Hungry Man Chicken Dinner and Love

Okay, this is half-baked, baked-half, and most likely under theorized but then, again, I’m shorting, so I think it’s okay.


It’s really just a parallel I’ve noticed between rhetoric and conditioning (the non-hair follicular kind). There’s a trope called metonymy and in rhetoric it means that you are making an association between things through their contiguity (Burbules, 1997).  So, for instance, say you’re advertising for a Hungry Man chicken dinner and you want that dinner to be associated with something abstract like “love.”  You could make an advertisement where you surround that chicken dinner with metonymic images of “love” (e.g. hearts, puppies, and Ted Nugent). And if you repeat this imagery enough “love” might rub off enough from the images on to a Hungry Man chicken dinner to remind a lot of people about “love.” Eating a Hungry Man chicken dinner might become a metonym for “love.” Instead of “I heart you” we might say, “I Hungry Man chicken dinner you.”

Conditioning (that behavioral kind) seems to be doing something similar, don’t it? Say you have a chicken that you want to train to cluck when it sees an image of “love” (i.e. if it sees hearts, puppies, or Ted Nugent). What you’d do is shape the behavior.  You’d have a cue (e.g. the pictures). And you’d have a reinforcement (e.g. a treat like a piece of bread or a Hungry Man!). Then you’d have the behavior you wanted (i.e. a cluck when the chicken sees the pictures).  Every time there is a cluck when an appropriate picture is shown, you’d provide a treat.  You’d do this until you associated clucking with the pictures and the treat so much so that once the chicken sees the picture, she doesn’t even need the treat.  It’s automatic. Seeing those pictures results in a cluck without the treat.  In a sense, the chicken is part of a metonymical move.  What I mean is, the imagery is associated with “love.”

Rhetors do similar things. Instead of food, they associate an image with other images to make an association and make that association automatic. Conditioning and metonymying aint’ exactly alike but, then again, they ain’t exactly different. I was thinkin’ that maybe what rhetors do should be called “metonymic conditioning.”  Whatcha think?

Watch this vid on Conditioning Chickens

Last thing and I swear it’s funny!  A Prof. of Psych told me about something her dad did when he was a college student. In a class of his, the students conducted a conditioning experiment on their teacher (teacher wasn’t in on the experiment).  Every time the teacher stood in a certain part of the room, the class would participate in discussion.  Everywhere else, there was no discussion.  From my understanding, it worked and the teacher began spending a lot of time in that part of the room. The teacher got Hungry Manned!

Chet Tiffany – Genre Trendsetter

What you are about to read is a ________________about a lot of things. I don’t know what it is. In fact, “I” think this piece reads sort of like the experience of walking through those parking lot markets where acrylic mink blankets with the likes of Bieber, pit bulls, Pink Floyd and, of course, unicorns are being sold. It’s corny with a hint of cheese and alotta kitsch.

Click to enlarge!


I don’t agree much with the content, but, man, Chet Tiffany is writing in a way I’ve never seen. What is it exactly? What “is” this style? What would you call it? What genres are being mixed?

My friend, Vanessa, discovered Chet Tiffany in the Giant Nickel classifieds newspaper. Thank you, Vanessa, for recognizing something many of us have never thought we wanted to see before. And, Chet Tiffany, thank you for deciding to publish your work.

Birth of Two Suspicions

“Language—in any case, language in the Indo-European cultures—has always given birth to two kinds of suspicions:

  • First of all, the suspicion that language does not mean exactly what it says.  The meaning that one grasps, and that is immediately manifest, is perhaps in reality only a lesser meaning that protects, confines, and yet in spite of everything transmits another meaning, the latter one being at once the stronger meaning and the ‘underlying’ meaning.
  • On the other hand, language gives birth to this other suspicion: It exceeds its merely verbal form in some way, and there are indeed other things in the world which speak and which are not language.  After all, it could that nature, the sea, the rustling of trees, animals, faces, masks, crossed swords, all of these speak; perhaps there is a language that articulate itself in a manner that is not verbal.

