Water Snake is related to Water Fish.

I present Common Sense from Chet Tiffany. Common sense-you know, sound judgment, prudence, or wisdom. Try reading it aloud because it’s fun and sort of flows poetically. And then think about “common sense” and how a lotta times it depends on audience and values to be common and/or sense. I like Chet, but his/her sense ain’t really common…to me. What I mean is I imagine Chet Tiffany is like me and suffered a lot with regards to “common sense.” What I mean is “common sense” is a big assumption that’s rarely common and not always the only sense.

My dad often asked me if I had “common sense” or would strongly suggest I use my “common sense.”  It got me worried about what he meant and I felt like I was under common-sense surveillance a lot. Before acting I would think, “is this common sense?” or “would this be common sense?” An audience of Dad meant I’d rarely get it right or be common sensical.

Anyway here are some examples of “common” and “uncommon” sense that are in no way like Chet’s. I don’t know how to imitate his artistry.

  1. Common sense: Turn off the air conditioner in your car to get more power—it’s common sense. Value=speed
    Uncommon sense: Use air conditioner and feel cool and get less power—it’s common sense. Value=comfort
  2. Common sense: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it—it’s common sense.
    Uncommon sense: It ain’t broke, but it ain’t pretty. So I’m gonna fix it—it’s common sense.  Value=visual aesthetics
  3. Common sense: If there’s snow on the ground wear your shoes to class—it’s common sense. Value=comfort
    Uncommon sense: If there’s snow on the ground don’t wear your shoes to class—it’s common sense. Value=coolness…I mean fashionable in reckless behavior.
  4. Common sense: If a chicken doesn’t fit into a microwave to be defrosted, rig the microwave so it’ll operate with the door open—it’s common sense.
    Value=problem solving to make squares pegs fit round holes.
    Uncommon sense: If a chicken doesn’t fit into a microwave to be defrosted, defrost it in the sink with warm water—it’s common sense.
    Value=problem solving to try a different mode. Thanks for some of the great examples, Mary Bendel-Simso!

Water Snake is related to Water Fish.

It’s common sense people!

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”

Language for Today

Laineys Repertoire, flickr

Laineys Repertoire, flickr

I just read “Is Language A Window into Human Nature” on Space Collective, in which the author argues that language must be reinvented in order to address our new technological age and the obstacles of this age. I find this interesting, because I’ve been having a difficult time describing what exactly Harlot is in the minutiae. Yes, we publish articles (and mighty nifty ones, I might add), but we’re not just another journal. Heck no, we’re specifically geared toward interactivity and community–through comments, the blog, the wiki. We’re a “place” and a “space” for dialogue. So, why is it that I can’t stop using those two words?

The hesitation I have to use certain words (ie publication, journal, magazine) stems from the connotation of those words. I’m not a big fan of the word “forum” either, simply because I don’t want it confused with bboards or message boards. We are online, after all, and that could easily be misinterpreted by the web savvy.

I wonder if we require our own special word. Hmm. We’re a publication and a community, so we’re a publunity? We’re a journal and a space, so we’re a jourace? Oh, I know, we’re a mag, a blog, and a wiki, so we’re a mogi. Ha, sounds like a band name.

None of these are going to catch on. First of all, they’re terrible, and secondly, they don’t carry any context for readers. That’s what makes creating a new language so difficult. If it doesn’t happen organically, then it’s hard to force on anybody, because no one knows what you’re talking about and they don’t really care to.

Do I wish for one perfect word to encompass all that Harlot is and will be? Absolutely. It’d make my job easier, but at the same time, isn’t it my job to try and attain that–to be active in the movement that is Harlot and push for the convergence of multiple forms of contribution. To encourage the amalgamation of top-down and bottom-up voices in this community? So, what do we call it? Other than a “place” or a “space” or simply Harlot. An interactive online publication? A web-mag and community? A rhetorical realm for the populice? How do you describe all that you are in one simple, understandable word if that word has yet to exist yet?


According to Yahoo News, “meh” has just been added to the Collins English Dictionary. I support this.

You know, I do have to wonder about the usefulness of adding colloquial language to dictionaries if that particular colloquial phrase is merely a trendy, faddish kinda thing. It’s not like I go around saying that so and so is the bee’s knees or anything. (Okay, I’ll admit to using supposedly “outdated” phrases like that just for fun at times, but as a predominant form of communication? No.)

So, will “meh” actually make it to the stature that other words such as “cool” have? Of course, I don’t know for sure, but I’d say yeah. Even if it doesn’t remain “meh” specifically, but transforms into “eh” or “uh” or something like that, it’s still a form of common communication that’s being used more and more readily. It’s often instantly understood too. Even without having a specific definition in some fancy British dictionary, the gist of the meaning is understood. It just works well.

Even I’ve been susceptible to its influences:

facebook status update

facebook status update

Oh, yeah. For Realz.

I mean, I could try to properly describe the kind of ambivalence and indifference that I was feeling, but “meh,” to me, is more of an expression of that indifference rather than a description of that same feeling. Ya feel me? “Meh” is like the actual tear, whereas saying “Kaitlin is indifferent” is like the word “crying.” Prospective readers understand so much about my particular state with just that one word without me going on and on about it.


