January 2, 2016

"There is a naïve idealism at the heart of student protest, which might be desperate or loud but never as cynical as the world that necessitated it."

Writes Hua Hsu — author of "A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific" — in The New Yorker:
Today’s youth should be understood in terms of the choices available to them, not the world they’ve inherited. Let college kids be, many of us say, for they are no weirder than we were.
I — who went to college in 1969 — think they are a lot less weird than we were. But if you think they are weird — entitled, oversensitive, whatever — you should look to your own mind and ask why it has created the character you believe in:
The imaginary college student is a character born of someone else’s pessimism. It is an easy target, a perverse distillation of all the self-regard and self-absorption ascribed to what’s often called the millennial generation. But perhaps it goes both ways, and the reason that college stories have garnered so much attention this year is our general suspicion, within the real world, that the system no longer works. 
Oh! He had to go and say "garnered." That word! I'm making a tag for "garner (the word!)." These imaginary college students may have their miniature outrages and microagressions, but I've got mine. It's the word "garner" and all that it symbolizes — the perverse refusal to speak clearly, the mushmouthed fear of using the verb "to get"...

22 comments:

TosaGuy said...

The only time the g word should be in a sentence is when preceded by the name James.

Ann Althouse said...

I can't make you stop wearing shorts, but I can make you stop saying garner.

Hagar said...

I think you should stop reading The New Yorker.

Anyway, it is not so much the students as their ageing hippie professors that garner misapprobation.

Moneyrunner said...

What is this “system” he talks about? Ever notice that when Conservatives do something bad they are identified, but when Liberals go nuts it’s not Liberals, it’s “the system.” Academia is a whole owned subsidiary of Liberalism. Check: Ohio State Republican Law Faculty Holiday Party Enjoyed By Both.

But to the general public who see academia via the media, the college campus is a dystopian hotbed of rape, sexism, racism and bigotry filled with “Yoots” who are both traumatized by trigger words like "American exceptionalism" one moment and screaming at professors who are not politically correct enough the next. Must keep in mind that the people in charge of these institutions and the yoots attending them are nowhere at fault, it’s “the system.” I have a strange feeling that I’m “the system” they’ve got in mind.

Hagar said...

It would not happen if it was not permitted, and indeed encouraged, by their elders.

Hagar said...

The students of the '60s and '70s protested against "the system," i.e. the system on the campuses where they lived, or as seen from there. Today, they are "the system" that they are encouraging their students to rebel against.
No wonder the result is extreme foolishness.

Carnifex said...

I stopped reading at the point where it's "us" that are the problem. Pathetic, and mind wastingly dull. The magazine business is floundering because they waste money publishing this crap. One of the reasons.

buster said...

"Garnered attention" The correct word is "drawn".

Schorsch said...

Please help a penitent garner-user. What form of "to get" could be used here? I avoid "has gotten" because it sounds awkward, and I imagine other garnerites might feel the same.

Schorsch said...

Please help a penitent garner-user. What form of "to get" could be used here? I avoid "has gotten" because it sounds awkward, and I imagine other garnerites might feel the same.

Sebastian said...

"I'm making a tag for "garner (the word!)."" I respectfully suggest that you need a meta-tag for such words: gag tag.

Owen said...

Recently I read a great anecdote of how the MIT Dean handled a nascent occupation by protesters in the Sixties. He walked into the room and announced, "If you're still here five minutes from now, you won't be at MIT tomorrow." The place emptied instantly.

As Hagar says, it would not happen if it was not permitted, and indeed encouraged.

Michael said...

The great protests of the 1960s were only about the draft. Once the draft vanished the protesters vanished. Sure, there were the die-hards like Ayers et al,but for the most part, the very most part, it was over when the draft went away. Similar, in a way, to the war protests of recent days. Turned on when a Republican is president, turned off when not. Code pink is standing by.

Char Char Binks said...

I like the word "garner". It has implications beyond mere getting. It connotes EARNING and/or STORING, as rom Old French gernier, metathesized variant of grenier "storehouse, loft for grain," from Latin granarium "a store-house" (see granary).. I got that from dictionary.reference.com/browse/garner. Also, in Spanish "ganar" is "to earn, or to win". It's not exactly the same as simply "to get".

Ann Althouse said...

"Please help a penitent garner-user. What form of "to get" could be used here? I avoid "has gotten" because it sounds awkward, and I imagine other garnerites might feel the same."

