Author Topic: In the New Yorker...  (Read 609503 times)

Offline serious crayons

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #1250 on: September 06, 2015, 12:17:09 pm »
Oi! Talk about sounding "stuffy" or pompous! (Or British. ...  ;D ) "One"!

Oh, I know! That's what I meant by saying it depends on the formality of the context. Some contexts are formal enough that you can get away with it. Others are informal enough that you can use it ironically (mixing high and low diction a la David Foster Wallace). Otherwise, tread cautiously.

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Not me. I'm sure by now that usage has a long history, but to me it still looks too much like "do-nut," rather than "doe-nut." Unless I'm quoting, I'm stickin' with "doughnut."

I couldn't remember what AP Style -- which is what I usually use -- called for. i think they may have changed it in recent years, but I couldn't find the definitive answer in a quick google. I probably could if I had more time, but in the meantime, I'll go with this:

http://www.grammarunderground.com/policing-the-doughnuts-and-donuts.html

"Why does their preference matter so much? Well, to most people it doesn’t. You can choose either “donut” or “doughnut” as you prefer. (Personally, I feel it’s time to retire "doughnut." The way I see it, nothing is lost because "dough" was misleading anyway. They aren't made from dough. They're made from batter.)"

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Actually, I don't think I've ever run into that situation, but then I'm not a professional writer. I suppose the thing to do is ask what the individual prefers? (And I guess if the preference is for "they," I'd have to note that "they" is the individual's preference, even if that does sound a bit condescending.)

Yes, the thing to do at this point is to ask the individual's preference. But as more people come out as non-binary, I suspect language will reach some concensus. If "they" it is, that's fine by me.

Still, it will be grammatically challenging, at least at first. For example, let's say two people get in a car and drive away, and one is non-binary. Do you say, "Where are they going?" to refer just to the one, though it will sound like you could be referring to both. Or do you say "Where is they going?" which sounds weird to those of us who grew up matching our pronouns and verbs.

I remember when "Ms." sounded odd. Now it sounds perfectly normal; for example, my kids, the older almost 21, have always called their teachers Ms. Whatever.

I think back when Ms. was first introduced, newspapers were in some cases (probably mainly society pages) even still using "Mrs. John Smith"!!! Then newspapers went with asking individuals' preferences. Very few news outlets now use titles on second references (the NYT being the most obvious exception), except in obituaries. So it doesn't come up often, but if it did the default would be "Ms."



Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #1251 on: September 06, 2015, 02:52:24 pm »
Still, it will be grammatically challenging, at least at first. For example, let's say two people get in a car and drive away, and one is non-binary. Do you say, "Where are they going?" to refer just to the one, though it will sound like you could be referring to both. Or do you say "Where is they going?" which sounds weird to those of us who grew up matching our pronouns and verbs.

The plural verb would indicate that you mean both of them. If you only mean the non-binary person, use a singular verb and that person's name instead of the pronoun.  ;)

But with a non-binary person, why can't you use the pronoun that matches the gender the person presents as--i.e., how the person dresses--rather than getting into the person's sexual orientation? Perhaps that's not an option in a profile, but what about in "straight" news?

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I think back when Ms. was first introduced, newspapers were in some cases (probably mainly society pages) even still using "Mrs. John Smith"!!! Then newspapers went with asking individuals' preferences. Very few news outlets now use titles on second references (the NYT being the most obvious exception), except in obituaries. So it doesn't come up often, but if it did the default would be "Ms."

Fortunate the obit writer whose subject had an academic or professional degree, so the subsequent reference would be to Dr. Smith, if the late Mary Smith had a Ph.D. or an M.D. or a D.D.S., or whatever, or Rev. Smith or Pastor Smith if the deceased was a Protestant minister.
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline Front-Ranger

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #1252 on: September 09, 2015, 05:46:29 pm »
Thought I was caught in a time warp this week after reading about the Salem witch trials followed by a story about Ralph Waldo Emerson!
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Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #1253 on: September 09, 2015, 07:46:08 pm »
Thought I was caught in a time warp this week after reading about the Salem witch trials followed by a story about Ralph Waldo Emerson!