So, yeah. It deserves to be in the dictionary. And that’s not so “meh.”

omg j/k

I found this game on Sporcle about supposedly common chat acronyms. What I think is interesting is that if you go through the game and then click to see the most missed, only 2.6% got all 30 acronyms correct. In fact, the least correctly guessed term was TAFN (that’s all for now) at 10.9%.  At that point, would you even say that these are “common?” And on what scale–to who? Common to the mass general public or to the more select computer geeks who use terms like “n00b?” I certainly didn’t know them all; nor do I want to align myself with that particular kind of type/speech anyway.

Plus, terms like NIMBY (not in my backyard)–what’re they being used for within chat? My understanding of it is for more urban development reasons than any kind of chat usage. Can something like that transfer over to the virtual environment with virtual places to “protect?”

Language Alerts

I’ve been reading up on the topic of security and open source software for an upcoming presentation, and I came to a news story a friend of mine forwarded. I’ll be the first to admit I need more practice with tech speak, and some of the language used in this news story really gave me pause. Oddly enough, though, I stopped because of their familiarity. Here’s the first paragraph of the article, Debian, Ubuntu SSH Under Attack:

OpenSSH (define) is one of the most common mechanisms in use for providing secure remote access to servers. A flaw in a key part of how Debian-based Linux distributions like Ubuntu secure OpenSSH has put potentially millions of servers at risk from a brute force attack. The attack could have major implications for the Internet.

Brute force attack? The violence in this lead paragraph is really surprising. I thought for a moment the author was adding a bit of drama for effect, but, no. A couple paragraphs later, he quotes someone from the “Internet Storm Center” who raised a “yellow alert” because this flaw would allow secure systems to be “very easily brute forced.”

I suppose we should be accustomed to this type of language at this time in our history. How long now have we been fighting wars on poverty, drugs, illiteracy? And our terrorist alert seems to be more-or-less permanently settled at . . . well let’s see. Here’s the National Terror Alert Response System’s embeddable “live alert,” already featured, they say, on over 50,000 Web sites:

Homeland Security Live Alert

Now it’s at least 50,001. But before we get too serious about security in various facets of our lives, let’s not forget to add a little bit of humor. Here’s a link to one of my favorite videos by Ze Frank called “Red Alert.” It cracks me up every time.

2008 Banished Words (and Phrases) List

Lake Superior State University Banished Words List has entered its fourth decade of existence, and there you will find 2008’s banished words list. Here’s a quick description from their site:

This year’s list derives from more than 2,000 nominations received through the university’s website, www.lssu.edu/banished. Word-watchers target pet peeves from everyday speech, as well as from the news, education, technology, advertising, politics, sports and more. A committee makes a final cut in late December. The list is released on New Year’s Day.

The list makes me chuckle.

Happy New Year everyone.

Unveiling Harlot

Whew! It’s been a crazy few weeks (months, actually), and the unveiling of this project (ok, yes, pun intended) has gone about as smoothly as we could hope. In the process, we got a first-hand look at the ancient rhetorical concept of audience when our two presentations — first at our university as part of the LiteracyStudies@OSU initiative and then at the FemRhet conference in Little Rock — sparked substantially different discussions.

At OSU, a rather energetic debate followed over the word, harlot. I’d love to map out the evolution of the conversation (perhaps we should post a synopsis of it at some point), but I’ll just mention some details here. Concern was raised over whether the name is worth the potential amount of people who may be offended and turned away, worth the amount of rethinking we hope to spark with the OED definitions of harlot, the subtitle (a persuasive look at the arts of persuasion), the url (HarlotoftheArts.org), a description of the term’s relationship to rhetorical studies, and so on. How much are we willing to risk turning people away from this space before they even put effort into figuring out the philosophy behind the name?

Several people jumped in with responses in our favor — to the point where we nearly didn’t have to answer. My favorite response came from Jim Fredal (and I hope I paraphrase well enough): If in five years Harlot is still doing the work it seeks, the meanings (denotations and connotations) currently affiliated with the word will shift. The space of Harlot has the ability not only to question but also to write the ways in which symbols (words) are understood. And with this, we were momentarily struck silent with the grandeur of the idea. If only. . . .

An overwhelming topic that arose at the FemRhet conference revolved around issues of academic publishing. It was quite a shame that Tim, our resident student of academic publishing, couldn’t attend since he hadn’t yet been a member of our team when our conference proposal was submitted. His part of the presentation would have been very valuable for this crowd. Many voiced a desire to publish in a space like Harlot for reasons of philosophy and service. The problem, however, is that many scholars cannot put aside time to produce work that doesn’t directly apply toward tenure requirements. Many of the digital productions teachers spend time, energy, and thought producing are not recognized by current standards, and yet these productions are what bring scholarly work into the digital age, allowing networks and information streams to form and flow among professional scholars, students, and areas of study.

This discussion is probably what weighs heaviest on me right now. What standards must we put into effect to give academic authors a tangible reason for submitting to Harlot? In other words, if Harlot is supposed to be a space in which academic and public audiences come together on equal footing to discuss matters of persuasion in today’s culture, to what extent do we have an obligation toward scholars to produce submission criteria that would enable them to face their tenure and promotion committees and proudly present their accepted Harlot publications? Will we lose this part of our community if we don’t somehow oblige? When will the practicing of one’s scholarly philosophy in an online space finally become an aspect of academic work that is accepted, respected, and appreciated?

As always, for those of you who attended either presentation or who are reading our thoughts-in-progress in this blog, we welcome and urge your input. Establishing criteria for submitting to Harlot should be communally agreed upon . . . as in line with the philosophy of Harlot.