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Language Log

Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012 - 6:42 a.m.

I don't suppose I have much to say today, either. Music class with Q went a bit better, just a bit. She smiled a lot when we first went in, and actually sat down with me in the circle, before retreating in protest when the jingles were handed out. From there on she kind of laid down on the floor and then jumped up again and looked at herself in the mirror, on an endless repeat broken only if someone offered her something or addressed her directly.

It's not that I want her to automatically do what everyone else is doing, I just want her to have the capacity to do so when she wants to. Anyway, self control and social norms and whatnot. I've seen for myself what happens when someone does not simply reject social norms, but actually has not ever learned them. It's cringe-worthy.

But I find myself using the "hey, everyone's doing X" argument to try to encourage her to participate, even though that's not really an argument I want her to ever find compelling in and of itself. Gotta find a new tactic.

Geoff Nunberg has a new book on the word "asshole", and the rise of assholism generally. I'm looking forward to reading it. One review I read mentioned that he makes the following two points (among others):
a)that an asshole is always something someone else is, few self-identify as such b) but there are lots of people out there publicly performing assholism. I find these two observations rather incompatible, want to see how he reconciles them. Also a nice mention of the "I know this isn't politically correct, but..." speech act, whereby people portray themselves as having folksy common sense, courage, and etc etc, while trying to absolve themselves of simply being assholes.

Anyway, yeah. Trying not to act like an asshole (while still reserving the right to be unapologetically selfish and inconsiderate at times) is one of my guiding principles in life, so I'm pretty interested in the analysis. Also, frankly a bit surprised that I haven't thought about it more closely before. It really flew under the radar (as so many interesting things do).

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