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July 25, 2008

“And lightly drizzled with a glistening varnish of epic fail.”
Posted by Patrick at 08:29 PM *

John Scalzi on much the same issues as Our Jim.

I want a T-shirt reading “Editing! Gerunds! Death!”

Comments on "And lightly drizzled with a glistening varnish of epic fail.":
#1 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2008, 09:38 PM:

I'd favour a t-shirt saying 'Editing! Participles! Death!' meself.

#2 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2008, 09:47 PM:

It scans better, to me, as 'Participles! Editing! Death!'

#3 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2008, 10:03 PM:

“Editing! Gerunds! Death!”

All right. Who let the Dalek near the grammar book?

#4 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2008, 10:53 PM:

I want a T-shirt reading “Editing! Gerunds! Death!”

I know I'd buy one.

#5 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2008, 10:54 PM:

And now, in the "picking a fight with people who buy ink in barrels" category...

Though, in a general affrontery, this is not as bad as sending out DMCA takedown notices on behalf of Cory Doctorow.

#6 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2008, 10:55 PM:

doh. The software caught a duplicate post, and the first one is missing some words.

#7 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2008, 01:56 AM:

"Editing! Adverbs! Death!"

Just to be different. :P

#8 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2008, 02:15 AM:

"Blogging! Adverts! Death!"

#9 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2008, 02:27 AM:

On the same vein as John Scalzi's post, but with a different technology, I recall listening to coworker on the phone. Harley was mostly silent, as the person on the other end of the line apparently ranted on. After a bit, Harley said "Charles, I don't have to listen to this". The ranting resumed, now audible even to me at a distance from the receiver. Harley smiled, and said "No, I really don't. You see, Charles, you're talking to me on the phone", and he hung up. There was a brief silence, and then the phone rang. Unanswered.

#10 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2008, 05:02 AM:

“Editing! Gerunds! Death!”: I think I'm missing the cultural reference...

#11 ::: insect_hooves ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2008, 05:47 AM:

Gerund! Plural noun! Noun!

#12 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2008, 07:34 AM:

I watched Fritz Lang's Woman in the Moon last night and I want a t-shirt that quotes the villain:

"Choose the lesser of two evils - me!"

#13 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2008, 08:53 AM:

After watching the Avatar finale, my new t-shirt-slogan is "All old people know each other."

But back on topic: perhaps in the interest of public education we should all get t-shirts with the first amendment printed on them. With the words "Congress shall make no law" in bold.

#14 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2008, 10:54 AM:

Giacomo 10: Read the Scalzi post. All will be made clear. Or maybe you did and you just expect there to be more to it.

#15 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2008, 11:38 AM:

"Comma comma noun subject verb noun noun
Comma comma noun subject verb noun noun
Comma comma noun subject verb noun noun
Punctuation's hard to do"

(From what I remember of Lynn Gold's parody of "Breaking Up is Hard to Do")

#16 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2008, 11:51 AM:

...and the button to wear on the t-shirt?

"Can't talk. Gerunding."

#17 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2008, 11:54 AM:

I always sang "down do bee do down down...semicolon down do bee do..." People would look at me funny, and I'd say "Can't have two commas in a row!"

But Lynn Gold's version is funnier.

#18 ::: Jörg Raddatz ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2008, 07:40 PM:

For me, the most important lesson of the thread over there is that the word "kindly" is seen as rude.

As a non-native speaker I would have taken it at face value and read it as "please" or even "it would be kind if you ...". I might definitely have used it that way. Ah, the pitfalls of language.

(When I think about it, German has a similar term that has undergone a similar development: "gefälligst". Originally it meant some close to "if you would like" - a "Gefälligkeit" is still a favor or a courtesy. But today there is no other possible meaning than "don`t even think of not doing this or hesitating". When I find it in a old book (pre 1900) used with the original meaning, it can be quite confusing.)

#19 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2008, 08:53 PM:

It's the "avoid painting us all with the same brush" that's the real problem; it's phrased in the form of a command, from someone who has no right to command. If "kindly" makes it ruder, it's only by adding a dollop of condescension.

"It would be kind if you avoided painting us all with the same brush" would not, I think, be taken as rude.

#20 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2008, 09:33 PM:

'Kindly' adds the implication that the speaker is the listener's social superior. It was indeed a command, and her protestations to the contrary are nonsense. If she's a native speaker of English that was definitely not a polite request.

#21 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2008, 09:37 PM:

Jörg #18, it's not so much that "kindly" is rude, it's that the commenter was being rude, and prepending "kindly" to her rudeness just made it worse by making her insincere as well.

