Thursday, March 01, 2007

Well, okay, then...

They're still shooting at her in the comments section. It's all they have left.
Why are they so afraid of a woman in a world dominated by Bushitler?

WE'RE NOT RESPONSIBLE. So the Internet's a lot like Carl Jung's supposition about synchronicity in the universe: Ask a question and the universe will answer. More about that in a later post, but for now, hats off to the News Buckit, the site that met our challenge of yesterday in considerably less than 24 hours. Clap hands, everybody:

[T]his is what I found, using what I deemed -- through a mix of TTLB and 2006's Weblog Award lists -- to be the 18 biggest Lefty blogs, and 22 biggest Righty blogs. I couldn't account for the 6-month time period, and I even gave the Lefty blogs a 4 blog advantage. But it didn't make much of a difference.

So how much more does the Left use Carlin's "seven words" versus the Right? According to my calculations, try somewhere in the range of 18-to-1. [emphasis mine]

Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds and to all the commenters who helped sort out the technical issues, as well as the other blogs who spread the word. All that remains is explaining why this predicted result is actually meaningful, whether the lefties understand it or not. (They don't, of course. And they won't. Here's a good example of a "liberal" response to our little experiment. Don't expect much more than this from anyone on the left.)

It's not about prudery. At one time or another I've used all the Carlin words right here at InstaPunk. And I've said them all a great many more times than I've ever written them. It's no longer the case that anyone can pretend there are ears which haven't already heard these words, including the six-year-old golden angel who is your daughter. Go to any sports stadium in the nation and the person sitting just behind you will be yelling all of them at the top of his lungs. The freedoms provided by our culture have produced a general coarseness of speech so pervasive that even to decry it is to appear naive.

So why does it matter? Because we all know that these words are automatically offensive to somebody somewhere. Even the most profligate cussers censor themselves in unfamiliar company whose disapproval they don't want to engender needlessly. That's also why we use them when we do. Because they're an explosion of rejection. All those lefty bloggers -- male and female -- who curse like Scorsese mobsters have people in their lives around whom they would be embarrassed to utter the words they pour into their electronic diaries.

But if these words are so effective as communication instruments, why would anyone be embarrassed to say them at any time? They're good Anglo-Saxon words, aren't they, with all the virtues of that mother tongue -- short, direct, onomatopoetic, and oddly evocative of the things they name in ways that the other mother tongues of English, Latin and Greek, simply aren't. Consider what many would consider the most offensive word on Carlin's list. The preferred, polite word is 'vagina,' whose origin is conceptual, meaning in its generic sense 'sheath,' which conveys shape, purpose, and use without any resort to the senses. It's this very conceptualness which makes it polite, allowing us to understand the meaning at one remove from its essential physicalness, to distance ourselves from the fascinatingly perfect evocation of the thing itself embodied in the word 'cunt.'  The Anglo-Saxon locution is a word that's not about diagrams in medical textbooks or euphemisms in conversations where ladies and children are present. It's the exact right name for the unnameable inspiration of the male sex drive, entirely physical, and possessed of other entirely physical connotations without end. It's a word of power, almost magical in its astonishing identity with its subject, and it therefore represents an outer limit of what words can be and do. Beyond it, there is only the blankness of what words cannot be or do. (Also consider what it is so many women object to in this word: the utter reduction it represents to the purely physical, as well as the unnameable things below that physicality which, at the limit, suggest that they are but disposable things.)

Recollect that I said an outer limit. There's more than one. I don't know what the record is today in our high-tech world, but when I was a kid (a long long time ago) the word we all accepted and therefore took pride in knowing as the longest word in the English language was 'antidisestablishmentarianism.' Whether it's still the longest word or not, it will do as an example of the other outer limit of words, the purely conceptual. It offers absolutely no appeal to the senses, and its denotation is so specific that it has no synonyms. It is, in fact, a word of pure cerebration, so exact in its identification of a particular school of theology that it almost seems to create its subject by the magical act of giving it a name. The great children's book author Dr. Seuss once published a work titled "On Beyond Zebra," in which he created a new alphabet that began where our A-Z alphabet ended. Does anyone else find it ironic that the same philosophy which gives us the coarseness of the blogosphere has also given us the "post-modern" academic community in which so-called scholars are engaged in the process of creating a world of meaningless words that could be titled "On Beyond Antidisestablishmentarianism"? Read any academic journal in the humanities, particularly in what should be understandable disciplines like literature, sociology, and education. No matter how high your IQ, if you're not a professional academic, you won't understand a single paragraph of what you read.

