March 1, 2008

The Verbal Self-Defense Newsletter

Volume 9, Issue 2 -- March/April 2008

The Verbal Self-Defense Newsletter (available by e-mail only) is written and published every other month by Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D. (linguistics), from the Ozark Center for Language Studies (OCLS), PO Box 1137, Huntsville, AR 72740-1137. For additional information, please e-mail

In This Issue: Editor's Note; Network Input; Quotes & Comments; Language & Wellness Update; Cyberspace; Communicating and Miscommunicating Across the "Gaps"; Touch Dominance Update

#Editor's Note

Thank you for all the excellent materials you've been sending my way, that have made this issue so crowded; it's been hard to decide what to use and what to leave out. I'm grateful.

#Network Input

1. Excerpt from a long and thoughtful e-mail sent by Diana Cook:

"You wrote in a current newsletter that people who have their posts deleted feel rewarded and will send more posts in order to receive the reward again (or possibly because it's rewarding to believe that they have irritated someone with whom they disagree?).

"I have found that people who receive criticism in online discussion groups sometimes post more frequently. I know of one case where a woman was told that her posts were inappropriate. She told me that she hated that reaction to her post and was going to post more frequently in protest at what she regarded as unfair criticism. In my experience, the criticism of a post often causes a reaction of shame. In order to undo the shame, the person must then keep posting to convince the group that they were right all along. The group gets entrapped by the argument which takes over the discussion with each side trying to justify its position. So the increased frequency is to avoid shame rather than to enjoy the reward of getting deleted. The shame can then be partially avoided by provoking the deletion 'on purpose,' proving how unfair the moderator is. ... In one case that I know of, the person whose posts got deleted filled up the answering machine of the doctor who refused to answer her posts. This act seemed to be a desperate act to restore the former relationship rather than response to a reward. (Actually, in this case, the person was told that their posts would never get published because they had violated the list standards. None of their posts got deleted, but none got published after that.)"

2. From Anita Morgan...

"I'm having a hard time imagining how to say some of the verbal attack patterns without them being an attack. Even without abnormal accents, 'Even a woman should be able to...' seems like an attack to me. Perhaps I hear the abnormal stresses in my mind whether they're spoken or not. I'd be interested in your thoughts on this."

**Anita is correct in her perception that the "Even a(n)..." sequences tend to sound hostile even [there's that word again] when every effort is made to give them a neutral intonation. I agree that it's difficult to construct examples that are plausibly non-hostile; however, they do exist. For example, suppose you have a friend whose native language is Spanish and who is distressed because she has found several typographical errors in a paper that she wrote in English. You could then say this sentence, and its emotional message would be comfort rather than hostility:

"Even someone who is a native speaker of English is likely to make a typographical error once in a while."

It's important to be _very_ careful with all "Even a(n)..." sequences, because it's so common for them to be heard as hostile, no matter what's intended.

#Quotes & Comments

1. My thanks to Stephen Marsh for sending me a copy of Quinn McKay's book _The Bottom Line On Integrity: 12 Principles For Higher Returns_ (Gibbs Smith 2004). I'm going to quote here from Chapter 6 (pp. 70-84), titled "Moral Ethics vs. Gaming Ethics," and comment briefly.

On page 71: "One of the fundamental ethical problems in our society is that everyone carries around two different, distinct -- and legitimate -- sets of ethical standards. I don't mean a good one and a bad one, just two different, valid and morally defensible, commonly accepted standards."

On page 73: "In sports, it is quite clear that abiding by 'gaming ethics' -- misleading, taking advantage and stealing -- is quite appropriate. The problem is where else in life are gaming ethics accepted?"

McKay points out that when people on opposing sides of any issue fail to understand that both of these kinds of ethics are in common use in our culture and can be defended, the result is almost inevitably misunderstanding and confusion. In a number of my verbal self-defense books I have discussed this same issue, and have pointed out its most serious pitfall: when people basing their behavior on moral ethics conclude that people they're interacting with who are basing their behavior on gaming ethics are doing so because they simply have no moral principles. Once that has happened, communication between the two sides breaks down completely and a satisfactory resolution of the situation becomes unlikely, if not impossible. Someone who believes that a colleague has inflated the sales figures in a presentation because the colleague believes that that's "the way the game is played" has a different perception of what's going on than someone whose perception is that the colleague has inflated the figures because he or she is a liar. It's not necessary to approve of what the colleague does, but there's a vast gulf between perceiving that colleague as a team player and perceiving him or her as a liar.

