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Varda

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Reply #5 on: November 17, 2013, 12:31:11 PM
I love that the author has taken the format and themes of Bridget Jones's Diary and spliced them onto a single guy instead of a single woman. Pretty dang hilarious! You've got the general setup of a bigger story being told through the lens of someone's seemingly banal romantic woes, lots of slang and shorthand, and even the daily "counts" that open each journal entry, in this case pushups instead of Bridget's daily weigh-in and calorie count. I find this even funnier when I remember that Bridget Jones's Diary loosely follows the plot of Pride and Prejudice, and so does this story in a similar way, what with misunderstandings and eventual romantic success.

Given all that, I agree with Max e^{i pi} that the idea that the narrator's "minimal diction" would make human language easier for the aliens to understand doesn't pass the sniff test. In fact, the truncated language of this journal would make things much, much harder to understand even for another human who didn't speak English. In shortening the sentences, crucial information gets left out. We easily fill in the gaps because of our experience as English-speakers, but the "correct" information is not so easily supplied if you don't start with our vast amount of experience.

This is best understood with an example. Take the sentence, "Still the laughing stock of the ship". This sentence eliminates both the subject (I) and the verb [am]. For an alien, how does that make this sentence easier to understand? The missing subject and verb could be anything, if you don't know anything about human behavior in general, much less English idiom. The subject could be I, you, he, she, or they (and this is only thinking grammatically). While to us it's obvious the verb should be a "to be" verb, that's not necessarily an assumption an alien, or even a non-English speaker, could safely make without a greater understanding of the language. While we moan and groan about grammar as kids, and sometimes joke as adults that we don't need it, internally consistent application of grammar makes things less ambiguous and easier to understand, not harder, particularly for second language learners. (Please note I'm talking about grammar in the linguistic sense, not what we consider "proper" English grammar in particular. Dialects also have internally consistent grammar.)

All that aside, since this story was clearly supposed to be absurd, I'm willing to give the plausibility factor a pass. It's supposed to be a joke that a moron makes first contact because of, and not in spite of, his annoying journal. For me, the joke worked, especially given it's a Bridget Jones rom-com send-up. :D
« Last Edit: November 21, 2013, 03:02:48 AM by Varda »

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ArbysMom

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Reply #6 on: November 17, 2013, 04:54:14 PM
P.S. The only criticism I have with Alasdair's narration is that Lido is pronounced LEE-DO, not LYE-DO. Years of watching The Love Boat....


adrianh

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Reply #7 on: November 17, 2013, 06:22:08 PM
P.S. The only criticism I have with Alasdair's narration is that Lido is pronounced LEE-DO, not LYE-DO. Years of watching The Love Boat....

It's a regional thing. I'd say the majority of the working/middle class of the UK would say lye-doe rather than lee-doe. It's certainly how it was always pronounced around me, and how I'd say it myself. I've almost never heard the lee-doe variant used in the UK.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2013, 08:22:26 PM by adrianh »



adrianh

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Reply #8 on: November 17, 2013, 08:48:55 PM
I'm a little surprised at the hate-on for the protagonist ;-) Apparently I was the only one who was an idiot in their twenties! I like seeing normal people in extraordinary situations. Entertaining things happen.

That said - while I found the story gently amusing it didn't really hit the spot for me. I don't know why but I was continually expecting the humour to take a darker turn and ended up being a little disappointed by the happy ending.

The narration was spot on though.



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Reply #9 on: November 18, 2013, 01:31:42 PM
P.S. The only criticism I have with Alasdair's narration is that Lido is pronounced LEE-DO, not LYE-DO. Years of watching The Love Boat....

The open air one we went to in Scarborough (north Yorkshire) was a ly-do into which, if we were daft enough and stoked with anti-freeze, we would take our inflatable li-los. Learning under torture is effective!

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matweller

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Reply #10 on: November 18, 2013, 02:19:00 PM
Let's just all be glad it wasn't the poop.



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Reply #11 on: November 18, 2013, 02:40:43 PM
I never thought of the whole Bridget Jones Diary correlation. Good call!



jenfullmoon

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Reply #12 on: November 18, 2013, 04:49:07 PM
Oh, Bridget Jones is what I thought of first off. That made it all the more hilarious.



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Reply #13 on: November 18, 2013, 05:10:23 PM
I Really kind of enjoyed this story.  I am also one who really hates txt speak, but it was rather fun to listen to.   I just took it at face value and didn't question the logic.  The only thing that pulled me out of the story was the horror stories I have read and heard about how awful it is to work on a cruise ship.  I kept wondering if they had fixed some of these problems in the future.


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PotatoKnight

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Reply #14 on: November 18, 2013, 05:13:08 PM
This reminds me a bit of a Sarah Vowell piece that was in this old This American Life episode:http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/329/nice-work-if-you-can-get-it , about the cartographer who was dragged on expeditions of the West. The day that the party discovered Lake Tahoe, his journal only mentions his joy that they were finally getting some salt.  History doesn't always happen just to those that fit our image of great heroes.

