December 15, 2017

Don't make personal remarks.

Were you ever taught, Don't make personal remarks? Not just don't make negative personal remarks, but don't make personal remarks. I seem to remember this as a widely shared social understanding, but perhaps it was something very localized — like to Delaware or my own family — or perhaps I am misremembering.

When I google the phrase, the first thing that comes up is a Wikipedia page titled "Wikipedia:Avoid personal remarks" about the civility policy for Wikipedia contributors: "If you have opinions about the contributions others have made, feel free to discuss those contributions on any relevant talk page. But if you have opinions about other contributors as people, they don't belong there – or frankly, anywhere on Wikipedia...."

The next thing of any value is from the Mad Tea Party scene in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland":
"Your hair wants cutting," said the Hatter. He had been looking at Alice for some time with great curiosity, and this was his first speech.

"You should learn not to make personal remarks," Alice said with some severity; "it's very rude."
Aha! Alice knows proper etiquette. Isn't that more or less the point of Alice in Wonderland? She brings her social conventions to a place where no one else follows them, and she sticks to them and gives voice to them, even as no one pays attention to what was so important on the other end of the rabbit hole.

The Hatter's response to "It's very rude" is (of course), "Why is a raven like a writing-desk?"

By the way, there are many answers to that riddle. I always assumed, reading that book, that there was no answer, that it was nonsense, but one very good answer is: "Poe wrote on both."

35 comments:

Nonapod said...

I actively try to avoid direct ad hominem attacks in my comments around here when addressing other commenters. But I will sometimes get personal when commenting on powerful political figures, celebrities, and media personalities. I think if you're punching up it's a bit more acceptable to be a little mean.

Unknown said...

Is there a difference between a personal remark and a personal attack? Inquiring minds wish to know.

--Vance

Fritz Schranck said...

Part of it is Delaware. When you live in a place with two or fewer degrees of separation, instead of six or more, you quickly learn to be more guarded in your remarks. You never know for sure who’s connected to whom, and how those remarks might bounce back on you. Folks tend to be far more polite under those conditions than in the relatively anonymous places others inhabit - say, Queens NY.

Darrell said...

Lefties immediately start with the nasty personal remarks. Try making any kind of conservative comment on Slate or any Lefty site. If you don't enforce the rules for Lefties, don't ty and enforce them when the Right fights back. We are at war and martial law prevails.

Kate said...

Isn't "don't talk religion or politics" another way of saying "don't make personal remarks"?

Darrell said...

Lefties immediately start with the nasty personal remarks. Try making any kind of conservative comment on Slate or any Lefty site. If you don't enforce the rules for Lefties, don't try and enforce them when the Right fights back. We are at war and martial law prevails.

Fuck you, Blogger for deleting my comments. Fuck Google and the horse they stole to ride in on.

Qwinn said...

So I guess direct evidence that someone isn't arguing in good faith and is fact an actively lying propagandist is not to be considered admissible. Presenting that evidence would reflect poorly on the liar, after all, and we can't have that. They must be protected.

Big Mike said...

Okay, Althouse, I will try. But it’s FUN to get down in the gutter with the lefties.

SF said...

Ha! Saw your headline, instantly thought of that Alice in Wonderland scene, which I've read at least a couple of dozen times to my son.




mockturtle said...

Any reference to the works of Lewis Carroll brightens my day considerably.

tcrosse said...

Any reference to Charles Dodson, the pedophile, is to be deplored.

R.J. Chatt said...

Great writing, Ann. Sometimes I comment at another blog considered "right wing." Being a centrist I come across as being "left wing." One particular guy is quite disgusting and moronic in his attacks towards me. I never like to get into the gutter but I found that other commenters expected me to find some way to attack back with some gusto. So eventually I adapted to the situation and learned how to skewer my opponent and completely destroy him. I admit to some satisfaction when he freaks out or just disappears for a while. Learning how to shut down jerks strengthened me in some way and might even be a useful skill. But that's not how I like a discussion to go at all.

wwww said...



It is boring to read the comments when they degenerate to insults.

It ruins the thread. A couple of commenters take over and the majority of commenters abandon the post.



mockturtle said...

Tcrosse, please link me to evidence where Dodson molested children.

Ken B said...

"You really sound like a moral idiot here."

http://althouse.blogspot.com/2017/11/louis-ck-puts-out-statement-these.html?showComment=1510343733469#c843431326408763754

Ken B said...

"Tcrosse, please link me to evidence where Dodson molested children"

The Turtle is right. There is no evidence. Nor where there contemporaneous tales. It's a *modern* assumption. Perhaps that tells us more about the modern lack of imagination than anything else.