Where I part company with McKay is on page 81, where he says the following:

"Besides these two major sets of ethics, businesspeople may want to consider one more set of ethical standrds, 'business ethics.' This set can also be called 'ethics for profit' or 'amoral ethics.' ... Basicallly, this position suggests that businesses should abide by the laws of the land, but beyond that should not be held to a typical moral code. Instead, they should be held responsible for making a profit -- period."

2. I want to recommend to you Hector Tobar's _Translation Nation: Defining A New American Identity In the Spanish-Speaking United States_ [Riverhead/Penguin 2005], as a source of invaluable information for crosscultural communication. Here's a quote from page 246, to give you the flavor:

"Gloria Romero's father gave her the spark of the civic ideal and taught her the rudimentary skills of 'organization,' the art by which you could unite people in spite of those aspects of human nature that tend to divide and isolate them. ... _[And Tobar asks Romero: 'Do you remember the moment of your civic awakening?']_ I asked the question because I wanted to understand the force that moved people to that first act against apathy, and how they came to believe that they could participate in their own governance. Faced with an unpaved road or any of the other multiple injustices and inequalities of life in American immigrant communities and barrios... ... most people choose to do nothing."

#Language & Wellness Update

1. Thanks to Diana Cook and Douglas Dee for sending me the 1/22/08 _New York Times_ story by Roni Caryn Rabin titled "In the Fatosphere, Big Is In, or at Least Accepted," at . Which tells the reader:

"Blogs written by fat people -- and it's fine to use the word, they say -- have multiplied in recent months, filling a virtual soapbox known as the fatosphere, where bloggers calling for fat acceptance challenge just about everything conventional medical wisdom has to say about obesity. Smart, sassy and irreverent, bloggers with names like Big Fat Deal, FatChicksRule and Fatgrrl ("Now with 50 percent more fat!") buck anti-obesity sentiment. They celebrate their full figures and call on reader to accept their bodies, quit dieting and get on with life."

And "Fat acceptance bloggers contend that the war on obesity has given people an excuse to wage war on fat people and that health concerns -- coupled with the belief that fat people have only themselves to blame for being fat -- are being used to justify discrimination that would not be tolerated toward just about any other group of people."

2. The 1/28/08 issue of _Time_ (pp. 73-76) had a story by Lori Oliwenstein titled "Marry Me," about the health benefits of a reasonably happy marriage, which Oliwenstein proposes can be summed up as an effective system for managing _stress_. And she offers this excellent explanation, on page 75:

"Stress puts into motion a biological cascade involving hormones, glands and neural circuits, all activating one another in a complex feedback loop. When [you're under stress], the hypothalamus -- a structure buried deep in the midbrain -- tells your adrenal gland to pump out a supply of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol, in turn, tells your body to stop worrying about its basic metabolic needs and instead to 'do the things you need to do to save yourself from whatever created the stress,' says University of Virginia neuroscientist James Coan."

"That's great," Oliwenstein notes, "if you're fleeing an attacking bear." It means that your heart rate and breathing rate speed up, your muscles tense up, and your whole body goes on red alert. "But such an energy-intensive system is designed to be used only in brief bursts; you either escape the bear or get eaten by it, but either way the crisis ends. The daily stresses of the modern world can throw our bodies into emergency mode and keep us there." Which is destructive for the body and the mind and the spirit. But "Being married somehow helps the body circumvent this mess, either by hushing the hypothalamus or reducing cortisol production."

The bad news appears on page 76, where we learn that "the stress of a bad marriage can undo much of the good that comes with a happy one" and that "negative marital interactions" not only mess up your health but mess it up more severely for women than for men.

The only mechanism for building the kind of good marriage this article describes as a "health insurance policy," and for repairing -- or at least improving -- a bad one, is human language.

