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“SCAM”
Posted: 29 January 2008 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Does this mean everyone here is a crank?  Or some of you, at least ...

Am I more of a crank* because I’m passionate about the language I speak or because I’m passionate about the six (I jest not) handbags I’ve just bought? 

*An eccentric, a monomaniac**.  Ultimately from an OE word meaning ‘to draw oneself together in a bent form, to contract oneself stiffly, curl up’. OED.

** 1. Psychiatry. A form of mental illness characterized by a single pattern of repetitive and intrusive thoughts or actions. Now hist.
Many cases of monomania would now be considered examples of obsessive compulsive disorder.
OED.

I guess the handbag thing does make me a crank, then.

[ Edited: 29 January 2008 10:32 AM by ElizaD ]
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Posted: 29 January 2008 11:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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I love the mental picture of a woman carrying six handbags with an expression just daring someone to say something about it. Not that I think you carry all six at once, it was just a funny thought. As the caretaker of several obsessions, it’s an area of behavior I know well.... he says glancing at the boxes of motherboards and assorted computer gear stacked from floor to ceiling.

Wear your handbags in good health, Eliza! (I’m quite sure that six is not nearly enough, so keep at it!)

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Posted: 30 January 2008 04:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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As a father of two daughters I’d like to know, is there a maximum to the number of handbags one can own? Is it true that collecting handbags may be considered an innocent pastime or are they telling me stories?
And shoes? Judging by the number of shoes lying around I sometimes think there are at least twelve people living in my house. How cranky is that?

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Posted: 30 January 2008 06:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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I once married a woman called C Rank.

That really really really ought to have been a big warning, but Cupid’s goggles turn “crank” into “lovingly eccentric”.

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Posted: 30 January 2008 06:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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I heard a great definition of crank the other day, but damned if I can remember it exactly. It was something along the lines of a crank being a person passionate about a subject, but unwilling to listen to the reasoning and logic of others on the subject. Real academics (whether professional or amateur) are social and test ideas and evidence with each other. Cranks work alone.

Language attracts a popular following, and hence an absolute large number of cranks, because it is 1) something we all use, 2) very personal, our use of language being a major signal of our position in and how we relate to society, and 3) for many sub-disciplines something that one does not need formal training to engage in seriously.

As to this last, slang etymologies in particular do not require formal training. All that is needed are good research skills and a lot of time. “Real” etymological work, however, does require extensive training in historical linguistics, multiple languages, and phonology. This is what trips up many amateurs, who equate simple phonological resemblance with proof of origin. It’s not nearly that simple.

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Posted: 30 January 2008 06:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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I’m taking the high road and choosing not to take all this talk about “cranks” as personal, ad hominem attacks. But then, I find it easy not to take into account those countless people who persistently and villainously accuse me of being paranoid.

Anyway, this says it all, perhaps:

Cassidy’s book is in 5th reprint in 7 months and just won an American Book Award.

Where there’s a market, there’s a way. Or perhaps P.T. Barnum said it better once…

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Posted: 31 January 2008 06:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Popularity does not necessarily correspond to quality. Witness Harlequin romance novels, Fear Factor*, and Pauly Shore.

This is particularly true of language. Another awful, but extremely popular book, is Eats, Shoots and Leaves. And unfortunately, unlike Pauly Shore, books like this don’t seem to go out of fashion.

And, to put my pedant’s hat on for a moment, that should be 5th printing, not reprint. A reprint is when a long out-of-print book, often in the public domain, is revived, usually by another publisher.

* USAn TV game show where contestants do disgusting things for money, like eat insects.

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Posted: 31 January 2008 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Dave Wilton - 31 January 2008 06:59 AM

............Fear Factor* ..............

* USAn TV game show where contestants do disgusting things for money, like eat insects.

Known all too well here, where we have the UK version and constant showings of the original US series.

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Posted: 31 January 2008 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Just to correct myself, for once, it turns out (according to Wikipedia) that P.T. Barnum never said “there’s a sucker born every minute,” though he never actively denied it.

And to digress for a moment on a diatribe against Wikipedia. There’s often something slightly insinuating, precatory, and halfwit about the various thinly veiled agendas among Wikipedians. This statement,

He became active in local politics and advocated against the strict blue laws promulgated by the Calvinists who sought to restrict gambling and travel. To further his liberal beliefs, Barnum started a weekly paper in 1829, The Herald of Freedom, in Danbury, Connecticut. His inflammatory editorials against church elders led to several libel suits and a prosecution which resulted in imprisonment for two months, but he became a champion of the liberal movement upon his release.

assumes there was in his day a movement called liberalism that is immediately recognizable to modern day readers as roughly analogous to modern liberalism, something I would be at a loss to define. Moreover, if I’m not mistaken, every signer of the Declaration of Independence and every author of the Constitution would in some context be labeled a liberal, which would make every American of the day a liberal, except subversives.

This is not to open a discussion about liberalism, but to point out how easily and idiotically certain phraseology can be thrown around. Of course I could be mistaken. There may have been a “liberal movement” labeled as such in the first half of the 19th century.

[ Edited: 31 January 2008 09:35 AM by Iron Pyrite ]
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Posted: 31 January 2008 10:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Iron Pyrite - 31 January 2008 09:18 AM


And to digress for a moment on a diatribe against Wikipedia. There’s often something slightly insinuating, precatory, and halfwit about the various thinly veiled agendas among Wikipedians.

Thank you for that brief image of a Wikipedia as a country, somewhat along the lines of Ruritania, no doubt…

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Posted: 31 January 2008 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Yes, being a native of Moronia, the country next door to Wikipedia, I have an inbred animus to the place. But we do import our best golden calves from Ruritania.

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Posted: 31 January 2008 04:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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FWIW: (Oddly enough) the end of that sentence is practically the only thing left from the very earliest version of the article, except it used to begin “After failing in business, ...”.

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Posted: 01 February 2008 07:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Ralph Keyes’s Nice Guys Finish Seventh confirms that the quote is falsely attributed to Barnum.

I’ll quibble with the diatribe against Wikipedia in that it assumes that there is a unified and sinister agenda among Wikipedians. Actually, this (and most failures of Wikipedia) is the result of one person. In this case, I think it’s simply a poor choice of words. Use of liberal to mean open-minded and reform-oriented, as I believe the Wikipedia author intended, is a perfectly acceptable usage, but since it differs significantly from the most common use of that word in current USAn usage, the author should have been more explicit in defining what was meant by liberal. This isn’t insinuating or precatory, just sloppy writing.

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Posted: 01 February 2008 09:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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I’ll quibble with the diatribe against Wikipedia in that it assumes that there is a unified and sinister agenda among Wikipedians.

Well, that’s certainly an… um, interesting interpretation of the phrase “various thinly veiled agendas among Wikipedians”.  Not the one I put on it, though.

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