The simple diction thing didn't bug me--we are dealing with a fundamentally alien intelligence that may or may not even actually be understanding correctly. I will say going back that it might have added a fun layer to the story if the language followed some rule that would conceivably make it easier for an alien to read--for example not using any first person pronouns (pronouns are tricky for kids learning language and it's pretty plausible that by would be for aliens) or the sentences all being simple subject-verb-object, but the actual sentence structure is complex and there doesn't seem to be any completely consistent patern. Not a problem but if it could have been done without disrupting the flow it might have given an extra depth.



bounceswoosh

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Reply #15 on: November 19, 2013, 04:21:58 AM
This is best understood with an example. Take the sentence, "Still the laughing stock of the ship". This sentence eliminates both the subject (I) and the verb [am]. For an alien, how does that make this sentence easier to understand? The missing subject and verb could be anything, if you don't know anything about human behavior in general, much less English idiom. The subject could be I, you, he, she, or they (and this is only thinking grammatically). While to us it's obvious the verb should be a "to be" verb, that's not necessarily an assumption an alien, or even a non-English speaker, could safely make without a greater understanding of the language.

But isn't this pretty similar to the way some human languages, like Japanese, actually work?



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #16 on: November 19, 2013, 08:46:49 AM
This is best understood with an example. Take the sentence, "Still the laughing stock of the ship". This sentence eliminates both the subject (I) and the verb [am]. For an alien, how does that make this sentence easier to understand? The missing subject and verb could be anything, if you don't know anything about human behavior in general, much less English idiom. The subject could be I, you, he, she, or they (and this is only thinking grammatically). While to us it's obvious the verb should be a "to be" verb, that's not necessarily an assumption an alien, or even a non-English speaker, could safely make without a greater understanding of the language.

But isn't this pretty similar to the way some human languages, like Japanese, actually work?
Perhaps. But this story was in English. And the personal logs were in English. And the aliens were learning English.
So it's very nice that other human languages would work like that. Just like it's very nice that there is good surfing in California. But neither has any bearing on the story.

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Varda

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Reply #17 on: November 19, 2013, 11:42:17 AM
This is best understood with an example. Take the sentence, "Still the laughing stock of the ship". This sentence eliminates both the subject (I) and the verb [am]. For an alien, how does that make this sentence easier to understand? The missing subject and verb could be anything, if you don't know anything about human behavior in general, much less English idiom. The subject could be I, you, he, she, or they (and this is only thinking grammatically). While to us it's obvious the verb should be a "to be" verb, that's not necessarily an assumption an alien, or even a non-English speaker, could safely make without a greater understanding of the language.

But isn't this pretty similar to the way some human languages, like Japanese, actually work?
Perhaps. But this story was in English. And the personal logs were in English. And the aliens were learning English.
So it's very nice that other human languages would work like that. Just like it's very nice that there is good surfing in California. But neither has any bearing on the story.

Yes, exactly. To put it another way, think of a language's grammar as overarching patterns that give form, structure, and meaning to our vocabulary. Just what this grammar is will vary from language to language. Now simple sentences really do make a language easier to learn ("The cat jumped on the mat"), but making the grammar arbitrary and inconsistent doesn't ("Jump cat-ed the the mat on"). The journal follows neither written nor spoken grammar rules (ETA: well, it does follow most grammar rules but the ones it drops are more arbitrary). It's written in a shorthand we can all understand, certainly, but saying that it would make language acquisition easier because of its chaos doesn't really make sense.

But like I said, it really doesn't bother me in this story for the same reason MST3K doesn't bother me: It's supposed to be funny. :) Remember:

Quote
If you're wondering how he eats and breathes, and other science facts,
You should remind yourself it's just a show, and you really should relax!

:D

One nitpicky bit: I don't speak Japanese, but from what I've studied about it, the grammar does allow you to eliminate the subject of a sentence in certain circumstances where the speaker and listener both know who you're talking about. The verb always falls at the end of the sentence and to the best of my knowledge, is never, ever optional. Japanese-speakers, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about that.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2013, 11:45:16 AM by Varda »

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Jompier

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Reply #18 on: November 19, 2013, 05:22:44 PM
I had a hard time getting into this story, maybe because it is shot through with much more whimsy than I typically like. Or maybe I'm just too much of a grump and I should just lighten up.



PotatoKnight

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Reply #19 on: November 19, 2013, 06:03:28 PM
Perhaps. But this story was in English. And the personal logs were in English. And the aliens were learning English.
So it's very nice that other human languages would work like that. Just like it's very nice that there is good surfing in California. But neither has any bearing on the story.

Not necessarily. Suppose that the aliens' language is highly contextual and they never include any subjects or verbs not needed to make the meaning clear. The fact that other human langugages are much more like this than English makes this plausible. Now say these aliens are reading journals of people who don't use any shorthand. The aliens are turning the color of frustration over what meaning they are missing in all of these journals. After all, why would someone waste time saying "I am still the ship laughingstock" when "Still the ship laughingstock" conveys the same meaning? There must be something to those first two words they are missing! And then they come across our narrators' log, and it's a wave of pleasingly smoky air. With the exception of a few odd references to "great tits" all the words have meaning. Only later do they realize that they happened to encounter a group of these weird clay creatures who speak a language called "English" that has some oddly specific rules about what words have to be used in what order even when the surrounding words make the context clear.

Do I think this was intended? No, I think it's a joke. I mean, there's also a line about how the aliens don't like the tourists' journals because tourists are boring and all the same. But it highlights the fact that when we're talking alien smoke creatures. I don't think we can make a lot of assumptions about what would and wouldn't make it easier for them to read English.



Varda

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Reply #20 on: November 19, 2013, 06:44:58 PM
Perhaps. But this story was in English. And the personal logs were in English. And the aliens were learning English.
So it's very nice that other human languages would work like that. Just like it's very nice that there is good surfing in California. But neither has any bearing on the story.
Not necessarily. Suppose that the aliens' language is highly contextual and they never include any subjects or verbs not needed to make the meaning clear. The fact that other human langugages are much more like this than English makes this plausible.