3. To balance item #2, we have "A Bad Relationship Can Cause Heart Attack: Study," by Michael Kahn, at . Sample:

"Love really can break your heart. This study found that '...the stress and anxiety of hostile, angry relationships can boost the risk of developing heart disease. Chances of a heart attack or chest pain rose by 34 percent compared to people on good terms with a spouse or partner.... When the researchers stripped out risk factors such as obesity, smoking, drinking and family history, the chance of a heart attack was still 23 percent higher.' You're much better off alone than in a bad relationship..."

[See also "Study of Relationship Negativity," at , and "Study: Anxiety may be bad for your heart," by Lauran Neergaard, at .]

4. From "The Brain Is Harmed By Chronic Pain," at, sent by Cindy Brown:

"Researchers found that in a healthy brain all the regions exist in a state of equilibrium. When one region is active, the others quiet down. But in people with chronic pain, a front region of the cortext mostly associated with emotion 'never shuts up,' said Dante Chialvo, lead author and associate research professor of physiology... 'The areas that are affected fail to deactivate when they should.' They are stuck on full throttle, wearing out neurons and altering their connections to each other."

5. had a brief story by Meredith F. Small on 1/25/08, titled "The Dark Story of Human Empathy." Small writes about the aftermath of having her house burglarized, when she discovered that she doesn't seem to be able to stop talking about the trauma of that experience, and that anyone who gives her even the casual opening of "How are you?" is going to have to hear her tell its story. She thought people would back away, but they didn't. "Instead," she says, "they listened. Everyone really listened. And to my shock, each person responded with a similarly upsetting story... And that's empathy." Empathy, she says, "is about feeling badly when others feel badly, feeling it in the gut and then giving a look that says, 'I know just how you feel.' Empathy, she says, isn't "designed to share happiness," because hearing someone tell a story about good news only makes the listener jealous, while hearing a story of an awful event brings only a surge of "fear that it might happen to you as well."

If Meredith Small is even partly right about this, she is pointing out another aspect of the larger mystery of why human beings are so much more at ease with negative things than with positive ones. Why is it that when others tell us a story about having had something _wonderful_ happen in their lives, we don't immediately feel a surge of hope that that might happen to us as well?

6. Thanks to Cindy Brown for sending me two stories of recently "discovered" mental illnesses.....

a. Bruce E. Levine says "Many talk show hosts think I'm kidding when I mention oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)" and assures us that it's "an official mental illness" and a very popular diagnosis for young patients today. "The official symptoms of ODD include 'often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules' and 'often argues with adults.' " You can read all about it in "How Teenage Rebellion Has Become a Mental Illness," at .

b. And then there's "posttraumatic embitterment disorder" (PTED), described in an article by in the 1/08 issue of _Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics_. "The term 'posttraumatic embitterment disorder' (PTED) was recently introduced to describe a subtype of adjustment disorders, characterized by prolonged embitterment, severe additional psychopathological symptoms and great impairment in most areas of life in reaction to a severe negative but not life threatening event." See "When Stress Makes You Bitter: The Embitterment Disorder," at .

7. "A half-hour argument with your lover can... slow your body's ability to heal by at least a day. In couples who regularly argue, that healing time is doubled again. Researchers at Ohio State University discovered this by testing married couples with a suction device that created tiny blisters on their arm. When couples were then asked to talk about an area of disagreement that provoked strong emotions, the wounds took around 40 per cent longer to heal. This response, say researchers, was caused by a surge in cytokines -- immune-molecules that trigger inflammation. Chronic high levels of these are linked to arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer."

This is from a 12/14/07 article by Anastasia Stephens titled "How Your Mood Affects Your Health" that provides a useful basic overview, with headers like "Having an Argument," "Falling in Love," "Hiding Your Irritation," "Breaking Down in Tears," and more, ending with "Mood medicine: how to manage your emotions." Despite the fact that it doesn't provide information needed to get to the original research study reports, it's a sensible and useful brief introduction to the topic, and I recommend it; you'll find it online at .

