Isn’t it postmodern? Don’t you think?

Four-year-old Butter loves to sit on my lap and pretend to read books. Any books. His favorite are texts he’s already memorize (I’m looking at you, Frog and Toad), but he’ll fake read anything he can get his hands on.

Tonight, he opened a text on embodiment and ethics that I’m zipping through in case it helps my paper for this week’s conference, and ran his finger along this line:

“Or, as Judith Butler suggests, partly following Foucault, gender is that embodied entity constituted through a ‘stylised repetition of acts’ the significance of which is social rather than natural” (Butler 1990: 140).

And he read it thusly: “Once upon a time, there was a little girl. And the girl…The End.”

So, clearly: full ride to Rutgers’ Women’s Studies Department.

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Win

I just remembered, with no reminders at all, that my campus library books had to be renewed today.

And I actually remembered my password.

These books that I haven’t read have now been successfully renewed. On time. For the eleventh month in a row.

I have one month, seriously, seriously, seriously, to read them. And take meticulous notes. And write the paper that’s been hanging over my head for four years.

But none of that matters today, because I win at renewing books.

Success!

Descriptive linguistics FTW!

Last night after a Board meeting, I was talking with friends and one expressed shock bordering on horror that I text using abbreviations and conventions created and commonly accepted within that linguistic space.

“I’m rather surprised to find out you’re an LOL and OMG and emoticon person.”

Well, I’m a linguistically adaptable person, actually. I don’t use those conventions outside texts and social media, in which characters are constrained and, generally, keyboarding is limited. I don’t say “LOL” in conversation, nor when using a keyboard. I do, though, use LOL where it is a standard part of the lexicon, because I’m speaking in a colloquial language and don’t feel the need, surrounded by LOLers, to destroy my reputation and thumbs with “oh, wow, that is truly funny.”¬† Recall David Foster Wallace’s review of Bryan Gardner’s Modern American Usage (which review appears in the nonfiction essay collection Consider the Lobster, and which review reiterated the annoying grammatical tic in which Wallace uses “which” in ways that make me itch ), in which Wallace explains that, when talking with Midwestern friends he uses expressions like “where you at?” because conditional, situational lexical conformity performs significant social functions including masking an erudite prescriptivist snobbery amongst those who disdain such ridiculousness. You know the type…for instance, the raised eyebrow of disdain arched toward a friend who fully embraces emoticons in text messages.

My friend last night seemed to believe that my using LOL and winky emoticons made me shockingly deviant in my linguistic standards. But am I actually failing the language because I OMG when I reply to a text about how awful I am at karaoke? Of course not. (I am, however, failing both George Michael and Rick Springfield when I belt their songs in a key somewhere between those singers’ ranges and my own. Said performances deserved several horrified OMGs.)

The older I get, the more I tend toward descriptivist linguistics. I have been out of academia long enough to know we can’t stem the tide of language shifts, texting enough that I appreciate the culture’s willingness to embrace an abbreviated language parallel to government employees’ acronym dialect, and old enough to know that my pedantic “kids these days are ruining the language” tendencies unveil a knowledge that kids these days are actually going to rule the world. And I, for one, I don’t want to be railing against their language from my rocking chair, cane aloft, countering every miscast objective¬†who with “it’s whom, you linguistic hoodlums!”

Okay, yes, I do.

But I am in my old age moving toward the point of linguistic early adoption, at least within technological theaters.¬† I gleefully read the Atlantic’s piece about the new preposition, used in online English. Though I was late to OMG and LOL and LMAO, I have jumped on the prepositional-because trend, thanks to my social-media bestie, Twitter.

I love Twitter. I don’t read my feed as much as I used to, for in the land of “may your days be merry and bright starting next week with a rare Thanksgivukkah,” I don’t have time to get my Twitter fix. But I’m quite fond of the prepositional-because.

I do plan, however, on shaking my cane from my rocking chair and bellowing, “it’s not a ‘because-noun!’ Because grammatical naming conventions!”

Go check out the article, whether you find my texts irritatingly colloquial or not. The Atlantic has posted as pleasant a read on descriptive-linguistic developments as possible, and that’s saying a lot.