But I am disputing the idea that other human languages lack subjects and verbs. Japanese does not lack subjects and verbs. In some instances, the subject can be implied by context if the speaker and listener both know what the subject should be. This is a feature of the grammar made possible once you already understand Japanese, but would certainly make it harder to learn (since implied information is more difficult than explicit information, for outside parties). Japanese does not eliminate verbs. Now the subject and verb might present differently in some languages. They may be part of the same word, or be implied through the grammar.

This is not the case in English because English relies quite heavily on SVO word order to carry meaning. If you change the order or eliminate parts of this equation, the meaning itself changes. "Dog bites man" and "Man bites dog" mean two different things because our grammar says so. "Bites man" and "Bites dog" are practically meaningless. In another language where word order isn't important, this wouldn't be a big deal.

Of course, if we really want to get into the implausibility question, we'd have to discuss how human physiology dictates our speech patterns (our preference for aural signals, lung capacity creating a need for sentence breaks, and limitations on the ear to pick up sounds), and how gaseous aliens would even begin to decode our aural speech, much less our writing, which is a visual representation of the sounds our meat produces.

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Hilary Moon Murphy

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Reply #21 on: November 19, 2013, 09:10:18 PM
I am going to say that I rather liked the young protagonist.  I liked his quest for self-improvement, and the self-effacing honesty with which he kept his journal.  It also did not matter to me that he used abbreviations and partial sentences in a document that was intended primarily for himself.  Abbreviations / shorthand are ubiquitous in 19th century letters -- This is often frustrating for modern day readers like myself, who are left trying to figure out the context of a statement which must have been obvious to both the sender and the recipient. 

I did wonder at his naiveté in assuming that no one else would read it, but many other people make the mistake of assuming privacy while they write something in work email.

The story was charming, funny and satisfying.  Thanks for running this!

Hmm


Carlos Ferreira

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Reply #22 on: November 20, 2013, 07:23:48 PM
I am going to say that I rather liked the young protagonist.  I liked his quest for self-improvement, and the self-effacing honesty with which he kept his journal.  It also did not matter to me that he used abbreviations and partial sentences in a document that was intended primarily for himself. 

Exactly. I especially like the fact that the protagonist is a male. This genre of diary fiction often involves female main characters (such as the aforementioned Bridget Jones), as if this sort of emotion and slightly self-pitying behaviour is an exclusively female trait. Nope, men do it too, and just as much as women. I have; it's one possible outcome of finding oneself a bachelor and in an unwanted/awkward situation. I wonder if a lot of the dislike reported isn't related to being told the story from the point of view of a male, cast as the proverbial airhead.

As to the relevance of the document, isn't historical research strongly based on personal reports from people living the events? I find it entirely plausible that if contact does happen, someone tangentially involved could be wallowing in this sort of emotions. The papers will try to outdo each other with booming headlines, scientists will scurry to provide the best hypotheses, explanations and predictions, the internet will glow red with an unstoppable arms race in metaphors, but the guy bringing the coffees will be wondering if so-and-so's attributes are natural or surgically enhanced. Human nature. The story captures it really well.

This is one of the funniest science fiction pieces I've heard in a while, and I really liked. And Alasdair's narration and tone were, as mentioned above, spot on.



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Reply #23 on: November 21, 2013, 02:50:28 AM

Coming in late and not a lot to add, except to say this one cracked me up.  Though admittedly part of the reason it works for me is that my daughter and a couple friend's kids are at about that age, so I've had a lot of opportunity to hear about young adults and mentally revisit my own cringe-inducing behavior during those years. 

I've always been partial to the "worm's eye view" of almost any event, and this was definitely that.  That it was also hilarious was definitely a plus.  I got so wrapped up in the story I didn't really question how the aliens would process his journal text, and just went with it.  It probably didn't hurt that Alisdair was the perfect narrator for this.

I didn't think of it being like "Bridget Jones' Diary" until Varda said it, but the comparison is spot-on. 

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Reply #24 on: November 21, 2013, 08:33:25 AM
I was frustrated by how little information we got about the aliens. They had to have an agenda of some kind but we didn't get any clue what it was. I didn't think about the linguistic angle much in part because I suspected it was a pretext. The narrator was a perfect choice if the aliens wanted information to flow in one direction only. He would happily tell them whatever he knew and had no interest in figuring them out.

I couldn't believe that a human would be able to accurately interpret the "body language" of a cloud of gas which meant I couldn't believe the purple alien was genuinely flirting with the narrator. It seemed to me that had to be either a mistake on his part that the aliens took advantage of, or else a deliberate deceiption from the start. I was entertained by the narrator but I wish we had some additional diary entries. The jump from his first interest in the purple alien to the happy ending was too abrupt for me.

I really enjoyed hearing a lighthearted science fiction story. It was fun.



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Reply #25 on: November 21, 2013, 09:22:39 PM
Was entertained.  Had plausibility issues, but unimportant because funny.  Alasdair perfect read.



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Reply #26 on: November 22, 2013, 02:17:01 PM
I found this entirely enjoyable. So much so that I listened to it twice. Alasdair's narration was as much a part of that as the story itself.

Was I the only one reminded of the character Whip on the awesome show "Tripping the Rift"?

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albionmoonlight

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Reply #27 on: November 22, 2013, 02:49:45 PM
Read this while walking the dogs.  Perfect light fun story for a beautiful fall night.  I love it when the story and the situation in which I listen to it come together.