8. My thanks to the Kinast-Porters for sending "On the Same Wavelength With The Doctor," by Jane E. Brody, online at . [Note: That's a numeral one, in the URL, not an L.]

Brody certainly has the right idea, and admirable intentions. She explains to us that "Medicine is not what it used to be" and that most doctors no longer "have the luxury of spending half an hour or more with each patient." "To meet rising costs," she writes, doctors are having to "cram more patients" into their schedules, so that "appointments are rarely more than 15 minutes apart" and the patient visits are typically "7 to 15 minutes."

Which means, she says reasonably enough, that you need to be well prepared to make very good use of those precious 7 to 15 minutes. For example....

"Arrive with a complete list of all the prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements you take, including dosages and dosing schedules. Also have the names, mail and e-mail addresses and telephone numbers of the other doctors you see... Write a list of your symptoms, their nature and frequency, and anything else you may have noticed about them, including what may relieve them. Make a list of questions and concerns, and put them in order of priority so the most important ones are dealt with. ... Bring paper and pen to write down what the doctor says... When dealing with a complex or serious medical question, take along a trusted relative or friend who can provide a second set of ears and record what the doctor says. That person may also think of other important concerns or questions to ask."

Brody does not explain what to do about the overwhelmingly obvious fact that if you follow her suggestions it will take the doctor 15 minutes just to read the written materials that you brought with you, or to listen to you go through those materials aloud, even if your trusted relative or friend doesn't think of any other important concerns or questions that should be added.

9. My thanks to the Chapins for a copy of "Resentment Kills" [in Constance Holden's "Random Samples" feature], on page 551 of the 2/1/08 issue of _Science_. It's a brief account of a study of 192 married couples identified as either "suppressors" or "expressers" of anger; the opening sentence is "Bottling up anger can shorten your life, an unusual long-term study of married couples in Michigan concludes." The researchers "tracked mortality in the couples over 17 years, controlling for age, smoking, weight, blood pressure, education and heart and lung problems. Among couples in which both members were anger suppressors, the mortality rate was twice that of the other groups combined." Lead researcher Ernest Harburg "adds that two anger suppressors seem to have a synergistically morbid effect on each other."

I haven't had an opportunity to read the source article in the 1/08 issue of the _Journal of Family Communication_, but I'm reasonably certain that it doesn't recommend constant verbal combat as the alternative to suppressing anger. Unfortunately, the media have latched on to that aspect; see, for example "Couples Who Express Anger Live Longer," just above a second headline reading "Spouses Who Fight Live Longer," at . In this article, Harburg is quoted as follows:

"The key matter is, when the conflict happens, how do you resolve it? When you don't, if you bury your anger, and you brood on it and you resent the other person or the attacker, and you don't try to resolve the problem, then you're in trouble."

That's absolutely true; festering anger is poison. But the alternative is honest and open discussion to resolve the conflict, not an endless series of screaming matches. See "Mutual Resentment in Marriage Can Be Deadly," by Randy Dotinga, at , which offers a more useful interpretation. Dotinga writes: "Experts say the secret to a long marriage is communication, and new research now notes it's also the key to a long life. A lengthy study of Midwestern couples finds that those who felt free to express their feelings lived longer than the perenially resentful. ... 'The worst thing to do is to keep it in, not talk about the problem, brood about it, and be continuously angry,' said study author Ernest Harburg... 'Not talking about the problems in your close relationship is not good for your longevity.' "


1. From "Skin Deep," a 1/24/08 _NY Times_ article on ageism at :

"Many people would shun a book if it were titled 'How Not to Look Jewish' or 'How Not to Look Gay' because to cater to discrimination is to capitulate to it. But the success of 'How Not to Look Old' indicates that popular culture is willing to buy into ageism as an acceptable form of prejudice, even against oneself."

_How Not to Look Old_ is by Charla Krupp, identified as "a former beauty director at _Glamour_"; its jacket tells us that "Looking hip is not just about vanity anymore, it's critical to every woman's personal and financial survival."

I recommend reading this entire article, with its very sorry message; my thanks to Douglas Dee for alerting me to it.