These two suspicions, which one sees already appearing with the Greeks, have not disappeared, and they are still with us, since we have once again begun to believe, specifically since the nineteenth century, that mute gestures, that illnesses, that all the tumult around us can also speak; and more than ever we are listening in on all this possible language, trying to intercept, beneath the words, a discourse that would be essential.”

+ Michel Foucault, excerpted from the essay, “Nietzsche, Freud, Marx”

#DefineRhetoric Competition Update 2.0

We’ve passed our second month of defining rhetoric in 140 characters or less. Rhetoric’s been defined, re-defined, pre-defined, post-defined, most-defined, more-defined, and less-defined. It’s been a whole lotta defined. It’s an activity, clothing, and like milk.  It’s a pun and  a mirror and a niece! It’s even in orbit.

Before you go back to defining, enjoy some of the latest definitions we’ve gotten:

  • Rhetoric is how you hope to talk your way out of a traffic ticket…HOPE. #DefineRhetoric @TheOriginalRock
  • Rhetoric is like the moon. It is, at present, synchronously oriented to the rotation of another body around which it orbits. #DefineRhetoric @Schmeggelz
  • Rhetoric is discourse in lingerie. #definerhetoric @soundb0mb3r
  • Someone left me a voicemail of just some really impressive coughing. #definerhetoric @donorahillard
  • Rhetoric is when “my style’s like a chemical spill/Feasible Rhymes you can vision and feel/conducted in form… V. Ice #definerhetoric @HarlotTweets
  • Rhetoric is a pun on causality. #definerhetoric @postsilence
  • Rhetoric is a selection and deflection of reality. (Inspired by Burke.) #definerhetoric @cdmandrews
  • “Listen to me!” says my niece while holding my face in her hands. #definerhetoric @denisejeannee

There’re 2 ½ months left to #definerhetoric!  Keep on definin’ and cure the rhetorical hangover a summer can give ya by tweeting a #definerhetoric.

Much thanks and great work to all those participatin’ in #definerhetoric!

If you’re interested in #DefineRhetoric, you’ll find instructions here: #DefineRhetoric

The Age of Persuasion

Here’s the route of today’s discovery: reading about Philosophy Talk‘s recent award at the New York Festivals International Radio Competition => peruse former winners => see that last year’s winner is a piece on how advertising created the “Happy Housewife” image => look into who made it => discover “The Age of Persuasion,” a Canadian news program that “explores the countless ways marketers permeate your life, from media, art, and language, to politics, religion, and fashion.”

A quick survey of past episodes reveals a treasure trove for those interested in the persuasive tactics of marketers, mad and otherwise.  The archive dates back to 2008 and lists so many provocative titles (such as “Marketing the Invisible,” “Sun Tzu and the Art of Persuasion,” and “Man Women: The Great Women of Advertising“) that I’m overwhelmed and not sure where to start.  A lovely predicament.

Head over to The Age of Persuasion and check it out for yourself!

Competition Update: #DefineRhetoric @HarlotTweets

It’s been one month since we began our #DefineRhetoric competition!  We’re happy to say that we have added some funny, insightful, and outstanding examples of rhetoric defining rhetoric!  We’ve got rhetoric about rhetoric that’s rhetoric (via @plcorbett!). Whoa! If you haven’t checked out the competition, you’ll find instructions here: #DefineRhetoric

And we thank all our participants so far and hope they continue submittin’ cause there’s no limit on the number of definitions you can submit. Check ‘em out then laugh, cry, and rhetoric all over everywhere and write your own definition of rhetoric so ya increase your chances of winning the prestigious and highly coveted “Definition of Rhetoric of the Year – 2012.”