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Reply #28 on: November 22, 2013, 04:30:43 PM
This perfectly captured the EP mission of Have Fun. Loved the butterscotch pudding line, and the redacted section of the diary due to the security agency.

Not sure why so many people think the diary is text. If it was text, the redacted statements would have been redacted if they were typed (because he was admitting to rulebreaking on a monitored medium). If it's a Captain's Log format a la Star Trek, then the verisimilitude is better. Also fits perfectly with the presentation we received. Only possible violation is the use of "v" in place of "very" like in antiquarian letters, but this could as easily be an affectation similar to how LOL and OMG are currently used in verbal conversation.

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Reply #29 on: November 22, 2013, 06:35:22 PM
Short and sweet. This was a fun story and I enjoyed it. Not deep, not one I'm urgently telling friends to come listen to, not likely to be remembered for long. But fun. It's nice to have these sprinkled into the feed occassionally.

I can agree with the complaints about the text shorthand, I HATE text shorthand to the point that I won't even use LOL. My "laughs" are typically "hehe" or "haha" depending on the level of humor and my actual reaction to the joke. However, I think Fenrix is right in that this ship log is in audio format and therefor not so much text shorthand as just broken speech. This does bother me a bit because if it really was recorded orally, then why would Deshaun not just speak normally. In an audio recording, there's no need for shorthand because it doesn't really make the recording any faster. So I think this is a bit of a contrivance on the author's part because the shorthand is kind of a key element to the plot. Still, the story made me smile, so I'm not holding too much against it.

Only possible violation is the use of "v" in place of "very" like in antiquarian letters, but this could as easily be an affectation similar to how LOL and OMG are currently used in verbal conversation.

This drives me crazy. I have a friend who will literally say aloud, "Oh Em Double-you (OMW)" when leaving. To which I reply, "You know that OMW has the same number of syllables as "On my way", right? So you're not actually saving any time by speaking in text shorthand and you just sound stupid."

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ArbysMom

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Reply #30 on: November 23, 2013, 07:54:37 PM
Was entertained.  Had plausibility issues, but unimportant because funny.  Alasdair perfect read.

This.   ;D


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Reply #31 on: November 23, 2013, 08:22:19 PM
Not sure why so many people think the diary is text. If it was text, the redacted statements would have been redacted if they were typed (because he was admitting to rulebreaking on a monitored medium). If it's a Captain's Log format a la Star Trek, then the verisimilitude is better. Also fits perfectly with the presentation we received. Only possible violation is the use of "v" in place of "very" like in antiquarian letters, but this could as easily be an affectation similar to how LOL and OMG are currently used in verbal conversation.

For me, the Bridget Jones connection probably biased me to think of it as a text journal, but good point. There's no reason it couldn't be a spoken log, aside from the sprinkling of abbreviations, which could indeed be spoken aloud.

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Reply #32 on: November 24, 2013, 12:50:47 AM
Short, light and fun. I loved it. And it was a much needed piece here on Escape Pod. Ever since the Metacast went out, I've felt a bit heavy-hearted. Sad at the possibility this show might end soon. I needed an episode that would brighten the mood. Sure, Shunned Trailer was funny. But this was pure silly fun funny that had me giggling. Hee hee, bet Kirk never bedded a cloud alien... :D

Ok, that's all I got. Hee hee hee.

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Reply #33 on: November 26, 2013, 04:45:04 AM
This was so cute and funny! I agree, it hit the perfect light-hearted tone needed to really pull this off. And of course Alasdair worked his magic and brought it to life. Have Fun, indeed :)


Was entertained.  Had plausibility issues, but unimportant because funny.  Alasdair perfect read.

This.   ;D

Yes!



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Reply #34 on: November 29, 2013, 08:38:29 PM
This was just plain cute. I didn't think it was particularly creative or deep, but I also don't think that was the point of this story. I agree with others that this story isn't one that I will immediately recommend to people, but it reminded me a lot of those B-grade horror movies you find in the dregs of Netflix; doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you think about it too hard, flat characters, and odd execution, but it doesn't really matter because at the end of the day you had fun.


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Reply #35 on: December 04, 2013, 08:26:57 AM
This was brilliant, I laughed all the way to work. I'd date him after reading his diary! Actually, I read this "diary" as more of a blog, and it's exactly the kind of blog I'd enjoy if it was real, so I'm not surprised I loved the story. It doesn't happen often, but this is one of those texts that I'd enjoy even without the SF stuff.

The linguistic discussion in the thread is very cool too, especially for someone with a native language that's quite different from English. To me, the lack of subject in "Still the laughing stock of the ship" is not the problem - "laughing stock" is. I *know* what it means, but I got the meaning through context, from 15 years of reading/listening to English, but what is this stock and why are we laughing about it? Is it a good or a bad thing? How would the poor aliens guess that?

(That said, in Romanian the subject is very often implied and the verb conjugation indicates the person of the subject - just like in the other Romance languages like Spanish or French. To me, this is natural, and it felt really weird when my first English teacher told me that you can't do it in English. Now I'm learning German and that is messing with my head in new ways! *happy being a language geek*)



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Reply #36 on: December 04, 2013, 09:23:37 AM

The linguistic discussion in the thread is very cool too, especially for someone with a native language that's quite different from English. To me, the lack of subject in "Still the laughing stock of the ship" is not the problem - "laughing stock" is. I *know* what it means, but I got the meaning through context, from 15 years of reading/listening to English, but what is this stock and why are we laughing about it? Is it a good or a bad thing? How would the poor aliens guess that?

