Pixel Scroll 11/21/2017 Come On Over For Scrolled Pixel With All The Trimmings

(1) TOWARD A MORE GRAMMATICAL HELL. McSweeney’s John Rauschenberg explains it all to you in “Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell, Reimagined for Linguistic Transgressions”.

First Circle (Limbo):
Autocorrect

Here wander the otherwise virtuous souls who were forced into grievous errors by autocorrect programs. They sit in silent masturbation, only rising once every hour to chant eerie koans such as “ducking auto cat rectal.”

Second Circle:
The Serial Comma

One half of this circle is populated by souls who are cursed to make arguments that nobody cares about except their own mothers, howling gorgons and the infernal mistresses of hell. The other half are cursed to make arguments that nobody cares about except their own mothers, howling gorgons, and the infernal mistresses of hell. The difference between these two situations seems to matter a lot to both halves. Neither side will listen to you when you suggest that they could avoid this level entirely.

And so on.

(2) EVEN PIXAR. The Hollywood Reporter’s Kim Masters, in “John Lasseter’s Pattern of Alleged Misconduct Detailed by Disney/Pixar Insiders”, says that longtime Pixar CEO John Lasseter has been suspended following sexual harassment allegations.

Rashida Jones is still credited as a writer on Toy Story 4, the next installment in the beloved franchise. But, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter, the actress and her writing partner at the time, Will McCormack, left the project early on after John Lasseter, the acclaimed head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, made an unwanted advance.

Jones and McCormack did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Disney declined to comment on the alleged incident though a studio source said the departure was over “creative differences.” Multiple sources spoke with THR but asked not to be named out of fear that their careers in the tight-knit animation community would be damaged.

Based on the accounts of former Pixar insiders as well as sources in the animation community, the alleged incident was not an isolated occurrence. One longtime Pixar employee says Lasseter, who is well-known for hugging employees and others in the entertainment community, was also known by insiders for “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” Multiple sources say Lasseter is known to drink heavily at company social events such as premiere parties, but this source says the behavior was not always confined to such settings.

(3) MELTDOWN AT LITTLE ROCK’S COSPLAY CON. PopCultHQ extensively covers last weekend’s most disappointing event — “Chaos at Cosplay Con & Anime Experience #CCAE2017”.

November 17 & 18th was the weekend for the Cosplay Con and Anime Experience in North Little Rock, AR. This convention didn’t have a stellar list of top-name celebrities, but it had a good line-up. Their headliner was Ciara Renee from DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Other guests included Cig and George from SYFY’s Faceoff, Joshua Monroe from Cosplay Melee, and actor/voice actor Robert Axelrod.

Ticket prices weren’t bad for a new convention. The day of the con weekend passes were only $30, Friday passes were $15, and Saturday were $25.

This cosplay con and anime experience promised to be, “The ultimate community focused convention” and was marketed as “…a celebration of comic books and pop culture that showcases the exceptional works of talented Cosplayers, writers, artists, illustrators and creators of all types.”

Instead, this turned into a complete disaster that caused so much stress and anxiety for some that at least one person ended up in the hospital. There are so many things with this con, that I’m just going to give you a list of what I have heard so far and then I will expound on a few of them;

  • Bad communication all around
  • Guests weren’t paid
  • Caterer wasn’t paid
  • No break relief for vendors
  • Vendors were not allowed food or drink at their booths
  • Vendors were forced to accept ‘vendor bucks’ without compensation
  • No Load-in information or map provided for Vendors
  • Guests were kicked out of the hotel when the convention credit card was rejected
  • Not all of the Costume contests occurred
  • Owner avoided guests and wasn’t even seen in the vicinity of the convention for a large portion of the show
  • Owner suspected to be operating with a false identity
  • Continual schedule changes during the event
  • Staff wasn’t paid
  • Volunteers didn’t get fed
  • VIP packages weren’t entirely as promised

The article delivers a paragraph or more about each bulleted complaint and accusation, largely gathered from the victims’ Facebook comments.

(4) FOR CERTAIN VALUES. Camestros Felapton dissects the moral values of the new Netflix series in “The Punisher – An Artfully Crafted Moral Vacuum”.

