beware of the dog

John Cowan cowan at
Thu Feb 6 14:28:48 CET 2003

Mark Crispin scripsit:

> > What on earth makes you think he wouldn't have a clue?
> Because you clearly did not.  You were more interested in taking a dig at
> your fellow-countrymen.

Mispronouncing anyone's name is always offensive.  As someone whose
family name is mispronounced daily, I am quite sensitive to this.
I assume you were rather upset by "AmeriKKKa", assuming you are old
enough to remember that deliberate misspelling.

> > Mr. Clews said nothing about insults (that was your idea alone) but
> > merely that Eye-rack grates on English sensibilities, quite justly.
> You didn't read his message carefully then.  He specifically mentioned
> "the current climate" which implied that he attributed that pronunciation
> to the pending war.

I read the conversational implicature quite differently: merely that he
heard a lot of Americans talking of Iraq these days.  The same was true
in 1991, where British people heard Americans talking of "Eye-rakky missels",
"Iz-raily antie-missels", and even (hypothetical) "Eye-rakky antie-antie-
missel missels".  These pronunciations of "anti-" and "missile" represent
legitimate sound changes.  (The UK versions are "antee" and "miss-isles".)

> And he was correct.  It may be "American arrogance", but it most certainly
> was not "American ignorance."  A lot of that "American arrogance",
> particularly towards Europe, has come about from self-fufilling prophecy.

Dear, dear.  How rude we can be when we try.

> You mentioned that your father used "Eye-tal-ian" throughout his life.
> What originated as a language game can become a legitimate sound change.

It's still not a sound change.  If you want instruction you must pay extra.

> You are contradicting yourself.

"That turns out not to be the case."
	--Kevin Renner

> > You might want to consider taking Linguistics 454 and learning something.
> Oh, you mean how to become yet another vacuous pseudo-intellectual in a
> field that offers no skills other than to properly enunciate "would you
> like fries with your order, sir?"

So you have no respect for any learning you cannot sell?  Pfui.  I suggest
you look in your own university's course catalog -- I did not choose
that number at random.

> Linguistics has gone sharply downhill
> in the past 20 years, particularly with Chomsky and Searle playing the
> clown for the media.

Neither Chomsky nor Searle does historical linguistics, a field whose
scientific credentials are more than a century old and quite unimpeachable.
(Indeed, you don't appear to know what Searle's affiliation actually is.)
You scorn what you palpably do not understand and have made no effort to
learn about.

John Cowan        jcowan at
To say that Bilbo's breath was taken away is no description at all.  There are
no words left to express his staggerment, since Men changed the language that
they learned of elves in the days when all the world was wonderful. --The Hobbit

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