#22 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 01:28 AM:

Jörg #18 "Ah, the pitfalls of language."

I was just talking to my girlfriend recently about how many people use the phrase "I feel that" when what they really mean is "I think that." (Some old friends in California were among those who say "I feel that" a lot. I tend to say either "I think that" or "I believe that.") She pointed out to me that in Portuguese (her native language) it's not an either/or choice when saying that sort of thing.

There's eu sinto que, which translates as "I feel that." And there's eu penso que, which translates as "I think that." They have a third phrase which strikes something of a middle ground: eu acho que. This last can be translated as "I find that," since achar means "to find" (although some dictionaries show that it can also be translated as "to think," but that would be a bit of a loose translation).

I'm not sure I'd see any of these things as "pitfalls," though. Then again, I simply find language fascinating.

Serge #12 "Choose the lesser of two evils - me!"

Why not the lesser of two weevils? :P

#23 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 02:07 AM:

I remember an old psych exercise where you had to correctly categorize things you did as "I felt," "I thought," or "I judged."

Surprisingly the hard one to get right is the difference between "I felt" and "I judged."

#24 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 04:23 AM:

I didn't mention this on Scalzi's blog, since time had passed, but...it seems to me that the person he was going off on, had a point. To me at least, the phrase "one of those [description] [category of people]" does make a statement about the entire category. E.g., if I say "I was reading the LJ of one of those delightful Making Light posters", I'm saying that as a general thing, I find most if not all such posters to be delightful -- being delightful is a normal characteristic of that group. If a Making Light poster objects that they are not in fact delightful and prefer not to be described as such, it is not a valid defense to say, "I was only talking about the delightful ones."

#25 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 04:52 AM:

Jörg @18 -- you're right, languages change, and I think kindly used to have a similar benign use as your example, 'gefälligst,' which was spot on. Using kindly in that way today also feels rather like being addressed as "gnädige(r) Frau/Herr" ("My dear woman/man"). Velvet claws, as it were.

Addressing another point upthread: The thing about thinking/feeling/judging is, that people truly tend to experience the world through different lenses. When they say they feel something, often that's a clue that they generally experience the world more vividly in, say, an emotional* way. It does little good to tell such a person that they actually think or believe something; more useful is to parse it for yourself and try to use their language when you want to get your own point across.

*or alternatively haptic

#26 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 06:50 AM:

G D Townshende @ 22... What was Mathurin's answer, by the way? I wonder if the next installment of Girl Genius's "Weasel Queen" serial will have Agatha disguise herself as a ferret and tell the Queen's subjects (who seem to mostly be huge flesh-eating rabbits):

"Choose the lesser of two weasels!"

#27 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 06:53 AM:

Davod Goldfarb @ 26... a Making Light poster

One done in dayglow colors like when I was a teenager in the 1970s and...
("Serge... Not that kind of poster.")
Oh.
Nevermind.

#28 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 06:57 AM:

#20: And in business correspondence "kindly" means "you'd better do what I'm telling you to do, or lawyers, guns, and money will descend on you".

#29 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 09:05 AM:

David Goldfarb @24

Yes, I think you're right. The way Scalzi wrote it was ambiguous, and the interpretation the poster objected to is perhaps the one most people would make. But to _assume_ that that is the way he meant it and jump in with guns blazing is clearly the wrong response.

I bet if the poster had written something like "you may want to look at what you've written again, because it reads as though you're saying all childfree people are nutbags," Scalzi would have reacted politely, and maybe even changed the original post. Because it's an easy mistake to make, and he would have realised that. But that's not what she wrote -- she assumed that he had meant it as an insult to all childfree people, without considering the other possible meaning (i.e. "there are nutbag childfree folks and other childfree folks, and it was one of the nutbag ones that e-mailed me").

#30 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 10:38 AM:

Xopher at 20 nails it, I think - "kindly" is a social signal, and not a nice one. It's on the same level as "I think you'll find that", which annoys me immoderately. Oh, and "I hate to tell you this, but", which of course is a flagrant smirking lie.

I don't think it's usually deliberate, though - it's more a lazy kind of collision between intention, amelioration, and a lack of actual thought or effort. It's the equivalent of those signs one sees (here, at least) saying "Polite Notice - No Parking".

#31 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 10:58 AM:

You see signs here saying "Don't even THINK of parking here."

We're a little more direct in these parts.

#32 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 11:07 AM:

I have heard the word kindly used by my Mum, in the sense of "I was waiting at the junction, and a man kindly let me in".

