Women in The Guardian
Maddie York, an editor at The Guardian, has penned an article for that paper’s “Mind Your Language Blog” in which she objects to the use of woman as an adjective, as in woman doctor or woman writer. The subheading for the blog post—which York may not have written, as headlines are often not written by the reporter—reads:
‘Woman’ is not an acceptable adjective, any more than ‘lady’ once was. Let’s eradicate this misuse and give language a nudge in the right direction.
But this general proscription is just wrong. There is nothing, and never has been anything, wrong with using woman as an adjective.Read the rest of the article...
Footnotes in the Digital Age
Last week Tim Parks posted in the New York Review of Books Blog on the need, or rather lack thereof, for formal reference citations in scholarly literature. Parks contends that with the advent of the internet and databases like Project Gutenberg, there is no longer a need for footnotes that give the source of information. Everything is simply a few key or mouse clicks away, and it’s easier for all concerned just to Google something rather than follow a footnoted reference.
Parks couldn’t be more wrong, and his argument betrays the biases in his work. His scholarly work is focused on contemporary literature and on translation. While it may, in many cases, be easier for him to Google something than look for a footnote, that is not necessarily the case in other fields.Read the rest of the article...
Gretchen McCulloch has a nice post on how to rhyme in sign language over at Slate’s Lexicon Valley blog. Of particular note is this video:
More generally, this falls under the category of “how to translate poetry.” Whether the target language is spoken or signed, the same basic issue arises: How do you translate verse while remaining true to the source?
The Problem of Defining Genocide
Stéphanie Giry has an article in the New York Review of Books, The Genocide That Wasn’t, discussing the application of the term genocide to the case of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Giry outlines the problem that occurs when the generally accepted definition of a term clashes with the legal one and points out that genocide has become the ultimate crime in the eyes of the world public.
In this case, the Cambodian people, and most others around the world, consider what the Khmer Rouge did to the Cambodian people as genocide. But because the actions of the Khmer Rouge were not directed against an ethnic or national minority, the crime doesn’t fit the legal definition of genocide. Instead, the Khmer Rouge leaders have been convicted of crimes against humanity, which is perceived as a lesser crime. (Even though the penalty is the same, life in prison.)
Analogous cases where popular definitions of terms conflict with technical ones are common, but the moral stakes here make this case a special one.
A New Scrabble Champion
One may wonder at the detail and effort that fivethirtyeight.com put into this article on the national Scrabble championship, but really it’s no more silly than the amount of analysis that goes into football (soccer or the other one), baseball, or hockey.
Copyright 1997-2015, by David Wilton