You'd think by now everything worth saying about the Salem witch trials would have been said, but apparently not. No doubt the article was drawn from the author's new book.

When I saw the article in TNY, I remembered seeing a notice that she will be speaking in Philadelphia sometime in the near future, but I don't remember exactly when that will be. The notice was part of a list of speakers coming to the Free Library, or something like that.
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline serious crayons

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #1254 on: September 12, 2015, 01:19:39 pm »
You'd think by now everything worth saying about the Salem witch trials would have been said, but apparently not. No doubt the article was drawn from the author's new book.

I haven't read it yet, though I probably will. But I'm continually baffled by how much U.S. culture's fascination the Salem witch trials so exceeds our interest in the witch persecutions in Europe. Those went on for hundreds of years and involved the deaths of tens of thousands of people. Yet, in this country at least, you hardly ever hear anyone mention them. I'd never heard of them at all until I was an adult!

(EuroBrokies, feel free to chime in here if you have a different perspective!)

Salem's trials were a weird crazy quirk that happened long after the European persecutions had dwindled away. And I suppose part of the mystery there is, what provoked the flash of craziness?

But the European persecutions raise the same question. What provoked them? Most of the victims were women, so clearly there was a misogynistic element. Another part was the Christian church wanting to quash pagan practices. Also perhaps the increasingly professionalized -- and male -- medical industry wanted to get rid of people offering traditional herbal cures. And in part it might just have been a way to seize people's property (a practice that continues here today, when most states allow law enforcement officers to use vague and often trumped-up charges as an excuse to seize cars and other property -- as we learned in the New Yorker!).

I interviewed Mary Sharratt, an author from Minneapolis, (at first I was remembering her name as Mary Surratt, but of course that's someone completely different https://www.google.com/search?q=mary+surratt&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8). Sharrat lives in England and wrote a novel based on historical records of a woman who was tried and executed as a witch near where she (Mary) lives. The woman didn't have a lot of property to seize -- she was extremely poor; essentially supported herself by begging -- but she was disliked by some powerful people and got blamed for ordinary occurrences (another woman's death by disease, for example). A few friends and family members were thrown into prison with her, and died of either execution or the miserable conditions in the prison.

What I thought was so weird was that the woman herself suspected she might be a witch, that she might have been inadvertently responsible for the death. Huh?? I asked the author why the woman would think that. She explained that of course in a culture where everybody believes in witches, that wouldn't necessarily exclude the "witches" themselves.

Today, of course, few people in industrialized countries "believe" in witches. Yet the standard cultural images of witches that linger -- pointy black hats and black clothes, brooms, warty skin, cauldrons, cats -- those are all based on the accouterments of typical old pagan women of the time. We associate them with "witches" thanks to the anti-witch propaganda issued by the church. (The Disneyized version usually omits the orgies-with-the-devil part.)



Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #1255 on: September 12, 2015, 03:40:59 pm »
I haven't read it yet, though I probably will. But I'm continually baffled by how much U.S. culture's fascination the Salem witch trials so exceeds our interest in the witch persecutions in Europe. Those went on for hundreds of years and involved the deaths of tens of thousands of people. Yet, in this country at least, you hardly ever hear anyone mention them. I'd never heard of them at all until I was an adult!

I understand your point, but I'm not particularly surprised. You know how so many Americans are so narrowly focused on America. Plus I think scale might have something to do with it. Only 20 people were executed in Salem, and that makes it a lot easier to learn about their individual stories, especially when the records are here. The records are also in English, which in most of Europe they would not be. And writers have kept the story in front of us, from the Mathers and others at the time, on down through Nathaniel Hawthorne.

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Salem's trials were a weird crazy quirk that happened long after the European persecutions had dwindled away. And I suppose part of the mystery there is, what provoked the flash of craziness?

But I would have thought scholars would have exhausted speculating about that, too. One of the latest twists--unfortunately I forget exactly where I read it--is that someone noticed that some of the "afflicted children" were refugees from French and Indian raids on the northern New England frontier (war had broken out in 1689).