If she used it to ask me to do something, it would at the very least be exagerated courtesy (along the lines of "Would you be so kind as to lay the table?", with the implication being that it's the least I could do)

#33 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 11:08 AM:

Oh, this is South-East England. Politeness is very, very culturally important, and so is parking. So the cognitive dissonance between "I must be polite at all costs" and "That ratbastard Mondeo-driving scum looks like he might be thinking about parking in MY slot - prepare to repel boarders!" leads to things like this.

#34 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 11:36 AM:

Jörg Raddatz @ 18: [On "kindly"] As a non-native speaker I would have taken it at face value and read it as "please" or even "it would be kind if you ...". I might definitely have used it that way. Ah, the pitfalls of language.

Yes, that one might have tripped up me too. There was an earlier thread here that taught me a bit about inadvertent racism.

"gefälligst". Originally it meant some close to "if you would like" - a "Gefälligkeit" is still a favor or a courtesy. But today there is no other possible meaning than "don`t even think of not doing this or hesitating".

Sounds like "vennligst" in the Scandinavian languages. Literally "friendliest" or perhaps "kindliest", but there's nothing friendly about it. The word is only ever used for conveying orders, usually in sign form and implying menace and dread. "Vennligst do not spit on the floor".

#35 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 12:03 PM:

Every time I saw one of those, I at first misread it as Police Notice, and I wonder if it wasn't someone playing on that which started them.

#36 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 12:08 PM:

Xopher at 20 nails it, I think - "kindly" is a social signal, and not a nice one. It's on the same level as "I think you'll find that", which annoys me immoderately. Oh, and "I hate to tell you this, but", which of course is a flagrant smirking lie.

With all due respect, [verbal pooping].

#37 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 12:56 PM:

Josh 36, especially if they emphasize 'due'. "With all due respect..." implying that little or none actually is due.

#38 ::: Manny ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 01:03 PM:

"No offense, but $insult." Them're fighting words.

#39 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 01:04 PM:

With all doo respect?

#40 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 01:10 PM:

"Let me get this straight..."

That one really annoys me because it implies that he/she understood exactly what it was that was said and has concluded from it that you're stuffed absolutely clean full of wild blueberry muffins - to quote a character from 1951's The Thing.

#41 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 02:39 PM:

Serge: re "Let me get this straight": That's exactly how I use it.

Ex. Some years back my phone bill got crammed (by a company which was later used as an example in a "60 Minutes" story). They got me for $50 because they timed it to a chunk of the year I had a lot of phone calls (Christmas, and lots of long distance). When I saw it in the Februrary bill I refused to pay it, enclosing a written, signed, statement disputing the charges.

Skip ahead. I get back from a trip to Korea. A couple of days after my return I get a "Pay now or lose service" notice. I call them up. Apologise for not paying the bill before I left for Korea. Offer to pay up what I owe, but am not willing to pay the $300 of cramming charges. I further remind them I have already disputed the charges.


They explain it's not their service. I need to call the contact number on that page of the bill. I tell them the 800 number on those sheets of the bill don't work. Again I say I didn't order it, don't want it, and have refused it.

I am very politely told that AT&T has no control over that. They aren't the people whom I owe the money to, and are merely billing me as a courtesy,to me for those outside services, and that if I don't pay the bill, in toto, they will shut of my service, and I will have to pay a reconnect fee; and a deposit, to recommence phone service.

At which point I said, "Let me get this straight, for a service I don't want, have disputed in writing, don't actually owe money too, you are going to shut off my phone, as a courtesy to me."

Because I really did want to be sure that 1: I had heard correctly, and 2: That she understood just what it was she had said (because really, that's some pretty cold courtesy), and 3: she knew I understood just what she had said.

She did some hemming and hawing; came back and said, "Well, since you did dispute it 6 mos ago, we will forego making you pay for it. In the future, however, you can't include a written notice, you have to call us to cancel things like that."

I didn't point out that calling AT&T to cancel a 3rd party service seemed a trifle counterintuitive (esp, because the bill says, "Call this number regarding questions about this service."

#42 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 03:07 PM:

Terry Karney @ 41... My problem with that expression stems from the other party's assumption from the word go that I'm stuffed absolutely clean full of wild blueberry muffins, and this before I am asked (if I'm ever asked) the reasons for doing (or not doing) what I did (or didn't do). Yes, I am thinking of specific situations having to do with my current employment in a big corporation.

As for situations like the one you describe... 'Let me get this straight' is way more polite than how I handle such situations.

