Department Of, Like, Just Give It A Fancy Name, And It’ll Be, Like, Less Annoying
It’s been a noteworthy past few weeks for my podcast listening obsession hobby, with several different podcasts focusing on a subject of particular interest to moiself : language and usage.  Clear + Vivid podcast is on a roll re that topic. Yet another thought-provoking episode: English evolves, like it or not.
Podcast guest Valerie Fridland, researcher and author of Like Literally Dude: Arguing for the good in bad English, says that those likes and so’s and you knows, ahs, ums and other language tics that annoy us so much are inescapable, and actually linguistically useful. In this excerpted exchange, Fridland and C+V host Alan Alda discuss what many people decry as one of their most annoying language peeves, the use of the word, “like.”
One way that we’re using like in a new way is as an approximating adverbial.  And I think when you think about it that way it makes it sound so much more intellectual that it will convert people into like likers…
Alan Alda (laughing):
It’s so intellectual I can’t understand it….
I’m gonna break it down for you; I just want you to know that it’s doing something important.
…you got me halfway there, with the fancy name.
So when you are talking about something that you’re estimating…you need to indicate to your listeners somehow that what you’re saying – you’re not trying to be exact; you’re not trying to lie to them if you’re wrong about the number you’re giving them, but you’re just estimating. Usually in standard English we use “about” as what we call an approximating adverbial. Which would mean, I would say something like, “He’s about five years old’ or ‘it’s about twenty pounds.’ That’s an approximating adverbial – the ‘about’….
‘Like’ has simply become a new approximating adverbial: “He’s like ten pounds;” or, ‘It’s like a hundred years old.’ So ‘like’ has become a one-to-one substitution for something that’s already well-accepted and serves a purpose. It’s just not as well accepted, but it still serves that same purpose.
They chat about other linguistic topics, including vocal fry.
Your mission, if you should accept it, is to show me why that (accepting vocal fry) is a good thing.
I want to clarify something: none of these are better necessarily than things we used to do, they’re just different. That that’s basically the evolution of language…. Things don’t necessarily change because they’re better, they change because there is a cognitive desire or an articulatory desire from our evolutionary standpoint to move that direction and a social trigger to make it happen.
And although I understand Fridland’s defense of language evolution, why do certain evolutions – vocal fry, as a prime example – have to be so effin’ annoying? In moiself’s opinion, it’s like the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard. Speaking of which….
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Department Of Good And Bad Anticipations
Good anticipation: a family wedding later this month.
Bad anticipation: the probable harangue/entreaties for those attending to participate in extended family photos. Not a big deal for many folk, and perhaps even anticipated by those in the selfie-obsessed/must-document-every-moment-of-ME crowd. However, such entreaties are the equivalents of fingernails on a chalkboard for those of us who are fotografizophobic. ®
And no, we’re not just camera shy.
It’s not the lack of “fear” which bothers moiself about (some) photographers, it’s their lack of boundaries. Exemplified by the person – whom I had just met and who thus falls into the virtual stranger ® category – who, long ago in a galaxy far far away, actually told me, when they’d asked me to be in a picture they were taking and I politely declined, that they were “offended” by me not wanting them to take my picture.
The subject came up after a trip many years MH and daughter Belle and I made, to visit son K in college. I’ll let moiself explain as per a previous blog several years ago:
Saturday night, after dropping off K at his dorm, Belle, MH & I had dinner at Pomodoro, in Tacoma’s Procter district. Not long after we were seated Belle removed her sketch pad and pencils from her purse. She and MH were seated across from me, and Belle looked in my direction as she began to sketch. I turned around to see if perhaps a cute waiter or bus boy was lurking behind me. Nope. This put me into a rather mild existential panic. I tried my best not to sound like a bad Robert DeNiro imitation as I asked, “Are you sketching *me*?”
“Yes,” Belle replied. “Hold still.”
I didn’t hold still. None of us held still. We were doing restaurant-things: eating, drinking, lifting napkins to our mouths, answering questions from our server, as well as allegedly conversing with one another. Belle said nothing more, but from her heavy sighs and eyebrow gymnastics it was apparent that she was disappointed with my lack of stillness, and other attributes that render me unfit for sketching.