But this is not a general review. What I wanted to discuss was the wisdom of making the show in the first place. I certainly had my doubts when it was announced and it was also clear that Marvel were nervous about making a show centered on a character defined by his gun-fueled killing sprees. While any of the TV/Movie versions of Marvel characters have some scope for re-invention, The Punisher has to act as a one man extra-judicial death squad. A plot line can expand his motivation or show other aspects of his character and he doesn’t even need his distinctive skull logo but sooner or later if he doesn’t kill lots of bad guys then he simply isn’t The Punisher.

…But this fourth space for superheroes to occupy for non-otherworldly threats poses problems for Marvel (and for DC). This vacuum was eluded too but not examined in Captain America: Civil War. Captain America’s stance not to sign the Sokovia Accords was not well examined or explained. Instead, the rightness of his stance is largely just assumed as an extension of Steve Rogers own integrity. That manages to just about work in that film so long as you don’t pay too much attention to it but on closer examination Rogers really has to choose to be either an agent of the state or a vigilante. If you call yourself ‘Captain America’ then you can either be a soldier employed and held accountable by the state or your indistinguishable from a nutty ‘militia’ hiding in a compound and plotting against the BATF.

The Punisher series gets this. It really is genuinely aware of these issues – mainly because they become unavoidable when your central character uses military equipment to murder criminals without trial.

(5) TRANSHUMAN. C.P. Dunphey’s The Year’s Best Transhuman SF 2017 Anthology is out from Gehenna & Hinnom.

As technology progresses, so does its connection with mankind. Augmentations, cybernetics, artificial intelligence filling the void that the absence of flesh will leave behind. In Transhumanism, we fine our imminent future. Whether this future is to be feared or rejoiced, depends on the individual.

Will technology replace mankind? If AI becomes self-aware, is a war imminent?

C.P. Dunphey, critically acclaimed author of Plane Walker and editor of the bestselling Year’s Best Body Horror 2017 Anthology and Hinnom Magazine¸ has collected 25+ stories from the best up-and-coming authors in science fiction for Gehenna & Hinnom’s sophomore collection, The Year’s Best Transhuman SF 2017 Anthology. From veteran award-winning authors like Julie Novakova, to popular horror authors like Chad Lutzke, the anthology presents no shortage of entertaining, mind-bending science fiction.

(6) THE REST OF THE FOOTAGE. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Steven Soderbergh Reveals The BackStory on His Viral Lucasfilm Rejection Letter”, interviews Soderbergh, who says the rejection letter from Lucasfilm (reported in the Scroll awhile back) was for some short films Soderbergh sent them and he’s actually not surprised that Lucasfilm rejected the films.

The inspirational message went viral, no doubt encouraging every dreamer with Hollywood ambitions. But the question remains: just what was on the videotape that Soderbergh submitted to Lucas? A proposed sequel to Return of the Jedi? A pitch for a standalone Ewok movie? Soderbergh’s theory for how Han Solo completed the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs? Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment, Soderbergh revealed that the tape in question had nothing to do with that galaxy far, far away. “I sent them a 3/4-inch tape that had two of my short films on it,” the director says, chuckling at his youthful hubris. “I was not surprised that it got kicked back! There aren’t enough decimal points to count how many packages George Lucas was getting at that point, and probably still gets.”

Soderbergh adds that the short films in question didn’t have any science-fiction elements, although one of them told a story that might have resonated with the director of the nostalgia-drenched teen classic American Graffiti….

(7) YELLOW LIGHT. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “Why ‘Justice League’ failed — and where DC goes from here”, says that the low box office returns for Justice League has cast Warner’s plans for greenlighting 10 “DC Creative Universe” films, including Flashpoint, Cyborg, and Justice League 2 into question.  Part of the problem is that DC has no one equivalent to Kevin Feige at Marvel implementing quality control and that th stand-alone success of Wonder Woman leads DC and Warner to support quality “stand-alone films” rather than insisting that all its superhero properties “feed into a universe.”

A little more than three years ago, Warner Bros. announced ambitious plans for its DC Comics properties.

The film studio would undertake no fewer than 10 DC movies, chief executive Kevin Tsujihara said. It would introduce various characters and build up to a pair of “Justice League” ensemble pictures, which in turn would allow it to spin off more stand-alone movies. The template? Rival Marvel, which began with “Iron Man” in 2008 and four years later evolved into a massively successful “Avengers” film, which then became the gift that kept on giving (17 movies and counting, including the current smash “Thor: Ragnarok.”)

