In general, I am suspicious when someone dismisses a view for being “radical” or “extreme.” There is usually sloppy thinking behind that designation. Why not just say what is wrong with the view? How for instance are we supposed to feel about “radical Christianity”? Good or bad? Does it mean Origen or Ted Cruz or something altogether different? Can’t we just debate the question itself?
The same is true in politics. Let’s say someone favors free trade and the First Amendment. Is that “radical”? Or is it mainstream and thus non-radical? Does labeling it radical further the debate on whether or not those are the correct positions?
There’s a nefarious, Mobius strip quality to “sneaky feminism” as a piece of rhetoric. If the point of using it is to satisfy readers that the product in question is ideologically sound, but also chill (Lean in! Not too far!), then this ostensible attempt to make feminism palatable is rather anti-feminist, if sneakily so. That’s because one of feminism’s foundational goals has always been to release women from their disproportionate obligation to show tact, delicacy, and sweetness—to say their piece without being aggressive or annoying about it. Yet we’re asking feminism itself to shimmy through a window and creep down a corridor dancing between laser beams before whispering its claims in the cultural ear.
But here’s the thing: people will draw conclusions about your motives based on your timing and your chosen vehicle.
“Against [X]” is often not just an effective rhetorical form but also a canny career move: against X as an implicit argument for the polemicist.
Essentially, “So…” is the universal shorthand for, “I’ve given this a lot more thought than you have and will now proceed to refocus the conversation in a way that interests me and highlights my personal file card on this particular topic.”
I always tease them at the beginning of the semester about their writing—I say, “Whenever you write me at 11 o’clock on a Thursday night begging me for an extension on the paper, the prose is always so beautiful and the email is so wonderfully structured.” It’s a joke, but it’s also not a joke—in that situation they understand the rhetoric of the form to which they’re committing themselves: They understand who they are as a writer and a beseecher, they understand who I am as the person in charge, they understand what evidence to adduce in their favour—their dog died, their computer broke or whatever. Which is why the email begging for the paper extension is always a well-written piece. But whenever they have to write three paragraphs about women in Genesis or whatever—when they have to make an argument—it’s basically “word salad,” because they’ve never read anything that presents a text, wrestles with it and comes up with some conclusions. For that reason, I think it’s better that they should be reading Pauline Kael reviews in the New Yorker than Derrida.
Filed under: Daniel Mendelsohn.
What was very interesting is that the words Tony writes are 90% illegible. He is expressing ideas and scribbling with the marker but does not have time for accuracy. For example, on one slide that I remembered, I saw that the word FINANCE was not even slightly legible, SUCCESS looked like a jumbled signature, then there were lots of swirly lines and arrows. Without the context of Tony, it would have made no sense. But the ideas were conveyed better with the aid of these notes.
the figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point; that is, the clauses display inverted parallelism.
So they’re mirrored (like the shape of the letter X… Greek letter chi… chiasmus…). Think ABCCBA, or ABCDEDCBA, or whatever. This is really common in the Bible, e.g. Isaiah 6:10:
A “Make the heart of this people fat,
B and make their ears heavy,
C and shut their eyes;
C lest they see with their eyes,
B and hear with their ears,
A and understand with their heart, and convert [return], and be healed.”
And in songwriting, e.g. Snoop’s Gin and Juice:
I got my mind on my money, my money on my mind.
Or the wisdom of Stephen Stills:
If you can’t be with the one you love, honey / Love the one you’re with.
Man, I really like words.
Preface otherwise banal life wisdom with “My father once taught me…” (or similar) and it then becomes rich with generational credibility.
I never knew the word was connected with the Spartans. Awesome:
“concise, abrupt,” 1580s, probably via L. Laconicus, from Gk. Lakonikos, from Lakon “person from Lakonia,” the district around Sparta in southern Greece in ancient times, whose inhabitants were famously proud of their brevity of speech. When Philip of Macedon threatened them with, “If I enter Laconia, I will raze Sparta to the ground,” the Spartans’ reply was, “If.”
I’ve been reading the NYT for long enough that I’ve read these pro-forma sentences many times, but they haven’t really sunk in until today; […] My theory is that these weird sentences, inserted into long stories somewhere before the jump, are the NYT’s way of saying “sorry this story goes on so long, but it’s really important, and you really ought to read it anyway”.
No matter what you are saying your effectiveness will be primarily determined by how much you love saying it.
Taking a moment to hunt for an interpretation that makes an argument good — before you denounce it as a bad argument — is a nice heuristic that forestalls the tempting leap from “There exists an interpretation that makes this a bad argument, but it may not be what he had in mind,” to “This is a bad argument!”
Philosophy Referee Signals. Created by Landon Schurtz of the University of Oklahoma. Q.E.D.!
Odds are good that you primarily know one sort of person: highly educated, high-achieving, extremely cerebral, etc. Odds are also good that you give too much weight to feedback and ideas from this sort of person, while discounting arguments and complaints from people who don’t know the right way to persuade you. Try to keep that in mind.
“Graphite. Black currant. Incense. And camphor?” This is a great read. You’ve probably read something similar about wine bullshit before, but this is probably better. Interesting that more expensive wines are described with more specific words.
When it comes to invoking elegance, foreign and complex words have a natural advantage. Cigars and truffle conjure up prestige and luxury. Meanwhile, a little-known berry or spice conveys the worldly sophistication of the critic, which the drinker can share. For a price.
The thumb-press is a straight-forward mode of manual expression, in which the user makes a traditional fist, but then manoeuvres the thumb from its position clasped over (or under the fingers) and lays it gently on top of the index finger as a hint of diplomacy.
You can tell when rhetoric is empty — and therefore should be cut — because it would never be possible to say the alternative.
Martin Luther King, Jr. – I’ve Been to the Mountaintop, 3 April 1968, Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters) in Memphis, Tennessee. Transcript. What an amazing speaker.