2. I want to include here just one quote from a review on Linguist List for 1/17/08, at . The review, written by Luisa Granato, is of Claudia Caffi's book, _Mitigation_, published in 2007 by Elsevier. Granato writes:

"The introduction sets up basic ideas on which Caffi's theory is built: style is inherent in the use of language and neutral expressions only exist in the linguist's mind. Real people in real life modulate their language to fit the needs of the moment."

[If you are interested in the topic of mitigation, you may want to read the entire review; I found it very useful and informative. There's much valuable material here. Full disclosure, however: The review is written in technical language, without definitions of terms, and the language that Caffi analyzed -- a set of psychotherapist/patient interviews -- is Italian, not English.]

3. From "The Next Big Idea: Can Advertising Save Our Schools?", by Tim Heffernan, online at best-brightest-2007/advertising1207 , about a project of economist Roland Fryer's:

"His task: to raise the quality of the city's poorly performing, generally minority-dominated schools to the levels seen in more affluent, generally whiter neighborhoods. His idea: Turn educational achievement into a brand and market it to minority students as successfully as sneaker companies, video-game makers, and hip-hop clothing labels have marketed their stuff. Fryer was, in part, inspired by the innovative work of marketing genius David Droga..."

The idea Droga has proposed "aims to make education cool by turning something that's cool already -- a cell phone -- into a tool for education."

Please read this; it's brilliant. It might _work_.

4. There's an excellent post at Language Log [http:// ] about the ongoing law enforcement practice of claiming that certain patterns of speech will tell an interrogator that the speaker is lying. For example, there's the claim that "in sexual assault cases, especially when the suspect alleges that the sexual contact was consensual, investigators should listen carefully for the absence of the pronoun, _we_." Recommended.

5. Also recommended: The online open access journal _CADAAD_ [Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis Across Disciplines], at . There's a link to the current issue, to back issues, and to a useful glossary of terms. Here's a sample from the abstract for Donna L. Lillian's "Modality, Persuasion and Manipulation in Canadian Conservative Discourse":

"The present paper focuses specifically on the use of modal auxiliaries in two political texts. The first text, 'Beyond Greed: A Traditional Conservative Confronts Neoconservative Excess," is by Hugh Segal... the second, "The War Against the Family," is by William D. Gairdner... Using the data obtained through this analysis, I argue that Segal's writing constitutes persuasion, whereas Gairdner's constitutes manipulation."

I haven't yet had time to read this paper, but I'm looking forward to it.

6. I suppose it was inevitable.... See "The Secret of Obama's Success and Why He'll Keep Winning -- He Listens to George Lakoff," at . I respectfully disagree. In my opinion, Obama has been listening to topnotch Southern preachers, not George Lakoff.

7. Cyberplaces to visit: A comic strip about different types of learning, at , sent by Kathe Rauch; a lengthy and detailed discussion between Bill Moyers and Kathleen Hall Jamieson of political language in the context of gender, and especially with regard to candidates who are female, at , recommended by Wib Smith and by me ; "What 'Psychopath' Means," by Scott O Lilienfeld and Hal Arkowitz, at ; a really fine article titled "The Failure of Normality," by Andrew Ferguson, at , suggested by LJ-er libertarianhawk; and "Four Reasons to Use the War Metaphor with Caution," by Jayne Docherty, at , suggested by Stephen Marsh.

#Communicating and Miscommunicating Across the "Gaps"

1. The Gender Gap

a. "America soon will decide whether to elect its first female president. And amid a techno-media landscape where the wall between private vitriol and public debate has been reduced to rubble, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is facing an onslaught of open misogynistic expression." For example... "On his MSNBC show, Tucker Carlson says, 'There's just something about her that feels castrating, overbearing and scary"...

This is from "Hillary hatred finds its misogynistic voice," by Jonathan Tilove, at . It contains numerous examples like the one from Tucker Carlson, and reports that when Kathleen Hall Jamieson went searching the Net for racist hostile language directed at Barack Obama she found "the raw sexism being directed at Clinton far more common and virulent."

My thanks to Erin Palicki for sending the copy.