This past weekend, all those plans blew up.

(8) MISSING KIT REED. One of the writer’s students tells about how he kept in contact with the author: “Alexander Chee on the life, work and loss of his mentor, Kit Reed” in the LA Times.

The first day of Kit Reed’s advanced fiction class, sitting in the yellow Victorian house I would come to know simply as “Lawn Avenue,” was my first time for so many things. I had never been taught by a professor in her own home, for example, and I remember I couldn’t stop looking at it all. I had never been in a home full of that much art, or with walls painted white or black, or in rooms full of chrome furniture, Lucite lamps, and mirrors— there was an offhand glamour to it all that I loved from the start. This was the kind of home you hoped professors at Wesleyan University had, or at least I did, and I sat nervously, excited, aware that I was lucky to be there as she listed off her rules for the class. We had to turn in 20 pages every other week—she ran the class like a boot camp—and she told us never to call her before noon, as she was writing and wouldn’t answer.

Another first: I’d never had a professor tell me I could call at all, and I don’t know that any of them ever did tell me, besides her. It never occurred to me to call my professors outside of class. Her willingness to accept a call was an openness to another kind of connection and conversation with us, one that, for many of us, would go on for the rest of the time we knew her.

(9) BEWES OBIT. Rodney Bewes (1937-2017): British actor and writer, died November 21, aged 79. Genre appearances included Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972), Jonah and the Whale (1975), Jabberwocky (1977), The Spaceman and King Arthur (aka Unidentified Flying Oddball, 1979), Doctor Who (two episodes, 1984).

(10) CASSIDY OBIT. David Cassidy (1950-2017): US singer and actor, died 21 November, aged 67. Genre appearances included The Flash (one episode, 1991), Kim Possible (voiced one episode, 2004).

(11) REESE OBIT. Is playing an angel considered genre? From CNN: “Della Reese, ‘Touched by an Angel’ star and singer, dies at 86”.

For nine seasons on CBS, Reese played Tess on “Touched by an Angel,” tasked with sending angels to Earth to help people redeem themselves.

“We were privileged to have Della as part of the CBS family when she delivered encouragement and optimism to millions of viewers as Tess on “Touched by an Angel,” CBS said in a statement to CNN. “We will forever cherish her warm embraces and generosity of spirit. She will be greatly missed. Another angel has gotten her wings.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born November 21, 1924 – Christopher Tolkien

(13) GENRE WHIFF. Poul Anderson always advised writers to engage all five senses. But what is a signature science fictional smell? “Ellis Brooklyn’s “Sci Fi” perfume convinced me, a fragrance monogamist, to switch scents”.

I tried “Sci Fi” from Ellis Brooklyn. Everything about this perfume is intriguing. The name, the packaging, the fact that it’s vanilla but in no way smells like what I imagined a vanilla-forward scent to be. When I think of “vanilla perfumes,” I think of the Body Fantasies body spray I bathed myself in during middle school. But Sci Fi’s vanilla is something utterly different.

Sci Fi, like a Ray Bradbury novel, pulls you in and confounds you. It begins with notes of vanilla bean, swirls into a cloud of orange and freesia, and then finishes with a bright smack of green tea. One day of wearing Sci Fi and I knew this was my next scent. I was making the switch.

(14) DISHING ABOUT THE DISH. NASA Watch has the good news: “NSF Decides Not To Shut Down Arecibo”.

Statement on NSF Record of Decision on Arecibo Observatory, NSF

“On Nov. 15, 2017, the National Science Foundation (NSF) signed its Record of Decision for the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. This important step concludes the agency’s decision-making process with respect to the general path forward for facility operations in a budget-constrained environment and provides the basis for a future decision regarding a new collaborator.”

(15) COSMIC STOGIE. You’re not from around here, are you — “Bizarre shape of interstellar asteroid”.

These properties suggest that ‘Oumuamua is dense, comprised of rock and possibly metals, has no water or ice, and that its surface was reddened due to the effects of irradiation from cosmic rays over long periods of time.

Although ‘Oumuamua formed around another star, scientists think it could have been wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with our Solar System.

(16) MANSON, HUBBARD AND HEINLEIN. Click-seeker Jeet Heer finds them this week with “Charles Manson’s Science Fiction Roots” in New Republic.