#43 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 03:25 PM:

Serge: I'm sorry, I wasn't clear. If one is bluberry muffin free... it's offensive.

When, however the person in question seems to have eyes the color of cobalt, from the massive surplus of blueberries in their system; it's a really handy thing to have in the rhetorical toolbox.

And yes, I was on my very best behavior, because pissing her off wasn't going to do me any good, it would, in fact, have put me out of pocket something like $600 (to pay the thieves, and let AT&T escrow my money for a year... which to be fair to them; whem I had to pay such a deposit to get my first phone line, they did just that. I got a check from them, plus somethng like 10 percent interest for the deposit, when the term [one year] was done).

And I am certain she lied to me, to save face/give a reason for doing the right thing. Because I very much doubt they had a copy of my disputes in the records. I realise now (and I was irked at this too, and seem to recall having made a point of it) any inclusions with the bill, other than the check, go to the trash; no matter how carefully they detail the accunt to which they apply.

Someday I'll tell the story of how AT&T rips off soldiers in Korea.

#44 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 01:21 AM:

Serge @ #26 - When I spoke of "the lesser of two weevils," I was thinking of a scene in either the second or third Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Lesser of two weasels. LOL I like that.

#45 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 01:44 AM:

Debbie @ #25 - "Addressing another point upthread: The thing about thinking/feeling/judging is, that people truly tend to experience the world through different lenses. When they say they feel something, often that's a clue that they generally experience the world more vividly in, say, an emotional* way. It does little good to tell such a person that they actually think or believe something; more useful is to parse it for yourself and try to use their language when you want to get your own point across."

Absolutely. I agree. The friends in California I mentioned had introduced me to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and they both were ENFJs, so they were Feelers. Knowing them as I do, I'm certain that they do experience the world more emotionally. My noting that they had the habit of saying "I feel" instead of "I think" was an observation I had made after learning of the MBTI. I thought it actually validated that portion of the MBTI, especially with regard to their own score. Myself, I'm an INTJ, and so my own verbal habits ("I think" and "I believe") bear witness to my own score. The "I believe" phrase, however, might even be witness to my nearly borderline score on the Thinking/Feeling aspect.

I'll admit that it may have been a bit, um, unfeeling — heh — for me to have said that they meant "I think" when they said "I feel." I do think, however, that it was an interesting observation that these two Feelers preferred to express their thoughts/opinions, etc., with the phrase "I feel." You have to understand that when I voiced my opinion to them, they didn't take offense, as they knew I wasn't being mean-spirited.

#46 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 02:34 AM:

"Vennligst do not spit on the floor"

Can one comply with this request by spitting on the ceiling?

#47 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 03:42 AM:

I use "kindly" about people who have been nice to me. "She kindly held the door open."

#48 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 04:05 AM:

G D Townshende @ 44:
Serge @ #26 - When I spoke of "the lesser of two weevils," I was thinking of a scene in either the second or third Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Are you sure you're not thinking of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World? Which really does have such a scene.

(My memory is that Maturin didn't really say anything clever or apropos in reply, since he was flustered and annoyed at being the butt of such an awful pun.)

#49 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 04:12 AM:

Peter Erwin: It was in the movie, but it's one of the pieces lifted direct from the books, where it's a scene in one piece, and brought up at least once later, where Maturin is the gentle butt of the joke.

This goes with a joke of Maturin's, about the dog watches, being brought up, by Jack, to show Maturin's wit.

#50 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 04:59 AM:

Jules@29: I agree.

#51 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 06:02 AM:

Peter Erwin @ 48... he was flustered and annoyed at being the butt of such an awful pun

It was awful?

#52 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 09:51 AM:

Wiser perhaps not to repeat That Word too often. Bringing oneself to the notice of The Kndly Ones, wittingly or no, leads, in the main, to … unfortunate consequences.

#53 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 10:06 AM:

praisegod barebones @ #46:

I'd translate it as "don't even consider thinking about spitting! even less about spitting on the floor! or your lungs will be extracted via your back! thank you!". If you can fit in spitting at the ceiling as being in compliance with that, you're a better word-juggler than I am.

#54 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 11:57 AM:

Re: kindly, I am reminded of the Southern American use of "Bless foo heart," where foo is the appropriate name or pronoun. Its literal meaning is obvious, but colloquially it means (at its kindest) "What an idiot." There are several jokes (of variable actual humor content) that play off of this dichotomy.

