language links, ling-anth links

Language links 8/14: language limericks and women in STEM

Every Monday, I share some of what I’ve been reading in the past week.

Drop everything and read Merriam-Webster’s amazing usage limericks. My favorite (with a teeny-tiny edit for the sake of scansion):

If you’re a stickler for grammar, prepare
to be irked by the singular their
Tho it seems a mistake
The position we take
Is if the word’s in use we don’t care

I loved this poet’s musings on the need for linguistic diversity in the classroom. (Said poet doesn’t cite any of the linguistic experts on the subject, but hits all the right notes anyway.) And speaking of classrooms, Nelson Flores reminds us that proficiency gaps don’t say much about the students in question — but they tell us an awful lot about the conditions in their schools.

Why using the language of work to talk about family, marriage, and parenthood is doing us a disservice. It’s the Protestant ethic — anything morally valuable must be productive. “Americans struggle to describe worthwhile, long-term activities without turning them into jobs. We can’t imagine a good life that’s free from workplace logic. This narrow moral vocabulary makes our lives worse: more stressful, more guilt-ridden, and less able to appreciate anything that’s not work.”

Your weekly reminder that language matters: “If you can’t insult people without needing a slur from a marginalized group to do so, you’re probably a very, very shitty writer.”

All the evidence suggests that the gap between men and women in STEM is a gender gap, not a sex gap. That is to say — it’s not a question of biological differences, but a question of discrimination and socialization (learning to become a social being). There are hurdles at every step if you’re a woman. And not only that, but you are subjected constantly to a sea of messages telling you that scientists don’t really look like you. (N.B. I wish the article linked here were a little more careful about ‘gender’ and ‘sex’, but … )


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