In 1963, while a prisoner at the federal penitentiary at McNeil Island in Washington state, Charles Manson heard other prisoners enthuse about two books: Robert Heinlein’s science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) and L. Ron Hubbard’s self-help guide Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (1950). Heinlein’s novel told the story of a Mars-born messiah who preaches a doctrine of free love, leading to the creation of a religion whose followers are bound together by ritualistic water-sharing and intensive empathy (called “grokking”). Hubbard’s purportedly non-fiction book described a therapeutic technique for clearing away self-destructive mental habits. It would later serve as the basis of Hubbard’s religion, Scientology.

Manson was barely literate, so he probably didn’t delve too deeply into either of these texts. But he was gifted at absorbing information in conversation, and by talking to other prisoners he gleaned enough from both books to synthesize a new theology. His encounter with the writings of Heinlein and Hubbard was a pivotal event in his life. Until then, he had been a petty criminal and drifter who spent his life in and out of jail. But when Manson was released from McNeil Island in 1967, he was a new figure: a charismatic street preacher who gathered a flock of followers among the hippies of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco.

…As vile and sociopathic as he was, Charles Manson did have a gift for absorbing the zeitgeist, which is one reason he held such a powerful sway over the cultural imagination. Manson picked up Stranger in a Strange Land in the same spirit that he learned to strum a guitar and offer exegeses on Beatles lyrics. It was a way for him to ride the wave of cultural change. Manson remained infamous all these decades not just because he inspired mass murder, but also because he did so by manipulating some of our most powerful myths.

(17) BAD LUCK. Wrong place, wrong time? A civilian’s frustration at trying to shoot the demolition of the Georgia Dome — “‘Move bus, get out the way!'” (video).

An unlucky camera operator waited 40 minutes to film a stadium demolition – but was thwarted at the last moment.

(18) VIRTUAL MOVIE MUSEUM. Yourprops.com is the “free online museum for your movie props, costumes and wardrobe.” There are myriad photos of movie props (original and replica), wardrobe (original and replica costumes), production used items (crew jackets, shirts and gifts, storyboards, artwork, etc.).

For example: “The Dark Tower, Hero light up Breaker Kid’s Devartoi Watch”.

(19) WHEN NORTH MEETS EAST. At Adweek, see “Sensei Wu Saves Santa, Who Saves Christmas, in Lego’s Fun Holiday Ad”.

Lego Australia is out with a largely winsome addition to the Christmas advertising pile—a stop-motion animation about a Lego Santa finding his way home to save Christmas, thanks to a little surprise help from a spirited stranger.

The minute-long spot from CHE Proximity opens with a Lego North Pole—or Lego Christmas Town, as the brand calls it—set on a living room floor. It’s abuzz with holiday activity, when a human-Godzilla foot comes crashing down on the blissful scene, causing a specific Lego reindeer to squirt very specific Lego poop in fear—graphic sound effects included—while general catastrophe ensues everywhere.

(20) TODAY’S VIDEO. A lure to the dark side in these snippets of The Last Jedi – “Tempt.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Alan Baumler, Chris Barkley, David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

71 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/21/2017 Come On Over For Scrolled Pixel With All The Trimmings

  1. @Ann Leckie

    Yeah, no, there’s nothing at all grammatically wrong with “Where’s my car at?” Not even if you could leave “at” out of the sentence. Seriously, there just isn’t. It’s a fake rule, just as fake as the prohibition on infinitive splitting. Its use as a class-marker doesn’t magically grant it grammatical legitimacy. So, no solecism, but plenty of classism.

    Yes, a lot of things which are taught as grammar rules in the English speaking world are not actually grammar rules at all, but stylistic choices.

  2. @JJ: That doesn’t sound great. Well, before I read your comment, I read the sample and . . . it didn’t grab me. I realize it was just setting things up, but it just didn’t do anything for me (for a few reasons). I’m not totally surprised, since it seems to be YA and I’m usually not into YA.

    On the other paw, Alis Franklin’s Stormbringer, sequel to Liesmith, is 99 cents! Hey, another Meredith Moment! (TM). I haven’t read the first one yet, granted, but I liked the excerpt when I got it and have high hopes for the series, so I grabbed the sequel while it’s dirt cheap. /ramble 😉

  3. @Cora (& Ann Leckie!): and also, I’m led to believe, many of the “rules” (such as the one about not splitting infinitives) come from people who thought English should better resemble Latin. Could be wrong about that though.