#55 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 12:06 PM:

#54, Skwid -

I sort of agree with that reading, and I sort of don't. Occasionally I'll use it as "wow, what an idiot," but I'm just as likely to use it to mean, "poor thing!" (Maybe I should be worried that others aren't interpreting it as I mean it!)

#56 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 12:19 PM:

Serge @ 51:
It was awful?

Well, "awful" from his point of view. I have a fairly clear memory of Maturin being occasionally annoyed -- possibly even in connection with the "lesser of two weevils" moment -- by what he regarded as Aubrey's low taste in humor.

(From a post by Mark Liberman of Language Log: "'He that would make a pun would pick a pocket,' said Stephen, 'and that miserable quibble is not even a pun, but a vile clench'" -- though it isn't quite clear to me which book that was from.)

#57 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 12:27 PM:

Ingvar 53: ...or your lungs will be extracted via your back!

Wow, so the Blood Eagle is still used as a threat, if only in jest? Ick.

Skwid 54: So if I go south I should avoid saying "bless your heart" to someone's face, huh?

#58 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 12:34 PM:

Peter Erwin @ 56... what he regarded as Aubrey's low taste in humor

Maturin, like Voltaire, probably considered that puns are the death of wit. I'd respond to them with the immortal words of Seamus Zelazny Harper: "Puns are the lowest form of humor - unless you think of it first."

#59 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 12:47 PM:

Xopher @55 -- now that (Blood Eagle) is a truly interesting turn of phrase, given that the German Blutegel means (medicinal) leech. Either way, ick!

#60 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 01:04 PM:

#58, Serge -

Absolutely, totally off topic, but I think of it every time Andromeda comes up: My favorite ever password is from that show.

Beka wants to do something that violates the safety standards of her ship, and the ship's computer asks for an ID and authorization code. She gives her ID, and the authorization code is "Shut up and do what I say!"

It's a pity it's too long for an everyday password.

#61 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 01:23 PM:

R.M.Koske @ 60... That Harper, what a smooth operator he is. Me, I want my password to be 'klaatubaradanikto'.

#62 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 01:27 PM:

Xopher@57, well, like R.M. implies at #55, context does matter, but it's probably useful to know that it might be interpreted alternatively to your meaning.

#63 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 03:43 PM:

Skwid #54/#82, RM Koske #58, Xopher #58

Tone of voice and context both matter a lot with that phrase in the South. It can be everything from a "Well, it's about what you would expect from X, all things considered*,"; "I am not going to kill X, I am not going to scream and curse at X, but I would like you to note that I am not happy; "I give up on X. I will deal, because I must, but my expectations are now going to the basement and staying there"; a comment on a child's childish view of the world and how it works: "Tommy wanted to know when we buried the dead fish by the rosebush if there would be a fish-plant in the garden next year, bless his heart"; a recognition of extremly well-intentioned but slightly inapropriate behavior from someone known for such (sometimes said rather sadly in this case and often associated with an elderly relative). The trick is tone of voice and facial expression; watch for sarcasm and deadpan, as opposed to affectionate amusement. In certain circumstances, the speaker might as well be saying "Fck X and the horse they rode in on."

Then there's that other useful phrase, "Isn't that nice," employed in several circumstances, ranging from general indifference to the one where you're at a complete loss for words, but realize a positive-sounding response is the best way out of a sticky situation. I once heard this phrase deployed in the latter sense by a woman whose niece had just told her (after all, Aunt X was ever so much cooler than her parents and would surely not freak out) she'd had a labial piercing done while away at school; she managed to process the news enough to add "But I'd worry about infections, myself; I had a pierced ear get infected when I was your age and it hurt so much!"*

Xopher, since you're likely to be employing that sort of phrase in a more priestly sense, I'd leave it at just "Bless you"; it's a recognized response for people who have done you a kindness of some sort, or an appropriate reaction when someone shares bad news, such as being diagnosed/having a loved one diagnosed with a severe illness, or other misfortune.


*If, of course, someone decides to tell you about their barely-adult offspring's/youthful family member's behavior in such a way as to suggest it is a sore trial to them, it is not out of place to say, whatever you may think of the situation, "Bless his/her heart--they do have to do things the hard way sometimes when they're growing up." This plays as appropriate sympathy, no matter what you may feel.

#64 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 04:27 PM:

Serge @ 58:
Maturin, like Voltaire, probably considered that puns are the death of wit. I'd respond to them with the immortal words of Seamus Zelazny Harper: "Puns are the lowest form of humor - unless you think of it first."

And of course Maturin is not entirely immune to the impulse: as Terry Karney pointed out (#49), Aubrey mentions a suggestion by Maturin that the (shorter) "dog watches" are so called because they are "cur-tailed"...