So there are at least two limits -- an upper and a lower. (For an outstanding fictional depiction of the consequences of such limits, see the Ambrose Bierce story, The Damned Thing.) The upper limit is conceptual. The lower limit is physical. When these limits are transgressed, many if not most people are offended. Not because they're stupid, but because they're not. When poseurs try to create distinctions out of thin air by semantic gymnastics that have no correlative in the physical world, people suspect artifice and fakery and start to read the fancy neologisms as meaningless blanks. When advocates resort to primitive physical words in supposed support of what are claimed to be lofty ideals, people suspect that scenery-chewing theatrics are being substituted for accurate observation and read the coarse strings of words and phrases as meaningless blanks.

This is the answer to an age-old paradox of literature and theater. People have always used coarse language in their conversations with one another. The Roman poet Catullus is the exception who proves the rule. He used all of George Carlin's words and more in his "lyric" poetry. (He once compared the mouth of a dowager gossip to "the cunt of a pissing mule." In iambic trimeter.)  But for the most part, writers of every age -- drunks, whoremasters, thieves, and damned souls though they were -- tended to use Carlin's words sparingly. They understood that the written word, and the performed word, is somehow different from every-day life. The great 20th century male chauvinist drunk and lecher Hemingway never used the Carlin words, and not because he couldn't have gotten away with them. He distinctly articulated his conviction that these words have an impact in print that is so disproportionate to their impact in real life that their presence on the page is intolerable. If he had known the term "black hole," he probably would have made that comparison. Why?

Two reasons. Both have a common source. First, a writer as good as Hemingway uses words to control the response of the reader. He wants to communicate what he sees or thinks without the words getting in the way. He's even willing to make up new words because they can't possibly have any connotations other than the ones he gives them. But he's incredibly reluctant to use words for which the reader has some vast pre-existing set of unknown connotations. If he makes you too much aware of the writer who's writing what you're reading, he is no longer a writer but a performer. (Edgar Allan Poe, for example, routinely used words he could not have expected his readers to know, and today the only way to appreciate Poe's writings is as performances.)

Second, a writer as good as Hemingway also understands the limits of words. If he ventures too high into the stratosphere of polysyllabic German psycho-babble, he knows readers will read the words they don't know as blanks. He also knows that if he descends to the level of coarse Anglo-Saxon obscenities, it's a confession of failure. When you write at the lower limit of words, you are telling the reader there are no words for what you're trying to communicate and every time you use an obscenity or scatology you're actually inserting a blank the reader will have to fill in for herself, from her own experience. If you use the word 'cunt,' regardless of your intentions, you've suddenly inserted a placeholder for the whole universe of personal connotations she's developed for this word. And inevitably, those connotations will instantly redound to a judgment of you, the person who precipitated the process. All words at the limit are duplex channels of this sort.  No matter how you slice it, that's loss of control. Whatever your purpose in writing.

But imagine that your purpose in writing is to persuade, to make a rational argument, to display your own superior logic and insight to those whom you regard as ignorant or somehow in need of instruction. Why would you choose to load up your prose with blanks that allow readers to interpret those blanks as statements about you rather than your chosen topic? Why would you choose to be regarded as a mere performer instead of a locus of reason and morality?

One reason. Because you are irresistibly drawn to that lower limit. Why? Because your own mental process really is filled with blanks -- half-formed thoughts you can't articulate, unmanageable hostilities you don't fully comprehend, a need for attention that can't be earned but only extorted by a sudden shocking explosion of pure physicality, an irrational plea for help because here you are at the frighteningly dangerous edge of what hundreds of centuries of words cannot describe.

For a writer in any arena, repeated reliance on George Carlin's words is a signpost of failure, incompetence, desperate insecurity, and utter abandonment of reason. (And, yes, Carlin's words are only a shorthand for the innumerable other pejorative Anglo-Saxon terms, idiomatic phrases, and pungent anatomical imagery favored by the damaged children of the web.) Here's a final exercise: Go to Alicublog's self-satisfied denunciation of this exercise and read his obscenities and scatologies as blanks. Fill in the blanks for yourself. Then report back on your appraisal of his state of being.

And for all you Ann Coulter "haters," my sympathies. You're never going to get your wish, which is to have wild passionate sex with her. That's an eventuality almost certainly reserved for men who have more than blanks to offer.

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