  4. @Oneiros: Well, it’s pretty much impossible to split an infinitive in Latin. OK, it isn’t, nut you must make an absobloodylute effort to, as it would involve wedging one word inside another.

  5. @Cora

    Yes, a lot of things which are taught as grammar rules in the English speaking world are not actually grammar rules at all, but stylistic choices.

    Ann may write great books, but she’s giving terrible advice here, particularly for a foreign speaker. You really do not want to be saying things like “where is my car at?”

    In a technical sense, linguists don’t make grammar rules for a dialect. We “discover” them, based on what sentences native speakers do and don’t “license.” Educated English speakers do not license “where is my car at?” but we certainly recognize it as valid grammar within a substandard dialect.

    indeed, almost all “prescriptive grammar” is about identifying forms that are actually grammatically valid but only in socially disfavored dialects. The connection between dialect and class is a problem for sociology, not linguistics, so I’m no expert there, but it’s certainly very real. With very few exceptions, foreign students of English should strive to speak the educated dialect. (US and UK have slightly different educated dialects, just to make this harder.) 🙂

    The split-infinitive “rule” is a bit different. This points to the other problem with prescriptive grammar: lots of it is just plain wrong. Here we have a form that’s actually licensed by nearly 100% of educated speakers, minus a handful who have forced themselves to learn this “rule.” I sometimes think it’s the linguistic equivalent of cutting yourself with knives to prove how tough you are.

    For a very sensible take on the whole topic, I recommend The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, by Stephen Pinker.

  6. 1)

    The connection between dialect and class is a problem for sociology, not linguistics

    I get what you’re saying (linguistics is a discipline that specifically studies the mechanics of language rather than it social implications), but I think this is a can of worms statement.

    In order to even use terminology like “socially disfavoured” you need to understand the social context of the mechanisms you’re studying, and the term itself also assumes a point of view that doesn’t apply to all groups, only to groups from the dominant social class(es).

    Two for-instances: a) I’m currently reading Austin Clarke’s The Polished Hoe, which is written in a blend of a Barbadian English dialect and Standard (Canadian) English. The characters in this book who speak in the Barbadian English dialect, with a few exceptions, tend to be suspicious of the members of their community, or the non-white newcomers to their community, who don’t speak in the dialect. (In fact, one lighter-skinned Barbadian character educated in Europe, a medical doctor, makes an explicit effort to speak in a very thick version of the Barbadian dialect so as to not become alienated from his community upon his return, though it’s clear from other characters that he could speak the “educated” way if he chose.) Speaking Standard English is considered a mark against these characters, and it is a barrier to communicating with the community they hope to be accepted by.

    b) I speak Standard (Canadian) English most of the time among my friends, whore are by and large middle or upper middle class, and now at my job, which is white collar. But not with my father, and not in my hometown. I’m educated, but my family and my hometown are heavily working class, and until a year ago, all my day jobs for the last 26 years have been blue collar. In my hometown and to my father I speak in my original accent and I use different sentence structures and diction. Likewise at work, back when I was doing blue collar work. To speak in Standard English in those blue collar work situations or in my hometown would often alienate me from my fellow workers and my friends; it would impede certain kinds of career advancement and exclude me from important social situations. And my father, who is very intelligent but did not get a lot of formal education, can sometimes feel alienated from me if I don’t revert to my original speech patterns when I speak to him. I can switch back and forth pretty easily, and making my father feel comfortable around me is worth any social capital I may lose if anyone with more class-based privilege overhears (my gf likes to joke about my “hick” accent).

    Within the groups in both of my examples, Standard English is a “socially disfavoured dialect”**–but you aren’t going to label it as such because these are groups who, for reasons of race in my first example and class in my second, have less power in their societies. The terminology you are using describes the class disparities inherent these relationships, but also embodies and reinforces them, and it is incumbent on any practitioner of a discipline to understand those elements/assumptions of their discipline.

    2)

    With very few exceptions, foreign students of English should strive to speak the educated dialect.