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But the European persecutions raise the same question. What provoked them? Most of the victims were women, so clearly there was a misogynistic element. Another part was the Christian church wanting to quash pagan practices. Also perhaps the increasingly professionalized -- and male -- medical industry wanted to get rid of people offering traditional herbal cures. And in part it might just have been a way to seize people's property (a practice that continues here today, when most states allow law enforcement officers to use vague and often trumped-up charges as an excuse to seize cars and other property -- as we learned in the New Yorker!).

Personally I don't buy the speculation about the role of the medical profession, because I don't think medicine really began to develop as a profession until after the with craze in Europe had begun to die down, but I could be wrong.

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I interviewed Mary Sharratt, an author from Minneapolis, (at first I was remembering her name as Mary Surratt, but of course that's someone completely different https://www.google.com/search?q=mary+surratt&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8). Sharrat lives in England and wrote a novel based on historical records of a woman who was tried and executed as a witch near where she (Mary) lives. The woman didn't have a lot of property to seize -- she was extremely poor; essentially supported herself by begging -- but she was disliked by some powerful people and got blamed for ordinary occurrences (another woman's death by disease, for example). A few friends and family members were thrown into prison with her, and died of either execution or the miserable conditions in the prison.

What I thought was so weird was that the woman herself suspected she might be a witch, that she might have been inadvertently responsible for the death. Huh?? I asked the author why the woman would think that. She explained that of course in a culture where everybody believes in witches, that wouldn't necessarily exclude the "witches" themselves.

I think that came up with at least one of the accused at Salem, too, at least as far as wondering whether she might actually be a witch without realizing it.
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline Front-Ranger

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #1256 on: September 12, 2015, 04:20:25 pm »
The origin of the term "witch" is unclear. Apparently, it came to be applied to old women in a derogatory way in the 15th century, about the same time that Girolamo Savonarola came to power in Florence, Italy, and ended the Renaissance with his purges. "Pagan" simply means "people of the country, the same as "urban" means people of the city. "Hag" meant "wise woman", e.g. the Hagia Sophia was a temple to the wise philosopher women.

Possibly, the meaning of "witch" was also demonized like pagan and hag. The derivation of "witch" that I favor comes from the same root as "willow" and means "to bend." Even today, when a person uses a forked willow branch to find underground water, this activity is known as "witching". Another name for it is "dowsing".

I learned about the witch persecutions in Europe by watching movies like "Elizabeth", which begins with a witch burning, and "Braveheart." Also, LOL, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." But Europeans are loathe to talk about these movements in general. When I was there a year ago, we went to Dauchau, and there were very few Germans to be seen there. All of the interpretation was by video. We didn't see any staff that I can recall. Nazism, the Protestant uprising, witch persecution, the Gypsies, and now refugees. Europe truly is a cauldron.
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Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #1257 on: September 12, 2015, 06:37:47 pm »
I learned about the witch persecutions in Europe by watching movies like "Elizabeth", which begins with a witch burning.

I found that opening scene in Elizabeth very, very hard to watch. But I don't think it's supposed to be a "witch burning." As I recall, it's two men and one woman, and I think it's supposed to signify the burning of Protestants under Queen "Bloody" Mary Tudor, Elizabeth's half-sister.

Edit to add:

Actually, if that scene had been meant to represent a witch burning, it would have been a case of Hollywood yet again perpetuating a common misconception, that witches were burned in England. Witches were NOT burned in England; hence, they were also not burned at Salem. On the Continent, witches were classed with heretics and burned. In England, and anywhere under English law, witches were classed with common criminals and hanged. Thus 18 of the victims at Salem were hanged, not burned.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2015, 10:27:37 am by Jeff Wrangler »
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Offline serious crayons

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #1258 on: September 13, 2015, 10:49:08 am »
The origin of the term "witch" is unclear. Apparently, it came to be applied to old women in a derogatory way in the 15th century, about the same time that Girolamo Savonarola came to power in Florence, Italy, and ended the Renaissance with his purges. ... Possibly, the meaning of "witch" was also demonized like pagan and hag.

I'm not sure at what point the word "witch" arose, though of course the concept of witchcraft is very ancient, long preceding the European witch hunts. But sure, the word could have started out referring to something benign that was later demonized, just like the hats and brooms and cats and so forth.