See also Jamison Foser's article carefully chronicling the long list of negative statements about Hillary Clinton that has come from MSNBC's Chris Matthews, at .

[Matthews' behavior is a strange phenomenon, and very interesting to me as a linguist. My reading of his nonverbal communication is that when he says these sexist things -- about, or in some cases directly _to_, Clinton, or any other woman -- his words are in total conflict with his inner feelings. All his bodyparl, to my mind, contradicts the words he's saying. (Unlike Rush Limbaugh's recent query asking us "Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?" -- sent to me by Margaret Carter -- which I'm sure was absolutely sincere and congruent.) If I'm right (and I certainly may not be), Matthews' sexist talk is a deliberate strategy that he uses to create controversy, drive up ratings, and keep his "Hardball" show moving at the breakneck pace he prefers. He says equally hostile things about men; he constantly interrupts other people and talks over the top of what they're saying and cuts them off, whatever their gender. I think the man is faking. But that doesn't make his words any less offensive.]

b. Recently I came across an article excerpt [online at ] by Kimberly C. Elliott titled "Subverting the rhetorical construction of enemies through worldwide enfoldment." From the abstract:

"While citizens of nations attacked by invading armies require little persuasion to support fighting in their defense, governments seeking public support for their wars of aggression must construct their enemies rhetorically. Prescribed notions of 'the enemy' constructed with dehumanizing language exploit the superficial understandings that citizens may have of others. An international application of Sally Miller Gearhart's conceptualization of a feminized thetoric called enfoldment is proposed as a means for subverting the rhetorical construction of enemies."

Of "enfoldment," Elliott writes:

"Nobody gets hurt. Enfoldment employs no sharp edges. One might ask, 'How can we change the future to a female one without cutting anything?' Rhetorically, we just wrap it up, everything, that is, in our inclusive enfoldment, and add some warm, soft, nurturing parts."

I went looking for the paper in which Gearhart originally proposed the concept of rhetorical enfoldment, and -- because it doesn't seem to be online anywhere -- I wrote to her to ask for a copy. I'm happy to be able to report that she found me a Ditto copy [very purple, yes] and says that the paper will be posted at her website before long. It's titled "The Womanization of Rhetoric," and it appeared in _Women's Studies International Quarterly_ in 1979. Here's a sample:

"Preachers, lawyers, and politicians may congratulate themselves that they are men of reason who have chosen civilized discourse above fighting. Yet where the intent is to change another, the difference between a persuasive metaphor and a violent artillery attack is obscure and certainly one of degree rather than of kind. Our national discourse, presumably such an improvement over war and barbarism, turns out to be in itself a subtle form of Might Makes Right. Speech and rhetoric teachers have been training a competent breed of weapons specialists who are skilled in emotional maneuvers, expert in intellectual logistics and, in their attacks upon attitude and belief systems, blissfully ignorant of their violation of nature or her processes."

I don't pretend to understand how "enfoldment" would be practiced; I do very much admire the term. And I do understand Gearhart's first sentence, which is: "My indictment of our discipline of rhetoric springs from my belief that any intent to persuade is an act of violence." There was a turbulent discussion of this topic at my LiveJournal blog not long ago, with many comments hotly objecting to my claim that persuasive language from someone expert in such language and rhetorically powerful is just as much a form of coercion as any physical form of coercion. [You'll find links to several of the posts and comments in that discussion at .]

c. From a Book Notice on Linguist List on 1/14/08, for Deborah Cameron's new book, _The Myth of Mars and Venus: Do Men and Women Really Speak Different Languages?_ (Oxford University Press):

"Ambitious in scope and exceptionally accessible, 'The Myth of Mars and Venus' tells it like it is: widely accepted attitudes from the past and from other cultures are at heart related to assumptions about language and the place of men and women in society; and there is as much similarity and variation within each gender as between men and women, often associated with social roles and relationships. ... Arguing that what linguistic differences there are between men and women are driven by the need to construct and project personal meaning and identity, Cameron concludes that we have an urgent need to think about gender in more complex ways than the prevailing myths and stereotypes allow."

What she said.