    This is also debatable, imo. There are so many diasporas that happen for so many reasons, and for a lot of immigrants, for instance, it is as important to fit in with the local members of their diasporic communities as it is to fit in with the dominant power group–in many scenarios it’s probably more important, at least initially. I think it’s important to be adaptable, but also to feel comfortable. The political dynamics of class and race (and probably gender) saturate our language so intensely that to separate them is a lovely game, but it will make your descriptions perpetually incomplete.

    **I use “dialect” because the subgroup it’s favoured by is determined primarily by social class, and it has become “standard” because that subgroup has power to enforce its preferences over the entire community.

  7. Sorry about the typos, especially the conflated “who are”. I had to step away from my machine seconds after hitting “post”.

  8. I second Greg’s recommendation of the Pinker book, but it only scratches the surface, and I think, after some on-line searching, that Greg is still exaggerating about just how low-prestige that particular grammatical construction is.

    It seems to be primarily American, and the only notable peevologist I could turn up who complained about it was Fowler in the twenties. Fowler is, of course, British, and his main influence is on the UK. But since it’s an American construction, it’s not something Brits see very often, so they probably think of it as an odd Americanism, rather than anything particularly low-prestige, unless they’ve memorized everything Fowler ever said.

    As for American use, I find it all over the place, in contexts which definitely contradict the “low-prestige dialect” claim. I did find some peeving about it, but that mostly seemed to be from Southern US sources. So, it may be somewhat of a low-prestige marker, but mostly in the South. The rest of the country doesn’t seem to care that much.

    My conclusion: it’s something I’d probably avoid putting in my resume, but aside from that, I don’t see much reason to worry.

  9. With respect to the discussion of dialects and their grammars, I think “formal” and “informal” is much better than “standard” and “substandard”.

  10. Replying to myself & anyone else interested in this type of SF novel:

    Marina J. Lostetter’s Noumenon is $2.99 from Harper Voyager (uses DRM). This SF novel follows clones on a (multi-generational, IIRC) journey to a far star finding a “big dumb object.” This sounds super duper up my alley.

    I read the sample and I definitely want to keep reading. I can’t recommend it to others based on a short sample, I suppose, but I like where it’s going so far! Hmm, buy now and remove from wish list, hoping my other half didn’t pick it up yet . . . yes! 🙂

  11. Given that a lot of my close friends are not native English speakers, I cut people a lot of slack when it comes to grammar. Some of them want me to correct them when they get things wrong or a sentence is constructed weirdly, but I’m reluctant to pick them up on it too often. Generally, as long as someone makes themselves understood I’m cool with how they construct a sentence. I’d let a sentence like “where’s my car at?” slide because I understand perfectly well what they’re saying. If they asked me if it was grammatically correct I’d probably even say “yes, but actually it isn’t necessary to say ‘at’ in that sentence.”

  12. @Greg
    I explicitly said “what is taught as grammar rules in the English speaking world”.

    ESL speakers and students are a completely different matter. Textbooks and grammar guides aimed at them usually manage to differentiate between grammar and style. It’s only in the English speaking world, particularly in the US, that you get people obsessing over split infinitives and Oxofrd commas, people who believe that anything containing a form of “to be” is passive voice, including active progressive tenses, people who believe that adverbs should never be used and people who think that “The Elements of Style” is a grammar book rather than a style guide. Meanwhile, textbooks and grammar guides aimed at ESL speakers explain what passive voice, progressive tenses, adverbs, etc… are and how to use them correctly.

    Which variety of a language to teach is yet another issue. In Germany, high school students are still taught British English and received pronunciation, i.e. the most prestigious variety, even though the number of those speaking RP in the UK has been dwindling for decades. At least nowadays, American English is recognised as a correct, if different version of English. When I was at school, any kind of American English, no matter how standard, was inevitablly marked as a mistake. When my English teacher in 12th and 13th grade actually allowed students who had been to the US as exchange students, kids of expats, etc… to use American English, this was a huge step forward. Prior to that, even kids with American parents had to use British English only or face lower grades due to using a non-approved variety of English.

    When teaching German as a second language (and I have taught both English and German as a second language), we also default to standard high German, though some German as a second language textbooks have special editions for Austria and Switzerland, because their German is different. In my part of Germany, this is not much of a problem, because we are very close to standard high German. Though I have to tone down some regionalisms when teaching. And my GSL students frequently run into situations where they are faced with non-standard varieties of German, whether it’s “I visited someone in Cologne/Munich/Stuttgart/Leipzig and couldn’t understand anybody there” or teenagers picking up youth slang and saying, “But my German friend says it like that.”