Loved this analysis, Jen, and you prompted me to find the origins of 'laughing stock'. I'd always understood how to construe it but not what it actually meant. Like many, I'd had the vague notion it might be related to putting people in the stocks for punishment, but this may be an acquired interpretation with the real origin more to do with the 'stock' or solid post to which things could be fixed. Presumably, the act of laughing could be 'fixed' to some unfortunates on the basis of their actions. http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/laughing-stock.html The aliens would have had to work this out from context though, like most of us seem to have done, without reference to a disputed origin.

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Reply #37 on: December 04, 2013, 01:28:39 PM
The linguistic discussion in the thread is very cool too, especially for someone with a native language that's quite different from English. To me, the lack of subject in "Still the laughing stock of the ship" is not the problem - "laughing stock" is. I *know* what it means, but I got the meaning through context, from 15 years of reading/listening to English, but what is this stock and why are we laughing about it? Is it a good or a bad thing? How would the poor aliens guess that?

This is a really good point. Figures of speech are extremely hard to understand for anyone learning a language. Heck, even native speakers don't get them right all the time. My two favorite examples of English sayings gone wrong are:

- "For all intensive purposes..." (instead of "For all intents and purposes")
- "Hell hath no fury like a woman's scorn." (Instead of "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," which is pretty much the opposite!)

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Reply #38 on: December 04, 2013, 02:19:36 PM
- "For all intensive purposes..." (instead of "For all intents and purposes")
- "Hell hath no fury like a woman's scorn." (Instead of "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," which is pretty much the opposite!)

Yes, but to be fair "For all intensive purposes..." has a more accurate meaning than the lamely redundant "For all intents and purposes" so you can forgive people for making that error. And "Hell hath no fury like a woman's scorn" is deliciously, simultaneously opposite and synonymous, since the implication of "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," is that said scorn would lead the woman to exhibit rage [scorn of her own] unmatchable by Satan himself.

And, mistakes like these are natural progressions in a culture where language is so easily manipulated by public figures and spread to the masses with mass communication. Some comedian rips out a one liner that contains the intentionally ironic "For all intensive purposes…" in a routine that appears on Comedy Central's Stand Up, Stand up! in 1991 and not only do 30 people at the show walk away using it because they think repeated wit is the same as original wit, but now 2 million folks that saw it on TV do the same and they infect another 2 million who don't know the source or the irony but want to please the person they heard it from and assume they had been saying it wrong all their lives, and so on and so on. Now it's the new standard. It happens all the time with words like "cool" and "gay" and "Socialism," and it's only going to happen more and faster in a twitter world. Look at "irregardless" -- it's a self-negating word that's now in the dictionary because so many people use it. Or "impactful". Not a word, but now acceptable.

I love derivation discussions. I want to host a 5 minute podcast with Dem where all we do is catalog derivations of words and phrases.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2013, 02:29:48 PM by matweller »



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Reply #39 on: December 04, 2013, 02:26:01 PM
Yes, but to be fair "For all intensive purposes..." has a more accurate meaning than the lamely redundant "For all intents and purposes" so you can forgive people for making that error. And "Hell hath no fury like a woman's scorn" is deliciously, simultaneously opposite and synonymous, since the implication of "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," is that said scorn would lead the woman to exhibit rage [scorn of her own] unmatchable by Satan himself.

Butbutubut.... they make me twitchy!  ;)

Really, though, #2 makes me twitchy for different reasons (e.g. it's pretty damn misogynist, whichever way you say it).

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Reply #40 on: December 04, 2013, 02:31:07 PM
Yes, but to be fair "For all intensive purposes..." has a more accurate meaning than the lamely redundant "For all intents and purposes" so you can forgive people for making that error. And "Hell hath no fury like a woman's scorn" is deliciously, simultaneously opposite and synonymous, since the implication of "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," is that said scorn would lead the woman to exhibit rage [scorn of her own] unmatchable by Satan himself.

Butbutubut.... they make me twitchy!  ;)

Really, though, #2 makes me twitchy for different reasons (e.g. it's pretty damn misogynist, whichever way you say it).

I'm just trying to defend the fact that I used #1 for 30 years before I heard it correctly. ;)



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Reply #41 on: December 04, 2013, 02:45:15 PM
The derivation of "Normalcy" instead of "Normality" is historically interesting.



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Reply #42 on: December 04, 2013, 04:35:23 PM



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Reply #43 on: December 04, 2013, 05:29:00 PM
Ugh, I just heard another one that I hate and I hear it so wrong that I'm not even sure which is correct.

"seat change" - as in "there's a new pilot in the captain's seat, so now we're headed where he leads." This is the one that makes the most sense to me and the one I have used in the (maybe) 2 occasions in my life when I would have used the phrase at all.

vs.

"sea change" - as in "the tide has turned, now there's a new direction"

vs.

"seed change" - this one I understand least, but I would guess people who use it think it means something related to "seed of doubt" and that somehow changing the seed can change the course of something



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Reply #44 on: December 04, 2013, 06:22:43 PM
The one that kills me is "I could care less" vs "I couldn't care less". Every time someone says to me, "I could care less." I want to say, "Oh, so it really doesn't bother you that much?"

We're all victims of misunderstood and misquoted idioms in some way or another. I just learned (like, in the last month) that the phrase is NOT "If worse comes to worse." I recently read something that said, "If worse comes to worst..." and my first thought was, Idiots, they said that wrong... wait, that actually makes a lot more sense. Crap, have I been saying wrong all these years?

Of course, just before writing this post I looked the idiom up to see which was actually right, and found that the phrase might actually be "If worst comes to worst." So now I don't know what to believe anymore. Someone tell me how to talk good English.  ???