I do not translate well to photos. I am not a still life, and loathe having my picture taken in any form and for any cause. The reasons for this are not particularly complicated or interesting; they are known to those supposedly closest to me, and in a kind and just world (calling Mr. Rogers!) would be respected, even if not “understood.” This is rarely the case.
From the POV of a fotografizophobic  when people gaze at you intently and allegedly dispassionately, judging the contours (read: inadequacies) of your bone structure and other facial features, hearing them say, “Hold still so I can sketch you/take your picture” is the emotional equivalent of hearing, “Hold still so that I may throw acid in your face.”
Unsolicited, adult-to-adult advice: when any sentient being declines to have their picture taken by you, respect their wishes and move on. Do not whine and wheedle; do not attempt any form of emotional blackmail ( “The family reunion shot will be ruined if you’re not in it, and who knows if Uncle Anus will live long enough to attend the next one!” ). Unless I am renewing my driver’s license and you are the DMV camera dude, or you are the hospital’s medical photographer sent to document my Mayo Clinic-worthy, bulbous axillary tumor, back off. It’s that simple.
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Department Of New Things To Think About
Moiself had a pull-over-to-the-curb moment  last week, the kind that made me all tingly inside.
Relax, Countess, it’s not that kind of tingly.
It’s the even better kind, prompted by the realization of This is something I’ve rarely – if ever – thought about before.
This was thanks to a recent Clear + Vivid podcast: Susan Goldin-Meadow: Thinking with your hands. From the podcast teaser:
Decades spent studying the way we use our hands when we talk has convinced Susan Goldin-Meadow that not only do gestures help our listeners understand us; gestures help us understand ourselves. They help us think, and as children, even to learn.
Susan Goldin-Meadow is a Professor in of Psychology, Comparative Human Development, and Education at the University of Chicago. Her specialties and areas of research include exploring the impact of environmental and biological variation on language development – such as homesign, the unique, gestural languages created by children who lack language input (e.g. deaf children born to hearing parents who do not sign). She is also fascinated by how our own gestures help us think and learn and communicate above and beyond the spoken word.
We’ve all made the jokes about other people – or in moiself’s case, I’ve both made the jokes and have had them applied to moiself – about people who “talk with their hands.”  As in, those who tend to gesture when talking, especially when telling stories or speaking with resolution and passion. I tend to do this, and those who have pointed this out to me usually follow their observation with one of two attributions:
“It’s due to your Irish blood!”
(Yep; 50% on both sides of the family)
“You *must* be Italian!”
(Scusa; not a drop).
But I’ve never considered what place gestures and gesticulating plays in language (nor extensively thought about the fact that gesturing as a form of communication likely preceded both oral and written language), or that studying this fascinating topic is even an academic thing.
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Department of Employee Of The Month
It’s that time again, to bestow that prestigious award upon…moiself. Again. The need for which I wrote about here. 
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Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week 
“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what?”
( Stephen Fry, British English actor, broadcaster, comedian, director and writer. )
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May you have happy reasons for pull-over-to-the-curb moments;
May you keep your fingernails away from chalkboards;
May you refrain from vocal frying “like” within earshot of moiself;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 (as moiself wrote about last week).
 Approximating adverbials are “…used to show that something is almost, but not completely, accurate or correct: ‘The trip takes approximately seven hours. The two buildings were approximately equal in size. The flight takes approximately three hours.’ ” Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries.
 Fotografizophobia is the fear of having your picture taken.
 Well, except for the fact that I was not driving.
 but *not* referring to people who actually communicate with their hands; i.e., deaf and hearing impaired people who use ASL.
 Several years ago, MH received a particularly glowing performance review from his workplace. As happy as I was for him when he shared the news, it left me with a certain melancholy I couldn’t quite peg. Until I did. One of the many “things” about being a writer (or any occupation working freelance at/from home) is that although you avoid the petty bureaucratic policies, bungling bosses, mean girls’ and boys’ cliques, office politics and other irritations inherent in going to a workplace, you also lack the camaraderie and other social perks that come with being surrounded by your fellow homo sapiens. No one praises me for fixing the paper jam in the copy machine, or thanks me for staying late and helping the new guy with a special project, or otherwise says, Good on you, sister. Once I realized the source of the left-out feelings, I came up with a small way to lighten them.
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org