Which language deviances do you commit in limited settings? Do you eschew LOL unless you’re actually laughing out loud? Will you text a “K” to avoid all those messy characters in “okay”? Do you reject all emoticons or employ them with reckless abandon? Have you crossed into “srsly” and “pls” to save characters or do you share Steve Martin’s insistence on proper spelling in Tweets?

Okay.

Language acquisition fascinates me. The ways in which small people hear, process, and develop language twinkles with neuroscience and social acclimation. It’s different from the process by which adults learn multiple languages, and by nature of the subject’s biological needs, simply adorable.

Since he crested his first year, Butter has used the word “dato” for “that.” Peanut was a “dat” kind of guy, and I couldn’t quite figure out why the younger guy added an “oh” to the end of his word. But he has done it for other words, too, so I just chalked it up to a lingual quirk.

But last week after he asked me for “dato” and I gave it to him, he said, “Dato kay, Mommy.” I figured out that, because of an infant and toddler’s basic “uh-oh” relationship with objects, physics, and social expectations, more often than he’s heard “that,” Butter has heard “that’s okay.”

So his concept of “that” is framed by how it exists in this moment. Dato just is. Dato kay is fine.

Made me smile a little Foucaultian smile about the parameters Butter uses to bound his reality. In an The Order of Things kind of way, I’m rather impressed that our family has taught this little person to see those two categories: thing, thing that is okay.

Hope we retains that as he ages. Heck, I hope I do, too.

Happy, thankful, and not dead

Hey! Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I’ve officially outlived the composer who wrote “Oh, Susanna!” And Marie Antoinette. You’re luckier than several dead people, too. Check it out.

And speaking of death, thanks to the H-Net social sciences network for creating H-Death. In all seriousness, I was looking for calls for papers and journals focusing on death studies, and H-Death is just what I need for those conference papers languishing in a drawer (in a fake file cabinet on a user interface that pretends to keep things in drawers but really uses magnets to draw them on silica or something.)

Power to the living, y’all. Happy Thanksgiving. Glad you’re not dead.

Seriously, Google?

On a whim, I searched “find the right academic journal for your article.” I didn’t expect much. It was the result of a frustrated, bored, midnight rage about my unfinished projects.

The answer to which journals one should submit to is, of course, trade secret. Academics don’t give away their target journals, and often give advice like “find journals with similar articles and submit to them” or “talk with journal editors attending conferences where you present and ask if your piece would be considered.”

Um, thanks. That’s helpful. I already know that the articles I cite in my own article were published in journals that might like articles on the same topic. And I know that conferences ca be a decent place to talk with publishers. But these can’t be the only two tricks. Surely just researching within my field in two dozen or so journals doesn’t give the whole picture, right?

Of course not. So I asked Google.

The first non-sponsored link was “find the right sandals for your outdoor needs.”
The second was “find the right rawhide chew for your dog.”

I give up.

The industry assumption has been that Google technology is so amazing it knows everything. In this case: that there was no point in seeking out academic journals, but also that since my legs are too big for shorts right now I should focus on my feet.

Also that either I should replace my dead cat with a dog or that I might, in some misogynistic circles of drunk frat house denizens, be unflatteringly compared with a dog.

Shame on you Google. I thought you knew better.

Because it’s too cold for sandals lately.

What I really want to do is direct

It’s overcast and cold today and I’m feeling melancholy. This, in addition to reminding me why I shudder each time Spouse recommends Portland, Oregon as a solution to his job woes and our financial woes, makes this MLA panel piece by Brian Croxall on the dismal prospects for academics in my field lately even more poignant.

(The punchline, if you don’t feel like reading it? Full time professors these days qualify for food stamps, and jobs for both Tweedy Tenure Track and its neglected stepchild Oliver Adjunct are beyond pathetic, hurting students, graduates, and Universities in a rather horrifying spiral. A rather nasty, brutish, and short career view paper read at an MLA panel that complements today’s intensely depressing Fresh Air interview of Woody Allen. Come on, people. The decade was bad enough without this layer of realism and honesty. It’s like living in a William Dean Howells novel today.)

It’s no fun to be depressed without some data to back you up. So here you go, courtesy of a Tweet by my recent conference panelmate Matt Bucher. Thanks, man. Contagious academic depression is almost enjoyable as an academic dissection of a funeral. Cheers!