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Reply #45 on: December 04, 2013, 06:35:06 PM
"head over heels" the usage of this one has always bothered me, so I never ever use it.  Maybe I'm not living my life in the correct orientation, but my head is ordinarily over my heels as a matter of course--the opposite would be the unusual case.  I prefer "ass over teakettle" in any case.

"Could care less", I agree with that one.  Likewise, I never use it that way.  I don't actually stop the conversation to point out when other people use it, but it makes me twitch.

"Regime" vs. "Regimen" vs "Regiment"
Regime--a government in power
Regimen--a strict course of diet or other manner of living
Regiment--a military group



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Reply #46 on: December 04, 2013, 06:51:35 PM
"Normalcy" vs. "normality - that was a fascinating read. Thanks for sharing, guys!

I've been guilty of "I could care less". It always makes sense why I'm wrong to say it when I think of it out of context, and then it just comes tripping off my tongue again the next time I use it.  :-[

Another pet peeve: misuse of "begging the question"/"begs the question", which by definition, relates to circular reasoning. But most people use it as a synonym for "raises the question". I have a feeling the language is just changing on this one, and that possibly within my lifetime, it'll officially take on the new meaning. *twitch*

I know this article's been making its rounds, but did you guys read about the new official usage of "because"? It's now a preposition, because internet.

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Reply #47 on: December 04, 2013, 07:21:56 PM
I know this article's been making its rounds, but did you guys read about the new official usage of "because"? It's now a preposition, because internet.

Neat, because bacon.  Always because bacon.  Sometimes also because bonnacon.



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Reply #48 on: December 04, 2013, 08:21:35 PM
I think of it as "I could care less, (but it's hard to imagine how.)"  Or perhaps better yet, "I could care less, (but that would take effort)." 



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Reply #49 on: December 04, 2013, 08:22:38 PM
I know this article's been making its rounds, but did you guys read about the new official usage of "because"? It's now a preposition, because internet.

Neat, because bacon.  Always because bacon.  Sometimes also because bonnacon.

Part of me is curling up and dying at this, another part is saying 'because why?'

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Reply #50 on: December 04, 2013, 08:32:43 PM
I hate this because it's the verbal cousin of a mental process that a lot of people have whereby they have a conversation in their own heads and then bring you into it in the middle and proceed to hold it against you when you can't add intentionally to their conversation because you have no point of reference, a cousin of the no-point-of-reference Facebook post. It's rude, it's unfair, it's dripping with egotistical goo and it shows a general disrespect for interpersonal communication.

Specifically in the case of "because, X" it's cutesy shorthand text talk that is either meant to convey a logical conclusion or an irony that there is no logical conclusion. It's fun in text and can even be very funny when used well [though it does get overused by lameoids], but it's one of those things that if used verbally in my presence in a way that was anything less than gut-grabbing hysterical [see also, speaking "L-O-L"], it would take every once of good grace in my body to not want knock that person over and stand on their throat. Because, the good of all humankind.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2013, 08:35:17 PM by matweller »



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Reply #51 on: December 04, 2013, 08:37:57 PM
Hell hath no fury like a Mat Weller's scorn.  :D

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Reply #52 on: December 05, 2013, 12:42:05 AM
Oh, man I love "because X." It's one of those great linguistic evolutions that starts as a joke and then just enters your everyday speech, because it sneaks in so much meaning in such succinct way.

"I'm not going to make it this Thursday, 'cause jobs" said in the right tone of voice conveys so much more than, say "because I have to work."

I guess I kind of get the attitude of people who love language and resist change--I mean you worked hard to learn it the way it was and obviously were drawn to something about its conservative form. But for me the variety and change in writing and speech is precisely what I love about language.

Language is life, not architecture. The fact that you can say stuff that breaks the rules--including real grammatical rules, not just made up language maven rules--but that still is meaningful to the audience and that picks up more meaning or creativity than a straightforward way of conveying the same thing. It's a manifestation of the power of the human mind, and it makes me smile.



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Reply #53 on: December 05, 2013, 01:58:51 AM
[see also, speaking "L-O-L"]

Oh man, this drives me crazy. I think I mentioned this in another thread recently, but I have a friend who would regularly say, "OMW". And I would say, "You do realize that saying that actually takes longer that just saying 'On My Way', right? You're adding two extra syllables for W. So your text shorthand in reality is wasting more time."

I honestly believe, given another thousand years, mankind will be speaking entirely in abbreviations.

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Reply #54 on: December 05, 2013, 02:23:28 AM
I know a lot of pedants, and becuase of this there is a small subset of the social group who literally troll via improper idioms. It's a glorious thing to watch. Because irony.


For those interested: http://grammarist.com/usage/normalcy-normality/


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Reply #55 on: December 05, 2013, 03:12:28 AM
Cool. An elementary school flashback. I'm surprised how quickly I recognized it. I recall thinking even back then it was a little odd, but I liked. Now I think it's even odder, but I still like it.



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Reply #56 on: December 05, 2013, 10:33:43 AM
Oh, man I love "because X." It's one of those great linguistic evolutions that starts as a joke and then just enters your everyday speech, because it sneaks in so much meaning in such succinct way.

"I'm not going to make it this Thursday, 'cause jobs" said in the right tone of voice conveys so much more than, say "because I have to work."

I guess I kind of get the attitude of people who love language and resist change--I mean you worked hard to learn it the way it was and obviously were drawn to something about its conservative form. But for me the variety and change in writing and speech is precisely what I love about language.