William Chadwick said...

In my experience as a libertarian (you know, one of those weirdoes who think their lives and property belong to themselves and not the State) I find that women, who tend to be collectivists, seem to take any attack on their irrational beliefs as a personal attack. Me: "Your belief in X [some statist superstition] is wrong because . . . [an appropriate fact or syllogism]." Her: "You're attacking me!"

sean said...

(from Miss Manners) Here is a list of topics that polite people do not bring into social conversation:
Sex, religion, politics, money, illness, the food before them at the moment, which foods they customarily eat or reject and why, anything else having to do with bodily functions, occupations, including their own and inquiries into anyone else's; the looks of anyone present, especially to note any changes, even improvements, since these people were last seen; and the possessions of anyone present, including their hosts' house and its contents and the clothing being worn by them and their guests, even favorably.

tcrosse said...

Tcrosse, please link me to evidence where Dodson molested children.

I'm sure he didn't. But by the standards of today's Moral Panic it would be all right to tar him as a child molester if there were political advantage to do so.

Will Cate said...

What I was taught (and this was Arkansas, 1960s) was that, outside of your very closest family and friends, you don't talk about yourself and you don't talk about other people. To do so was "common and crude" (an oft-used expression of Mom's)

tcrosse said...

Tcrosse, please link me to evidence where Dodson molested children.

Althouse linked to this Dec 4, 2017

Go ask Alice

mockturtle said...

Sorry, Tcrosse. I don't consider anything from The New Yorker as 'evidence'. ;-)

tcrosse said...

The story is that Alice Roosevelt Longworth had a pillow embroidered with the words
"If you can't say anything nice, Come sit by me."

Michael K said...

Anybody seen Ritmo?

Inga said...

Dodgson, not Dodson.

mockturtle said...

The story is that Alice Roosevelt Longworth had a pillow embroidered with the words
"If you can't say anything nice, Come sit by me."


Yes, she was a hoot! TR once explained to the press that “I can be president of the United States or I can attend to Alice. I cannot possibly do both!”

mockturtle said...

Anybody seen Ritmo?

Shhhh.

Gabriel said...

In Lewis Carroll's day "personal" remarks would be "person" in the sense of "body".

The Mad Hatter comments on Alice's person, her hair which is too long.

Nowadays a "personal" remark is one made about an individual person, that person's appearance, or character, or intelligence, or what have you.

If the Mad Hatter had called Alice stupid, Alice would not have characterized it as a "personal" remark, but we today would.

Gabriel said...

Tcrosse's link contains no evidence of molesting children, and indeed denies that their is any:

The wish, we tell ourselves, is father of the deed; on the other hand, what was Carroll’s wish? If buried, it lay very deep beneath his outer crust. As Douglas-Fairhurst calmly states, “It is far easier to condemn Carroll than it is to decide exactly what he should be accused of.” There was no suggestion of physical abuse, and he himself thundered against any hint of impropriety, deeming even an expurgated Shakespeare to be unfit for junior readers. (He planned his own edition, just for girls: “I have a dream of Bowdlerising Bowdler.”) For us, the thunder is a giveaway, rumbling with guilt, but the fact remains that, in his time, Carroll both exemplified and enhanced what Douglas-Fairhurst calls “a more general trend towards seeing childhood as a separate realm.”

tcrosse said...

Tcrosse's link contains no evidence of molesting children, and indeed denies that their is any:

See my comment @ 12:28. There's no their there.

Michael K said...

TR once explained to the press that “I can be president of the United States or I can attend to Alice. I cannot possibly do both!”

Alice got herself pregnant, so to speak, with a liaison with Senator William Borah and the story was that the baby would be named "Aurora Borah Alice."

The baby was famous, and songs like "Alice Blue Gown" were written about her.

In her 2008 biography of Alice, Stacy A. Cordery published family documents that show that Paulina’s father was not Nicholas Longworth but Idaho Senator William Borah. This fact wasn’t public when Paulina was born; Cordery speculates that Longworth must have known the truth, but he accepted Paulina as his own.

The rumor was all over Washington. Everybody knew,.

mockturtle said...

Alice R. was also known to carry a live snake in her handbag. She was quite beautiful and very intelligent but a born rebel.

tcrosse said...

Alice called Thomas Dewey 'The Little Man on the Wedding Cake'.

mockturtle said...

She said of her father, TR, 'He is the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral'.

Zach said...

My favorite answer to "Why is a raven like a writing desk":

Because there's an 'n' in neither.