#65 ::: Lisa ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 06:10 PM:

Regarding "I feel" (which I do say a lot, although I am not from the West Coast) - was anyone else subjected to a lot of training/classes in high school about "I-statements" and especially the use of "I feel like" rather than more concrete statements? Because I got a lot of that as training in "effective communication" or somesuch, and it's a hard habit to break.

#66 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 06:58 PM:

fidelio nails it wrt "Bless [his] heart."

"Bless your heart" is only positive if someone has done something very kind that surprised you -- and, I'd argue, only if you are significantly older than them. Like, if you brought homebaked cookies to the secretary of your department, who was a Southern woman a few decades older than you, she might exclaim "Well, bless your heart!" (This really only works if you have a Southern accent. If you don't, I wouldn't say it.)

#67 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 07:13 PM:

"Oh, bleshur haw-urt!" is also used to express sympathy for horrible things that are out of your interlocutor's control, usually in conjunction with "Are you okay? Do you need anything? Can I help?" &c.

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 07:13 PM:

Peter Erwin @ 64... Oh my. And I thought I had come up with really bad ones... :-)

#69 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 08:47 PM:

Lisa @ 65

My memory keeps telling me that I was. Must be that old-time grammar kicking in.

#70 ::: JimR ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 10:08 PM:

My mother uses "Bless his heart" as Caroline and TexxAnne describe it--the positive way. Which is why I could never use it; I would always feel like I was mocking mom. And I could never, EVER do that.

If my mom ever used it in a negative way, I'm sure it is very much a "if you can't say anything nice about someone..." thing, because she takes that quite seriously.

I don't know if she's southern. Does Oklahoma count?

#71 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 10:22 PM:

#70, JimR -

I don't know if Oklahoma counts or not. I usually didn't count it, but I've seen many others who do, and I'm thinking I might need to revise my opinion.

And I think you nailed how I usually use that phrase, too. I never consciously used it as "what an idiot" until I ran into the meme on the internet that said that was the hidden meaning of the phrase. I could laugh about that interpretation and use it that way, but my past usage of it always felt kinder* than that, even when I was exasperated. I think I was doing the "trying to say something nice when you can't think of anything nice to say," trick.

*Ha! Full circle!

#72 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 10:26 PM:

JimR: Yep.

#73 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 10:36 PM:

I personally don't count Oklahoma as the South, but I admit myself to be biased.

#74 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2008, 11:51 PM:

I'd say that OK is the south - but only if you're from KS. [snickering a bit on this end, since my parents were from the south (of KS) and north (of OK)]

#75 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2008, 01:11 AM:

Peter @ #48 - Are you sure you're not thinking of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World? Which really does have such a scene.

Er, whoops! You're right. Bad memory. Bad, bad memory.

Damn. Now I need to buy a new card.

#76 ::: Jan Vaněk jr. ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2008, 09:16 AM:

Debbie #59: Only, German for eagle is Engel; apparently Egel is just leech in general - no idea where the coincidence comes from.

#77 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2008, 09:57 AM:

Jan #76: No, Engel is "angel" in German; the German for "eagle" is Adler, which makes it more curious.

Checking on the blood eagle idea, it seems to be Norse. I wonder if the Norse for leech is etymologically close to the German, and "blood eagle" is some kind of English mistranslation? Probably not.

#78 ::: JimR ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2008, 11:19 AM:

Yeah, I mostly think Oklahoma is the south, too. I was just wondering about y'all. Except for Tulsa, which has definite Damned Yankee tendencies.

#74...Ok, that's weird. Mine too. I grew up in Southeastern Kansas, my dad was born and raised there, my mom was born just across the border in OK.
And I have to be perfectly honest--except right on the border, there is a difference.

#79 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2008, 11:53 AM:

Chris @ 77: I wonder if the Norse for leech is etymologically close to the German, and "blood eagle" is some kind of English mistranslation? Probably not.

In modern Norwegian, leech is "igle" - so yes, probably cognate with or loaned from the German "egel". I'm failing at finding an etymology for it, I'm afraid.

It's pretty clear from the Wikipedia page on Blood Eagle that it's referring to the bird - it's named "ara" and "örn" in the Norse texts, the latter still being the word for eagle.

#80 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2008, 11:57 PM:

I've got people from Oklahoma. It's not South. It's... well, bless its heart, it's Oklahoma.