Language is life, not architecture. The fact that you can say stuff that breaks the rules--including real grammatical rules, not just made up language maven rules--but that still is meaningful to the audience and that picks up more meaning or creativity than a straightforward way of conveying the same thing. It's a manifestation of the power of the human mind, and it makes me smile.
So very well put :)

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Reply #57 on: December 05, 2013, 04:10:51 PM
nauseated vs. nauseous.  Okay, granted, I didn't used them right until I started writing, but now it's so deeply ingrained that it irritates me when anyone uses it wrong.  It took me a while to remember how to use this one, but I remember it to being similar to "poisoned" vs. "poisonous".  The former means that you are being affected by poison (or nausea), the latter means that you are affecting others with poison (or nausea).  So if you say you're nauseous, you're actually making other people feel ill.

I did enough presence of mind that, when Heather was experiencing nearly constant nausea during the first half of her pregnancy, and would tell me she was nauseous, that I did not even once correct her.  Because one of the the last things one wants to hear from one's husband when nauseated is a grammar correction.



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Reply #58 on: December 05, 2013, 05:46:12 PM
Because one of the the last things one wants to hear from one's husband [ever] is a grammar correction.



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Reply #59 on: December 05, 2013, 07:47:25 PM
Because one of the the last things one wants to hear from one's husband [ever] is a grammar correction.

And here I am catching up on the forum, sitting next to my wife, and helping her make slides for when she presents her research results.
Mostly my contributions consist of "Wow, got to hand it to Word that it was able to guess what you were trying to spell" and grammar corrections.

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Reply #60 on: December 06, 2013, 02:38:43 PM
Because one of the the last things one wants to hear from one's husband [ever] is a grammar correction.

Haha, touche.  I do actually refrain from correcting anyone's grammar unless they have asked me to proofread--people don't want to hear that in general as long as they can be understood (though of course I'll have to think about that kind of thing as Ian learns to talk).  I only meant that all-day morning sickness is an even worse time for such corrections.

Usually the only time I'll point out to Heather is when she's using a word that isn't a word at all.  She is rather fond of using "paranoy" as a word.  As in "It paranoys me when the gas stove takes too long to light."  I think the idea is that if something annoys you, you are annoyed.  If something paranoys you, you are paranoid.  I partly point that out because I think it's cute and endearing and kind of makes sense, and also because she might want to know that other people may have no idea what she's trying to say if she uses that.



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Reply #61 on: December 06, 2013, 08:56:24 PM

She is rather fond of using "paranoy" as a word.  As in "It paranoys me when the gas stove takes too long to light."  I think the idea is that if something annoys you, you are annoyed.  If something paranoys you, you are paranoid.


:D

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Reply #62 on: December 09, 2013, 04:03:20 PM

She is rather fond of using "paranoy" as a word.  As in "It paranoys me when the gas stove takes too long to light."  I think the idea is that if something annoys you, you are annoyed.  If something paranoys you, you are paranoid.


:D

When I talk about loving linguistic innovations and changes, this is what I mean. Not that I disrespect the crucial relationship task of giving one another guff.

Come to think of it, I haven't heard her use the word for a while.  Hopefully I didn't stifle the usage, because I do rather like it.  We just need to settle on a spelling, not sure if it should be paranoy or parannoy.



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Reply #63 on: December 09, 2013, 06:11:57 PM
'Parannoy' suggests a feeling slightly to one side of annoyance, whereas 'paranoy' seems to indicate more of a worry. I do wonder if, being 'parannoyed' would be a state of potential aggression towards iffy thoughts. I quite like that notion!

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Reply #64 on: December 10, 2013, 04:12:31 AM
Wow, Mat.  I just read this thread and you should not ever speak directly to me in person, as I am prone to using all kinds of silly Internet-speak in my normal speech.  My wife and I are both English majors and greatly enjoy weirding language whenever we can.  ;-)



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Reply #65 on: December 11, 2013, 05:14:01 AM
- "For all intensive purposes..." (instead of "For all intents and purposes")


One of my favorite silly jokes from an old sitcom is when a character hears that as "For all those in tents, and porpoises".



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Reply #66 on: December 18, 2013, 02:35:35 PM
I was greatly amused to hear "paranoy" in the feedback about this episode, and so was Heather.  :)



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Reply #67 on: December 18, 2013, 04:42:21 PM
Wow, Mat.  I just read this thread and you should not ever speak directly to me in person, as I am prone to using all kinds of silly Internet-speak in my normal speech.  My wife and I are both English majors and greatly enjoy weirding language whenever we can.  ;-)
For the record, there's a distinct difference between hearing a friend who knows better play with language informally and hearing some ignorant ninny on TV or the net abuse the language because they assume that English was invented a month before they were born and LOL was part of it.

On my former show, we had a related discussion about profanity because I used it freely but I said I never spoke that way around my kids and that I tried not to even use too much slang around them unless it was obviously part of some joke. My co-hosts asked if I didn't think that was a little hypocritical or disingenuous and I said "Not at all. Time and place have significant bearing on language and the expected rules surrounding it. Here [on the show], cursing is okay, it's part of my expected personae for this show and frankly it's a great release for me. In front of my kids, it's none of those things. More importantly, though, I want my kids to know the right way to talk first. If you know the right way, you can choose to use the wrong way when it's situationally appropriate or for emphasis or comedic effect. If you don't know the right way, then you're always just locked into being ignorant."



