Obese? Smoker? No Retirement Savings? Blame the language you speak

Study suggests that if your language’s syntax blurs the difference between today and tomorrow as do, say, Chinese and German then you are more likely to save money, quit smoking, exercise and otherwise prepare for times to come.

On the other hand, if you have three dollars in your IRA and a big credit-card balance, it’s a safer bet you speak English or Hausa or Greek or some other language that forces speakers to distinguish present from future.

The point is not that some peoples are futureless—all human beings understand the difference between today and next year just fine, no matter what tongue they speak. But languages, as the linguist Roman Jakobson observed, differ in what they require speakers to think about.

via Big Think.

Declarative sentences: on speaking with conviction

with, like, you know, interrogative intonation.

In an earlier post, Mali talks about what teachers make.

Interrogative Intonation

“People who fondly imagine themselves the subjects of their ‘own’ choices entirely will, in reality, be the most manipulated subjects, and the most incapable of being influenced by goodness and beauty. This is why, in the affluent Anglo-Saxon West today, there is so much pervasively monotonous ugliness and tawdriness that belies its wealth, as well as why there are so many people adopting (literally) the sing-song accent of self-righteous complacency and vacuous uniformity, with its rising lilt of a feigned questioning at the end of every phrase. This intonation implies that any overassertion is a polite infringement of the freedom of the other, and yet at the same time its merely rhetorical interrogation suggests that the personal preference it conveys is unchallengeable, since it belongs within the total set of formally correct exchange transactions. Pure liberty is pure power – whose other name is evil.”

via Peter J. Leithart.

The present political chaos is connected with the decay of language

One ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself.

Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change ones own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase — some jackboot, Achilles heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin, where it belongs.

via George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946.

If words fall into disrepair, what will substitute?

via Tony Judt:

We speak and write badly because we don’t feel confident in what we think and are reluctant to assert it unambiguously.

Management abuses of language increase “exponentially”

via FT.com:

The word “exponential” has taken a lot of abuse from managers who use it to describe any growth that is more than sluggish. Whereas in maths an exponential graph goes swiftly from almost flat to almost vertical, this pattern is seldom traced by any market I’ve ever come across.

But now the term seems to have slipped free of its mathematical moorings altogether: living “exponentially” involves having “quality time with yourself” and “living in your own truth”.

Speaking from the vantage point of my own truth, I find some things are truer than others. Truest of all are mathematical truths, and it is therefore upsetting to see them being pilfered shamelessly by innumerate managers eager to lend an aura of fact to what is usually a glob of guff.

You know you have learned a new language when…

I very soon became able to understand a great deal without (even mentally) translating it; I was beginning to think in Greek. That is the real Rubicon to cross in learning any language.

Those in whom the Greek word lives only while they are hunting for it in the lexicon, and who then substitute the English word for it, are not reading Greek at all; they are only solving a puzzle.

The very formula, “Naus means a ship,” is wrong. Naus and ship both mean a thing, they do not mean one another. Behind Naus, and behind navis or naca, we want to have a picture of a dark, slender mass with sail or oars, climbing the ridges, with no officious English word intruding.

via Beginning to Think in Greek.