#81 ::: Jan Vaněk jr. ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2008, 05:44 AM:

Chris #77: You're right of course. My seizures of Stupid are getting worse by day (just last week I mistook James T. Farrell for James G. Farrell...). Apologies to all.

#82 ::: Jörg Raddatz ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2008, 06:19 AM:

Regarding eagles:

AFAIK, English "eagle" is derived from Latin "aquila", via French "aigle".

The orginally Germanic term was something like *arnuz. This led to the Norse "örn" and the German "Aar", the latter is strictly poetically today.

And some called that bird noble, ie Adel-Aar, which led directly to Adler.

BTW, in Dutch, it is still written "adelaar".

#83 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2008, 12:53 PM:

My opinion, based on my beloved OK inlaws, is that Oklahoma is Oklahoma, and any other descriptor will only be about 30% accurate.

However, when my husband's cousin moved to Vermont from OKC, he became known as "that nice southern gentleman."

#84 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2008, 01:32 PM:

JESR: How about "God help Oklahoma: so far from Heaven, so close to Texas"?

#85 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2008, 01:38 PM:

Alice: "You say this wine comes from the South?"
Bob: "Well, er, yes. What makes you think it's not?"
Alice: "It's a bit too Okie."

#86 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2008, 02:17 PM:

Xopher @84, I can't speak to that, really; my husband was a product of a mixed marriage: his mother was born in Anadarko, OK, his father in Brenheim, TX. I've learned to keep quiet on these sensitive matters (and not to call Texas "Baja Oklahoma," either).

#87 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2008, 03:37 PM:

"Death to —ing Gerunds!"

#88 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2008, 04:48 PM:

JESR@86, surely that should be Brenham, TX? Home of singing cows and "The Best Ice Cream in the Country?"

#89 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2008, 08:04 PM:

Skwid, 88: Aaaaaand thanks for the earworm, buddy! Fortunately I have found a source for the stuff up here. They only had Homemade Vanilla in half-gallons, but I'm not complaining. (Plus a few of their weirders flavors in pints, but eh, Birthday Cake?)

(do doo, do dooooooo, do doooo, do dooooooo--)

#90 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2008, 09:41 PM:

Skwid, that Brenheim, yes; my husband's great great grandfather came to Brenheim some time before 1900 and founded a bakery and brewery there. The family moved to Waco after Prohibition.

I know it mostly as the place you drive through on the way from Austin to The Antique Rose Emporium.

#91 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2008, 09:44 PM:

JESR, it really is spelled Brenham.

#92 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2008, 01:54 PM:

*sigh*

My spelling is made of fail.

#93 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2008, 03:46 PM:

JESR @ 92

No, really, it just has a light varnish.

#94 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2008, 09:37 PM:

R. M. Koske (60):

Absolutely, totally off topic, but I think of it every time Andromeda comes up: My favorite ever password is from that show.

Beka wants to do something that violates the safety standards of her ship, and the ship's computer asks for an ID and authorization code. She gives her ID, and the authorization code is "Shut up and do what I say!"

It's a pity it's too long for an everyday password.

I'd render that password as:
SuadwIs!
and it is perfectly good, even though I don't see a straightforward way to include some numerals, (I might get a "based on dictionary word" warning, however).
#95 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2008, 09:43 PM:

John, 94: use l33t spelling.

#96 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2008, 09:53 PM:

TexAnne:
I'd have to be selective, or I'd loose my caps.
5u@dw1s!
I'd remember it either way, because even when I start with a phrase it quickly becomes an arbitrary string that I remember. People I have to share the password with aren't as skilled at that.

#97 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2008, 10:01 PM:

#94 & 96, John Houghton -

Excellent! I'm about due for a password change (I've got three that change on regular but non-matching schedules at work. I'm always nearly due for a password change.) and I may go with some variation on that. Thanks!

#98 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2008, 10:20 PM:

R. M. Koske:
You're welcome, even though I have a particular dislike of policies that require changing passwords on a time schedule, since 1) in the real world, it leads to weaker passwords, and 2) they are based on old, invalid, concerns (how long would it take to decrypt a password if the decrypter had access to to cryptotext and a circa 1985 IBM mainframe for 3 months). Hell, it leads ME to use less-secure passwords on systems I use rarely, even though at least one of those systems allows me to add value to debit cards.
But the rules I'd like to impose would drive salesreps and help-desk people crazy (change your password every time there has been a theoretical opportunity to have been shoulder-surfed). Crypto-tokens you say? You've never seen the token taped to the laptop?
But then, I'm a computer curmudgeon that realized in the mid seventies that I could read the password in the blinky-lights from across the room if the operator was a slow typist.