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Reply #68 on: December 18, 2013, 05:22:27 PM
Wow, Mat.  I just read this thread and you should not ever speak directly to me in person, as I am prone to using all kinds of silly Internet-speak in my normal speech.  My wife and I are both English majors and greatly enjoy weirding language whenever we can.  ;-)
For the record, there's a distinct difference between hearing a friend who knows better play with language informally and hearing some ignorant ninny on TV or the net abuse the language because they assume that English was invented a month before they were born and LOL was part of it.

On my former show, we had a related discussion about profanity because I used it freely but I said I never spoke that way around my kids and that I tried not to even use too much slang around them unless it was obviously part of some joke. My co-hosts asked if I didn't think that was a little hypocritical or disingenuous and I said "Not at all. Time and place have significant bearing on language and the expected rules surrounding it. Here [on the show], cursing is okay, it's part of my expected personae for this show and frankly it's a great release for me. In front of my kids, it's none of those things. More importantly, though, I want my kids to know the right way to talk first. If you know the right way, you can choose to use the wrong way when it's situationally appropriate or for emphasis or comedic effect. If you don't know the right way, then you're always just locked into being ignorant."
That is so YES, Matt. Choice is what it's about; being able to use the language that works best in a given context and to have sufficient resources to leave limiting fillers on the shelf.

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Reply #69 on: December 18, 2013, 11:49:20 PM
Wow, Mat.  I just read this thread and you should not ever speak directly to me in person, as I am prone to using all kinds of silly Internet-speak in my normal speech.  My wife and I are both English majors and greatly enjoy weirding language whenever we can.  ;-)
For the record, there's a distinct difference between hearing a friend who knows better play with language informally and hearing some ignorant ninny on TV or the net abuse the language because they assume that English was invented a month before they were born and LOL was part of it.

On my former show, we had a related discussion about profanity because I used it freely but I said I never spoke that way around my kids and that I tried not to even use too much slang around them unless it was obviously part of some joke. My co-hosts asked if I didn't think that was a little hypocritical or disingenuous and I said "Not at all. Time and place have significant bearing on language and the expected rules surrounding it. Here [on the show], cursing is okay, it's part of my expected personae for this show and frankly it's a great release for me. In front of my kids, it's none of those things. More importantly, though, I want my kids to know the right way to talk first. If you know the right way, you can choose to use the wrong way when it's situationally appropriate or for emphasis or comedic effect. If you don't know the right way, then you're always just locked into being ignorant."

Matt, I think you nailed it.

"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."


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Reply #70 on: December 19, 2013, 03:01:34 PM
Wow, Mat.  I just read this thread and you should not ever speak directly to me in person, as I am prone to using all kinds of silly Internet-speak in my normal speech.  My wife and I are both English majors and greatly enjoy weirding language whenever we can.  ;-)
For the record, there's a distinct difference between hearing a friend who knows better play with language informally and hearing some ignorant ninny on TV or the net abuse the language because they assume that English was invented a month before they were born and LOL was part of it.

On my former show, we had a related discussion about profanity because I used it freely but I said I never spoke that way around my kids and that I tried not to even use too much slang around them unless it was obviously part of some joke. My co-hosts asked if I didn't think that was a little hypocritical or disingenuous and I said "Not at all. Time and place have significant bearing on language and the expected rules surrounding it. Here [on the show], cursing is okay, it's part of my expected personae for this show and frankly it's a great release for me. In front of my kids, it's none of those things. More importantly, though, I want my kids to know the right way to talk first. If you know the right way, you can choose to use the wrong way when it's situationally appropriate or for emphasis or comedic effect. If you don't know the right way, then you're always just locked into being ignorant."

I like it.

On a semi-tangential topic about swearing, and who you swear in front of:
My dad's a pastor.  I think his attitude toward a lot of things are interesting.  One of those things I find interesting is his attitude toward swearing.  He's not really bothered by cursing in conversation... if it's part of that person's accustomed mode of speech.  He figures that's how they talk, so that's how they talk.  But he has run across a few people who swear in front of him to try to get a rise out of the pastor, and that gets on his nerves, not because of the swear words, but because of their intent to annoy rather than to just communicate.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting.



ArbysMom

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Reply #71 on: January 11, 2014, 09:57:35 PM
I have a pet peeve about using "just kidding" instead of "oops" or "I made a mistake". My daughter (25) used to use it all the time, and many of her friends still do. To me, it's as if they don't want to admit to making a mistake, so they pretend  that they were kidding instead. "Just kidding" means you were joking around, intentionally. If you make a mistake, "oops" or "my bad" is appropriate.

YMMV


matweller

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Reply #72 on: February 13, 2014, 08:51:21 PM
Interesting info about the story on the author's blog: http://reasie.livejournal.com/663241.html



CryptoMe

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Reply #73 on: April 09, 2014, 04:44:25 AM
I enjoyed the story. It was silly, irreverent, and fun!
The diary speak was spot on, in my opinion.



Gamercow

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Reply #74 on: April 24, 2014, 02:11:29 PM
Two linguistic mix ups along the lines of "intensive purposes":

"put them on a pedal stool" instead of "put them on a pedestal"
"damp squid" instead of "damp squib"

Both from the most hilarious show, IT Crowd.

The cow says "Mooooooooo"


hardware

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Reply #75 on: April 30, 2014, 10:56:26 AM
So, Bridget Jones as a young man in space ? Definitely points for the concept, and the diary style worked well for me. However, although I appreciated using a guy, I can't say that I really bought it as a male voice, there is something quite different about male insecurities that didn't really come across. In that sense it was a little bit of a missed opportunity, but that is not a major problem, the light tone made ir plenty entertaining as it was.