In England, I think they just say "got." You don't need "gotten." But in America, "gotten" is the past participle and it's a perfectly fine word. Saying "have garnered" because you don't want to say "have gotten" is weird. But there are other, less dorky words. Instead of "have garnered so much attention," you could say "have received so much attention" or "have drawn so much attention" or "have attracted so much attention." You can also rearrange the sentence. Instead of "the reason that college stories have garnered so much attention this year is our general suspicion, within the real world, that the system no longer works" — which isn't elegant at all — you could say "We notice these college stories because we suspect that, in the real world, the system no longer works."

Jupiter said...

Char Char (ahem) is right. You can't garner something down from the shelf, or go to the store to garner a pack of cigarettes. To garner is to receive as a reward for merit or effort. Hua Hsu is using it wrong, but it has its uses.

eddie willers said...

The great protests of the 1960s were only about the draft. Once the draft vanished the protesters vanished.

That and Kent State. Everyone's enthusiasm was dampened then. (and garnered a lot of attention)

Jupiter said...

Char Char (ahem) is right. You can't garner something down from the shelf, or go to the store to garner a pack of cigarettes. To garner is to receive as a reward for merit or effort. Hua Hsu is using it wrong, but it has its uses.

Big Mike said...

I — who went to college in 1969 — think they are a lot less weird than we were.

Well, Professor, keep in mind that you were a fine arts major. You should consider the possibility that over on the Michigan engineering campus people were a bit less weird than you and your fellow fine arts majors.

But if you think they are weird — entitled, oversensitive, whatever — you should look to your own mind and ask why it has created the character you believe in

That story published in the Times about setting up safe rooms stocked with coloring books and Play Doh just because Wendy McElroy was going to participate in a debate, that never really happened? The college student at Yale screaming at her professor because of politically incorrect Halloween costumes, that never happened? I'm just reading what the press reports, and there too many such stories like this to ignore as the work of one or two incompletely sane undergraduates. Consequently it occurs to me that this cohort of college students is not up to the standards of the cohort that went through with me a few years ahead of you, Professor, with an unpopular war waiting for us when we graduated.

I totally disagree with you over "garner." I thought you academic types appreciated nuance, and the difference between "garner" and "get" is that "garner" implies that what was received was due to effort put out to acquire it. "Get" can be used when what was received was given and not earned, as well as when what was given was in some sense earned.

I can't make you stop wearing shorts, but I can make you stop saying garner.

Actually, you can't make me stop doing either.

mikee said...

If you think the fine arts kids were weirder than the engineering students, you missed out on a whole lot of fun in college by hanging with the kids who can't do math and don't have access to labs full of interesting chemicals.

STEM majors take liberal arts courses to relax in class and meet easy girls.

Mrs Whatsit said...

This war on "garner" is misbegotten. It's one thing to point out that some people use the word a lot (it IS odd that Jeb Bush uses it so much) or that others are using it wrong. It's quite another to label the poor word "dorky" and set out to shame it out of the language.

In one of her first posts on this subject, Althouse expressed the belief that the only reason to use the word "garner" is if the speaker thinks there's something wrong with the word "get." That's wrong. This isn't the same thing as those droning business writers who say "utilize" rather than "use" because they think that adding syllables makes them sound smarter. "Use" and "utilize" are synonyms. "Get" and "garner" aren't. You could use a word like "amass" to convey the same meaning as "garner," but "get" doesn't do it. Also, "garner" has a lovely fluid sound that "get" and "gotten" don't have, and why on earth can't we choose words for their sound and rhythm?

This crusade against "garner" is like wanting to ban all guns, even for people who know how to use them and won't be committing crimes with them or leaving them lying around. It's not the word's fault that some people misuse it and others don't know how.

Moneyrunner said...

I'm asking why I created the character called Smith College to believe in; Mark Steyn:

In its recently rewritten mission statement, Smith College, one of America's best-known women's universities, says it is 'absolutely' still a women's institution. But it also says that 'applicants who were assigned male at birth but identify as women are eligible for admission'. How does Smith decide who is a woman? It doesn't. It says: 'With regard to admission, Smith relies upon the information provided by each student applicant... Smith's policy is one of self-identification. To be considered for admission, applicants must select "female" on the Common Application.' So a man can get into Smith by self-identifying as a woman. That makes him a woman. That Smith can say it is 'absolutely still a women's college' while accepting students with penises shows how utterly subjective even the idea of womanhood has become. Even this identity, infused with biological and social experience, underpinned by historical import, informed by the longstanding cultural identities of sister, daughter, mother, can be adopted by others as if it were an item of clothing, and no doubt discarded just as easily. 'I don't know whom I will identify as in the future...'

I am a horny male giraffe who identifies as an 18 year-old-woman and am applying to Smith. I understand that Smith girls are into experimentation.