Everyday linguistic anthropology

Language links 8/28: pop culture and female scientists


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

Pop culture can do a lot of the heavy lifting around changing people’s minds. The Ford Foundation and AndACTION write, “Rather than using a flat narrative or one-dimensional characters to appeal to the viewer, successful shows are built around complex characters with whom audiences connect over time, an example of identification theory used for entertainment education. Compare a classic after-school special with an obvious agenda to a show like ‘The Good Wife’ that addresses issues of discrimination and religious freedom authentically, and it is clear why current pop culture is more effective at generating empathy.”

The Finkbeiner test is a checklist for profiles of female scientists. (You know, like the Bechdel test.) A good story about female scientists should not mention the following things:

How do you pronounce ‘Brexit’? I’m not asking how one should; I’m asking how you, personally, do. It seems that the /g/ pronunciation is indexically linked to Leavers, while Remainers prefer the /k/. (It’s also worth noting that in Britain, ‘exit’ typically has a /k/ sound — which it doesn’t for most Americans!)

Everything bilingual Sesame Street does is magical. They’re also amazing at parodies of current pop songs. So clearly, I’m kind of obsessed with “El Patito” (yes, to the tune of “Despacito”)

Texting still isn’t ruining our language.

Stan Carey has been opposed to the term Grammar Nazi for a while, and last week Grammar Girl pointed out precisely why it matters: “Let’s vote to preserve our collective memory that a ‘Nazi’ is evil, that Nazis are people we won’t tolerate, and that it’s an ideology we rightly fight against. Let’s not make ‘Nazi’ a generic term for someone who is picky or strident or annoying or precise. You probably wouldn’t call yourself a grammar serial killer or a grammar terrorist or say that you’re part of grammar ISIS, so don’t call yourself a grammar Nazi.”

On last week’s topic of mansplaining, this video made me giggle uncontrollably.

Some of you may know that I wrote my dissertation on indigenous Mexican Jehovah’s Witnesses, specifically Oaxaca Highland Chontal speakers. I was absolutely delighted to discover that JW.org now has significant internet resources for these folks.

What can language tell us about the ‘alt-right’? (I get annoyed when people suggest that text mining is inherently linguistic, but there’s some neat points in here.)