When the printing press was invented, people started publishing books about witches -- how they practice, how to identify them, how to prosecute them, etc. The most famous is Malleus Maleficarum, meaning "hammer of the witch," published in 1487. It says outright that women are more likely to be witches because of the inherent weaknesses of their gender. (Also, their carnality! It's funny how throughout history and cultures women are often considered "more carnal" than men -- though I see little evidence of it in real life -- though simultaneously expected to behave in far less "carnal" ways.)

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"Pagan" simply means "people of the country, the same as "urban" means people of the city.

Yes, that's where the word originated -- the Latin word pāgus means rural. When Christianity began spreading in Europe, it was embraced first in cities, while rural inhabitants continued practicing their traditional religions. So "pagan" came to mean non-Christian or non-monotheistic. Which of course was frowned upon, to say the least.

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But Europeans are loathe to talk about these movements in general. ... Nazism, the Protestant uprising, witch persecution, the Gypsies, and now refugees. Europe truly is a cauldron.

Good thing we never do stuff like that here in the United States. Just ask Native Americans and African-Americans!  ;)

I have visited plantations in the South where you tour the palatial house but never the slave quarters, and slavery is never mentioned except in offhand, non-critical ways -- making them even more sinister. For example, at one plantation the docent pointed to a path and said it was called the "whistling walk." She explained that slave boys who'd been assigned to pick berries for the household were supposed to whistle the whole time they walked back with the buckets to show that they weren't eating any of the berries. She told it like it was a cute story and the tourists chuckled appreciatively.



Offline serious crayons

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Re: In the New Yorker...
« Reply #1259 on: September 13, 2015, 11:10:06 am »
I understand your point, but I'm not particularly surprised. You know how so many Americans are so narrowly focused on America. Plus I think scale might have something to do with it. Only 20 people were executed in Salem, and that makes it a lot easier to learn about their individual stories, especially when the records are here. The records are also in English, which in most of Europe they would not be. And writers have kept the story in front of us, from the Mathers and others at the time, on down through Nathaniel Hawthorne.

True. But I think the witch persecutions are more obscure than, say, the French Revolution or the Reformation or other aspects of European history. And of course historical records from, say, the 15th century can be translated easily enough.

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Personally I don't buy the speculation about the role of the medical profession, because I don't think medicine really began to develop as a profession until after the with craze in Europe had begun to die down, but I could be wrong.

Yesterday I was writing from memory -- years ago, I wrote a newspaper story about the European witch hunts and interviewed some historians, and have remained interested in the topic over the years. Somewhere around here I have a graphic (I mean literally -- drawings as well as words) non-fiction account of them. I bought it at a book sale and haven't got around to reading it. Never enough time, never enough.

Anyway, I seem to remember hearing the medical profession theory, but I can't remember where. Today I skimmed the Wikipedia entry and saw no mention of it. In fact, the reasons people were targeted were apparently varied and ambiguous, not explainable by any one thing, which makes sense considering it happened over a vast geographical area. Often it seems it was just because they were disliked, either by someone powerful or by the community in general.

One interesting factoid: Centuries before the big witch hunts started, the Christian church had tried to debunk the idea that witches existed!

The other thing is that witch hunts coincided with times of religious change and turmoil, which perhaps was in some way a factor. Mary Sharratt's book takes place in a time when England had just gone from Catholicism to Protestantism. Her heroine fondly remembers the more carefree, pleasure-enjoying days of her childhood when Catholics were still in charge, before stricter and more austere Protestantism took over. Then it sounds like Catholic clergy and people found to be practicing Catholicism were just as persecuted as witches were.

It's hard to believe people could have been so cruel to each other over religious differences that, in the grand scheme of things, actually seem pretty minor. Good thing that never happens now. Oh, wait ...

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I think that came up with at least one of the accused at Salem, too, at least as far as wondering whether she might actually be a witch without realizing it.

The reason I find that so fascinating is because I can see ways it applies to our own culture. For example, we assume women can't be sexist. But of course they can -- they grow up in the same culture as men do. For example, when researchers send out identical resumes of women and men and find the men are more likely to be contacted and offered more money -- by women employers as well as men.