#99 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 12:30 AM:

Just on gut reaction, I really recommend against adopting passwords you've discussed in a blog posting, particularly any discussed under any name that's even vaguely close to anything someone might associate with you or search for.

The phrase-to-initials-to-l33t substitution, especially with mixed numeric/punctuation substitution for letters is a good way to get decently strong but memorable passwords, I just wouldn't use it with this particular one now that it's been discussed. The very thought of it makes my skin go all twitchy, the way books bound cross-grain do to abi.

#100 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 06:42 AM:

Changing your password on a regular basis is a good idea; if someone has somehow obtained your password (by sheer dumb luck or otherwise), it'll stop working and they'll have to get your new password in some manner or way.

I'd recommend pronouncable passwords. They're easier to remember.

Any password that's been written down, even once, anywhere, for any length of time however brief, is compromised and should be replaced.

#101 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 08:12 AM:

Yes. Using any password that's been discussed on a blog is a terrible idea. The same goes for writing down a password.

I haven't made up my mind about electronic password managers yet. On one hand, it helps you track and recall difficult to remember passwords, and may encourage you to use stronger passwords. At least one of them will generate strong passwords for you. On the other hand, the "one ring to rule them all" aspect worries me. (i.e., if someone compromises your password manager...)

#102 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 08:50 AM:

Eh. First you figure out where I work. I might have dropped enough hints to make that easy, I can't remember. Then you find a way into the building and find my floor and a free workstation. Then you figure out the Windows password and user ID. If you bother to come to my workstation, be warned that my Windows password is not the same as the password you can actually use to cause my company trouble. The user ID is not the same either. Once you log in to my computer, then you have to figure out which program on my desktop is the valuable one and figure out how to start it. Then figure out how to get to the password prompt. *Then* figure out what variation on "Shut up and do what I say" I've used as a password since I'm not silly enough to actually use either of the variations suggested here. Then (and this is probably the hardest) figure out how to use the DOS-based program to do some damage. And do it all before September 5, because that's when the current password expires and I invent a new one.

The only people who really have a snowball's chance of causing trouble with my password would be someone who works here and recognizes my name from the blog posts. Any one of them would have an easier time of it if they came to me and said, "Hey, I need to use X program for a minute, but I'm logged in at another terminal, can I use your ID?" and I'd either tell them the password or log them in myself.

I'm really not worried about it.

#103 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 09:11 AM:

Passwords and password security makes me crazy, actually. I mean, really. I've got two yahoo accounts, two Livejournal accounts, three gmail accounts, my email on our own domain, Linkagogo, flickr, Ravelry, Bloglines, three separate password-based programs at work*, Wowio and Tor and Apartment Therapy and Lifehacker and Knitting Daily and Amazon and Berocco and Lionbrand. Then there's the bank and Paypal and the electric company and the gas company and the phone company and the cellphone company and the cable company and our Tivo account.

How are we supposed to manage all this?

*These demand new passwords every thirty days.

#104 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 01:33 PM:

R. M. Koske #103: How are we supposed to manage all this?

With password management software.

#105 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 02:17 PM:

R.M. Koske:
Assuming you're posting under your actual name, as I do, the probable direction would be more like the other way 'round. Assume that someone where you work has a grudge against you, or wants some access to something you might have, or just wants to do something suspicious and have the activity traceable to someone else not to them. (Or an outsider interested in where you work has found the names of some people who work there...) So they Google some variations on your name to see what you might be interested in, and just for laughs they try adding "password", and... wow.

First hit is this thread.

I wasn't expecting that to be quite this easy.

#106 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 02:28 PM:

P.S. As I said, my initial reaction was purely a gut reaction.

I'm far from the perfect security maven; I use the same password for a lot of what I consider "low value" accounts (anything that can't be used to buy stuff or spend money, basically) and may not change them for years.

However, higher value accounts (Amazon, Paypal, etc.) get somewhat more complex passwords, and direct banking/financial accounts get much more complex passwords drawn from a completely different source.

For my current job where the password gets changed on a regular schedule, I have a system for deriving the passwords from successive lines in a passage of poetry. That works reasonably well at putting the next password at my fingertips.

#107 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 02:30 PM:

We have to change passwords every three months. One of the programs doesn't tell you it's expired until you log in, and it's the one we only have to use about every five months. Can we say 'not well designed'?
(It really isn't well designed: it's a pain to use, and sometimes leaves us wondering if it was designed by Martians: When was the last time you gave graduation date as anything other than month and year? This requires a day of the month too.)

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