Here’re a few definitions we’ve received so far-

  • The Borg had it all wrong.  Resistance is rhetoric. @LouFisto
  • Rhetoric: Don’t get it wet or feed it after midnight. @LouFisto
  • Rhetoric = Wearing too much eyeliner after he leaves you. @donorahillard
  • Rhetoric = Any almost-expired birthday cake. @donorahillard
  • Rhetoric is a fancy label for the process and consequences of naming and framing reality. @anokaydane
  • #DefineRhetoric is an act of rhetoric itself, defined through action. Rhetoric outside of action is like Latin, dead on arrival. @plcorbett
  • Rhetoric is when everybody wants some and I want some too. Ow! V. H. Alen  @PaulMuhlhauser
  • Rhetoric is a bag of Halloween candy, sometimes you get the good stuff and sometimes you get apples with razor blades. @TheOriginalRock
  • The role of rhetoric is convincing people of the truth so they can dismiss their ignorance. #DefineRhetoric @TheOriginalRock
  • #definerhetoric: utterly the bass line in Lou Reed’s “Walk On the Wild Side.” Tonight anyway @thatssomcginnis

There are about 3 ½ months to submit your definition of rhetoric to Harlot. Then we’ll select and announce THE definition of rhetoric of the year with the publishing of our next issue.

If you’ve got some rhetorical inflammation and need relief, we prescribe #DefineRhetoric. Good luck!

Capitol Words

I was recently asked what type of digital corpuses are available to track word frequency changes over time.  In addition to Google’s N-gram I would recommend their Insights project, which allows for a more recent and detailed picture.  Though the time span is considerably shorter (’04-’12), Insights is a remarkable tool, since search queries have a more democratic tinge to them than publications.  It reveals what populations are curious about and willing to seek out.

Then just this morning I discovered Capitol Words, a project by the Sunlight Foundation.  As they describe it,

Capitol Words scrapes the bulk data of the Congressional Record from the Government Printing Office, does some computer magic to clean-up and organize the data, then presents an easy-to-use front-end website where you can quickly search the favorite keywords of legislatorsstates or dates.

The new version now allows users to search, index and graph up to five-word phrases that give greater context and meaning to the turns-of-phrase zinging across the aisle. Where we once could only track individual terms like ‘health‘ or ‘energy,’ now we can break down the issue further into ‘health care reform,’ ‘renewable energy,’ ‘high energy prices‘ or however you wish.

Such a site promises to be a playground for rhetoricians.

Now go play.

enculturation: McLuhan at 100

If you haven’t already, I encourage to check out enculturation‘s latest issue: Marshall McLuhan @ 100: Picking Through the Rag and Bone Shop of a Career, launched on the final day of centenary celebrations, 21 years to the day of McLuhan’s death.  Editors David Beard and Kevin Brooks have pulled together quite a stunning issue.

McLuhan quote

image by stefan.erschwendner, flickr

+1 and like

I don’t know much about tenure or impact factors and journals. I don’t really know much about how academic journals get rated for prestige, influence, and coolness. But I’ve been thinking about new sorts of ratings for academic publications—especially those DIY publications. I’ve been thinking about those self-published pieces that don’t go through a journal but are published online ready to be experienced. There are some outstanding pieces out there that may not have a home in a journal but are important and need some support and academic cred. I’ve also been thinking about all the work comp and rhet teachers do online. I mean often they are blogging about rhetoric, vlogging about rhetoric, youtubing about composition, facebooking composition and, in general, engaging in academic activities through social media platforms that they never get credit for. So I wonder about liking and +1ng. And I ask ya these questions:

1. Should there be some sort of calculation (impact factor type) for articles, books, and websites based on likes and +1s and tweets ?

2. Could academic prestige be equated to social media numbers?

3. Should social media presence help with tenure?

If the answer is yes to any of the above then ya gotta ask the next questions:

1. Would a like from Villanueva mean more than a like from Muhlhauser?

2. Would a +1 from Yancey be rated higher than a +1 from Brad Pitt?

What would a university look like if tenure were based on social media presence?

Please like, +1, and tweet this post. I’m preparing for the future.