  13. “With very few exceptions, foreign students of English should strive to speak the educated dialect.”

    Yes and no, I guess. In school, we learned British English, but I wouldn’t say it would be an “educated dialect”, as that is so deeply tied to class in England. Problem is that the speech pattern you learn as educated English sounds kind of snobbish when speaking to others. So I have noticed that as my English gets better, I tend to use less and less educated speech patterns and wording which makes it easier to talk to others and makes us all feel more comfortable.

  14. @Cora and Hampus
    You guys both speak English at the C2 level, but not many people achieve that. People trying to reach B2 (the threshold of fluency) benefit a lot from thinking that there’s only one set of grammar rules–at least as far as generating language goes.

    There’s also a difference between register and style. Register (as I’ll bet you both already know) is about how formally you’re speaking. High-register English typically does sound cold and distant, and it’s comical in the wrong context. But I hope they teach middle-register English over there.

    Style matters more for writing than anything else (so it is very important to SF fans). It’s really when an author (or a publication) makes coherent choices among a number of optional language features. E.g. “I’ll always treat ‘none’ as singular, so I’ll say ‘none is available’ not ‘none are available.'” As long as you’re consistent and don’t imagine that you’re right and everyone else is wrong, it shouldn’t be a problem.

    Perhaps it might help make things a bit clearer if I told you that the sort of people who say “where is my car at” are also the sort of people who voted for Donald Trump. 🙂

  15. Greg, what support do you have for that last statement? It sounds uncomfortably close to class or region prejudice. We know that people in every state and community voted for Trump, and people in every state and community voted for Clinton, and ditto for other candidates or not voting at all. (Except more people didn’t vote where Republicans had passed voter ID laws and similar voting barriers.)

  16. Operating on a hunch/vague memory, I searched for “yat”, and hit paydirt.

    “Yat” is a common name for one variety of New Orleans English. According to Wikipedia, the term comes from: “the local greeting, ‘Where y’at?’ or ‘Where are you at (i.e. in life)?’, which is a way of asking, ‘How are you?'”

    This does seem to confirm my earlier hypothesis that the redundant-at is somewhat Southern. Which, in turn would tend to fit with Greg’s hyperbolic claim that redundant-at users voted for Trump. Except, of course that, even in the South, Trump voters were generally rural, while the big cities mostly went for Clinton.

    Now Southern accents are widely seen as somewhat low-prestige–this is why actors and TV presenters and the like work so hard to get rid of the accent if they have one. But, while people in or near the South may see redundant-at as a Southern thing (and thus low-prestige), I don’t think people outside of the South really see it that way. It’s not as distinctively-Southern as the accent, or the word “y’all”.

  17. And, as I said, people all over the country voted for Trump. I am pretty sure I saw a stat that said a majority of white New Jersey voters voted for Trump, even though the state as a whole is pretty solidly Democratic and went for Clinton. It might have just been white men, but I don’t think so. It is not just Southerners, and also not all Southerners voted for him. Thinking so is just fooling ourselves.

  18. @Lenore Jones: totally agree. I didn’t mean to suggest that Greg’s claim was justified. Merely that it may fit certain stereotypes.

  19. Perhaps it might help make things a bit clearer if I told you that the sort of people who say “where is my car at” are also the sort of people who voted for Donald Trump. ?

    Probably wouldn’t, since it’s not true.

  20. Perhaps it might help make things a bit clearer if I told you that the sort of people who say “where is my car at” are also the sort of people who voted for Donald Trump.

    Incorrect.

  21. Perhaps it might help make things a bit clearer if I told you that the sort of people who say “where is my car at” are also the sort of people who voted for Donald Trump.

    Yeah, no. That’s a class based assumption and the chief problem with taking an authoritative stance that is without foundation is that it looks really silly. I probably wouldn’t ask where my car is at, but that’s because I’ve only once not known (it had been towed). I would totally ask where someone else’s car is at. So would all five of my siblings, my father, and my stepmother, and only one of us voted for Trump (we treat him like the class traitor that he is).

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