July 23, 2016

"Our poor monkey brains just can't deal with complex combinations of certain logical operators, especially with respect to the logic of contemporary American politics."

Language Log indulges in more analysis than David Frum and The Atlantic deserve for publishing the ludicrous sentence "Many wavering Republicans will come home — even if the home to which they now return has changed in ways that render it almost indistinguishable from the dwelling it used to be."

26 comments:

rhhardin said...

Each one is better than the next.

Fills a much-needed gap.

I could care less.

The explanation is that they're not formal logic; negatives can reenforce the idea instead of operating on each other. It's English.

rhhardin said...

Bob and Ray get a laugh with "I hesitate to say that I don't disagree with you" by saying it in a context where there's no idea obvious.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

The lecturer on biological anthropology just finished explaining why they used to think that baboons were the closest thing to humans but now it's chimpanzees.

She said she would explain later why it's not necessarily the case that we evolved on the savanna. Apparently, she's big on the tropics, judging from a reference she made early on, out of context.

People are lazy. That includes lazy in thinking. We reproduce, all the same.

Hell, maybe because of it.

rhhardin said...

English isn't processed the way a sentence parses.

What ideas are there, then how do the relate, the latter being influenced by cliches.

Learning language is learning to disassemble and reassemble cliches.

Ann Althouse said...

The problem is that "unrecognizable" refers to one thing and "indistinguishable" refers to two.

Ann Althouse said...

Both are about difficulty seeing something.

Allison said...

No, the problem is "indistinguishable" means "exactly the same as". He didn't mean it, but neither he nor anyone else at NY Times noticed. You don't need Language Log to explain a mistake.

Bill Peschel said...

OTOH, I'm having a good time learning from this, checking the dictionary, thinking about this carefully, and trying to figure out what they're talking about.

M-Webster defines the word as: a : indeterminate in shape or structure b : not clearly recognizable or understandable

So Ann is right that indistinguishable refers to two or more things. There is only one GOP, and it has changed, and conservatives will return to it even though it is no longer the party they recognize. The editors at The Atlantic didn't catch that.

As a former copy editor, I wouldn't have either, but I would have flagged that sentence because it was too incomprehensible to be easily understood. Which is why I'm not a copy editor there.

To my monkey brain, Language Log is incorrect as well. It's a misused word, not a misnegation. And I hate "monkey brain." We haven't been monkeys for at least a generation. We no longer think like our parents, man.

n.n said...

Progress, first. Principles, selective. Got it.

Fernandinande said...

Smart monkey

"changed in ways that render it almost indistinguishable from the dwelling it used to be."

Just a stupid way of saying "home" didn't change much.

PB said...

There are some folks who's speech indicates they think a double negative means really, really negative. I heard on the radio a liberal LGBTQ supporter talk about Trump's obvious support for "anti-LGBTQ discrimination" in spite of his speech. I think he meant just "LGBTQ discrimination" and added the "anti" because he things it makes it sound worse, but "anti-LGBTQ discrimination" is discriminating against people who are anti-LGBTQ, which is a Democrat position.

Roughcoat said...

I wish I'd written that sentence when I was in college.

I don't have a monkey brain. My brain is wholly human.

Phil 3:14 said...

Monkey brains come home.

I'm sure that's racist is some way.

EMD said...

relevant?

chrisnavin.com said...

Next, you'll tell me the Ethics Editor and Cartoon Curator are fallible.

How shall I live? What shall I do?

Susan said...

Maybe Republicans know they aren't going "home" they just aren't willing to hop into the hand basket Hillary is holding.

There's a difference, monkey brain.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Almost indistinguishable? Why, the GOP has changed course by 360 degrees!

Earnest Prole said...

He used the wrong word. It happens to most everyone eventually — even professors, if they write enough. What’s interesting is that my monkey brain automatically filled in the correct word because it was tracking what the author meant to say.

Unknown said...

Is there no such thing as pro-entity discrimination? Discriminating in favor of the entity?

hombre said...

Evidently, no one but Ivanka ("I don't think of myself as Republican or Democrat") is choosing to focus on the significance of Republicans nominating a populist. Trump and the apparent nitwits running his campaign need to get that the point is to get rid of the corrupt boneheads, represented by HillBilly, who run DC.

With few exceptions, like the SCOTUS, ideological concerns need to be put aside temporarily. Democrats are running against their fellow Americans (Republicans, conservatives, Christians, etc.), God and the Constitution. More importantly they are running against reform.

Trump is running to save the country from corruption and stupidity. Everything in his campaign must come back to that.

I'm a conservative and a Christian who identified with the Tea Party. Trump does not reflect my values and I will vote for him because he MIGHT save my country from HillBilly who will certainly continue down the ruinous path.

EDH said...

How did LanguageLog test whether "poor monkey brains" can help deal with "certain logical operators, especially with respect to the logic of contemporary American politics"?

Monkey Brain for dinner.

Not for the squeamish!

Fernandinande said...

EDH said...
Monkey Brain for dinner.


Isn't that a scene from "Mondo Cane"?

rcocean said...

Frum is a complete Fraud. He's constantly being paid to write for various magazines - some on the left, some on the right.

In 2004 he was Bush Speechwriter, a NRO hack who read Bob Novak out of the conservative movement. In 2008 he was trashing Palin and supporting Obama. Now he posing as the font of political wisdom.

Other than a love for war in the Middle east and David Frum - he doesn't seem to have any consistent principle.

jimbino said...

The problem with the Descriptivists over at Language Log is that they will accept as English any phrase like Clinton's "with Hillary and I" or Obama's usual "the problem is, is that ..." or Eugene Volokh's usual "forbid ... from" that shows a significant degree of current usage under an N-gram search. Some Descriptivists over there will go so far as to prefer "I could care less" to "I couldn't care less" and "coup de gras" to "coup de grĂ¢ce" by reason that the former in each pair is now more commonly used.

You are judged by the words you use and, if you are a student of English, you would be smart to avoid reliance on Language Log.

Jonathan Graehl said...

attempted plagiarism of the cliche 'rendered [nearly/almost] unrecognizable' which undoubtedly impressed him greatly when employed by a *real* writer.

richardsson said...

The Frum sentence is funny in the same way that a little kid from long ago filled with visions of Mickey Mantle tries so hard to hit a home run. He swings so hard and misses that he spins in a circle and falls face first in the dirt. When a little kid does it, you laugh with him. When a "serious" supposedly big league political columnist does it, you just laugh. Trump derangement syndrome is even better than Bush derangement syndrome.