2. The Generation Gaps

a. From "The New Generation Gap: An Internet Away," in the 2/8/08 _PEN Weekly NewsBlast_, about a PBS documentary titled "Growing Up Online":

"The documentary also notes a profound generational disconnect, perhaps the greatest American generation gap since rock & roll. Caitlin McNally, who graduated from college in 2003 and served as an associate producer, found that the only way to folow up with a kid was through a text message or social networking site. She could place call after call and send e-mail upon e-mail and receive no response, but with a text, a response would ping back within minutes. McNally sees writing an e-mail for this generation as akin to what a handwritten letter was for her generation, and she finished college not even five years ago."

The item also claims that teachers now have had to become entertainers, because there's no way today's students are going to pay attention to "someone who speaks in a monotone voice with a piece of chalk in their hand." [Note: Students only paid attention to the monotoners in the past if they were desperate for a particular grade or desperate to get a particular course on their transcript. But I do know what the writer means. It's worse now than it used to be.]

URLs with this item are , and .

2. Recommended: "The Boomers Had Their Day, Make Way for the Millenials," by Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, in the 2/3/08 _Washington Post_, online at ; my thanks to Patricia Mathews for the copy. Sample:

"Millennials' political style is also similar to the GI generation's. They aren't confrontational or combative, the way boomers... have been. Nor does the millennials' rhetoric reflect the cynicism and alienation of Generation X, whose philosophy is 'Life sucks, and then you die.' Instead, their political style reflects their generation's constant interaction with hundreds, if not thousands, of 'friends' on MySpace or Facebook, about any and all subjects, increasingly including politics. Since they started watching 'Barney' as toddlers, the millennials have learned to be concerned for the welfare of everyone in the group and to try to find consensus, 'win-win' solutions to any problem. ... Unlike the young baby boomers, millennials want to strengthen the political system, not tear it down."

According to the article, the millenials are the "largest generation in U.S. history -- twice as large as Generation X and numbering a million more than the baby boomers."

That's good news. We _need_ a huge population that's concerned for the welfare of everyone in the group and interested in trying to find consensus. For a change.

3. The Nationality Gap

a. My thanks to LJ-er perlmonger for sending me to Stephen Fry's "Getting Overheated," at . It's long, and it's worthwhile. Fry writes:

"I was warned many, many years ago by the great Jonathan Lynn... that Americans are not raised in a tradition of debate and that the adversarial ferocity common around a dinner table in Britain is more or less unheard of in America. When Jonathan first went to live in LA he couldn't understand the terrible silences that would fall when he trashed a statement he disagreed with and said something like 'yes, but that's just arrant nonsense, isn't it? It doesn't make sense. It's self-contradictory.' To a Briton pointing out that something is nonsense... is not an attack on the person saying it -- it's often no more than a salvo in what one hopes might become an enjoyable intellectual tussle. Jonathan soon found that most Americans responded with offence, hurt or anger to this order of cut and thrust."

Fry hastens to add that he's not talking about _family_ fights, or other fights in intimate circumstances, where he's more than willing to believe that Americans are just as ferocious as Brits; he's referrring to what he calls "dinner-party conversation."

#Touch Dominance Update

[To New Members: A strong preference for the sensory system of touch is a communication problem in mainstream U.S. culture. Sight and hearing dominant people dominate our society; and everything to do with touch -- including its language -- is looked down on, leading to much interpersonal misunderstanding and conflict. We don't ask sight dominant kids to learn without looking, or ask hearing dominant kids to learn without listening, but touch dominant children constantly hear "Don't touch!" and "Keep your hands to yourself!" It's not surprising that they so often grow up hard to get along with. For this reason, we reserve space for touch dominance material in this newsletter and I try to write this section in touch language whenever possible.]

1. Three items for your touch language collection:

a. "At my first confession, the priest said, 'Wear the world like a loose garment.' I did not wear the world that way, and I'm constantly amazed when I meet people who do."

It's a comfort to have "Wear the world like a loose garment" added to my own collection. The quotation is on page 86 of "A Conversation with Mary Karr," an interview by Brennan O'Donnell, on pp. 83-95 of the Winter 2007/2008 issue of _Image_.

And from an excellent article titled "Demolition Man," written by John Lahr, about playwright Harold Pinter and his work, on pp. 54-69 of the 12/24-31/07 issue of the _New Yorker_, sent by Wib Smith:

b. On page 68: "I am writing nothing and can write nothing. I don't know why. It's a very bad feeling. I know that, but I must say I want more than anything else to fill up a blank page again, and to feel that strange thing happen, birth through fingertips."

c. On page 69: "I still have quite a bit of ferocity knocking around. It's how to embody it."

The article about Pinter is online at 2007/12/24/071224fa_fact_lahr .

2. From the "Guide to Hip-Hop Hand Gestures," at handgestures.html:

"The first rappers used hand gestures to pump up a crowd at a party. Battle rappers use their hands to visually cut down an opponent. Freestylers often use hand gestures to help them concentrate and stay flowing. Most rappers have certain gestures that they use more often than others, but the best emcees have a full arsenal of eye-catching movements that they pull out whenever their verse needs it."


"Use this guide as a reference for your knowledge, or try out the movements yourself. You might find something that sticks. ..."

3. At , you'll find the entire first chapter of Frank R. Wilson's book _The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture_, published by Pantheon. Here's a sample from the prologue...

"Each morning begins with a ritual dash through our own private obstacle course -- objects to be opened or closed, lifted or pushed, twisted or turned, pulled, twiddled, or tied, and some sort of breakfast to be peeled or unwrapped, toasted, brewed, boiled, or fried. The hands move so ably over this terrain that we think nothing of the accomplishment. Whatever your own particular early-morning routine happens to be, it is nothing short of a virtuoso display of highly choreographed manual skill."

Winston tells us that the genesis of his book was in two experiences -- his attempt as an adult to learn to play the piano, and his interactions with patients in his neurology practice who were having trouble using their hands.

4. My thanks to Cindy Brown for "Don't Just Stand There, Think: New research suggests that we think not just with our brains, but with our bodies," by Drake Bennett, in the 1/13/08 _Boston Globe_ and online at . It's about the "new model of mind" called "embodied cognition." Bennett quotes cognitive scientist Shaun Gallagher:

"In the embodied view, if you're going to explain cognition it's not enough just to look inside the brain. In any particular instance, what's going on inside the brain in large part may depend on what's going on in the body as a whole, and how that body is situated in its environment."

And he quotes George Lakoff: "If we had wheels, or moved along the ground on our bellies like snakes, math might be very different."

5. Finally, three tech items that came my way courtesy of the newsletter, with samples...

a. From "Haptics: New Software Allows User To Reach Out And Touch, Virtually," on the 1/31/08 _Science Daily_ webpage at releases/2008/01/080125233408.htm :

"A revolutionary new interface allows users to really feel virtual textiles. The system combines a specially designed glove, a sophisticated computer model and visual representation to reproduce the sensation of cloth with an impressive degree of realism. ... One global model tracks the overall properties of the material. A second, fine-resolution model then maps the actual sensation on skin."

This project (called "HAPTEX") developed "a powered exoskeleton glove with a pair of pin arrays that provide tactile sensation to two fingers. The glove gives the sensation of bending and stretching the fabric, while the pin arrays convey texture. ... Feeling is believing."

b. From " 'Retrospective Rubber' Remembers Its Old Identities," at http:// :

"The new rubber functions differently than conventional shape-memory materials by using 'sticker groups' -- hydrogen bonding groups that form temporary bonds. These sticker groups break and reform constantly. It's akin to tearing a net apart only to find that new knots have formed between different strands. When the material is stretched, new bonds form that hold the material, temporarily, in its deformed shape."

c. From "Smart 'Lego' conjures up virtual 3D twin," by Mason Inman, at :

"If you gave Lego brains, you might get something like Posey, a new hands-on way of interacting with computers... When Posey's plastic pieces are snapped together, an exact copy of the construction appears on a computer screen. Every twist of, say, a stick figure's arm is mirrored in 3D modelling software. ... 'You could put on puppet shows over the Internet,' using Posey in this way, [Michael] Weller says."